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Friday, 20 March 1987
Page: 1241

Mr SPENDER —My question is directed to the Minister for Science in his capacity as Minister Assisting the Treasurer on Prices. Would the Minister be kind enough to describe to us the areas in relation to prices in which he is available to answer questions in this House?

Mr BARRY JONES —I am flattered to have had as many questions from the Opposition in one week as I have had in four years as a Minister. It is a pity that so many of them have been misdirected. The policy responsibility for broad macro-economic issues must lie with the Treasurer and not with the Minister Assisting the Treasurer on Prices. The areas of my direct responsibility are the enlargement of the price watch network and the Prices Surveillance Authority. It is completely pointless for the Opposition to attempt to draw answers from me--

Opposition members interjecting-

Mr Hawke —That is the measure of their intelligence. They deal in uncompleted sentences.

Mr BARRY JONES —They deal in uncompleted sentences. It is a measure of their intelligence. It is pointless for the Opposition to attempt to draw answers from me on areas of the Treasurer's responsibility when the Treasurer is present in the chamber and able to answer. To do otherwise would be like inviting the honourable member for Kooyong to comment on the role of the Leader of the Opposition, inviting the honourable member for Groom to make a few well-chosen remarks about the Leader of the National Party, or inviting the honourable member for Boothby to comment on the shadow Treasurer. I do not propose to answer questions which fall in the Treasurer's direct responsibility. If the Treasurer was not here one day, that might be a different matter. I might be tempted.

Mr Hurford —What about the Acting Treasurer?

Mr BARRY JONES —Yes, of course, if the Acting Treasurer-and my distinguished predecessor in this operation, the Minister for Community Services-was not here. The inclusion of the word `price' in a question does not necessarily make it a pricing issue. The whole context needs to be examined. Some areas, such as motor pricing, are appropriately directed to me as Minister Assisting the Minister for Industry, Technology and Commerce. But other areas, for example, air fares, as I was about to say when I attempted to rise to my feet yesterday--

Mr Beale —Everybody got up.

Mr BARRY JONES —Not everybody-two.

Mr Hawke —They never could count.

Mr BARRY JONES —It is the old way. They say: `One, two-a lot'.

Mr Peter Morris —It was three.

Mr BARRY JONES —I am sorry; it was three, because the Minister for Aviation quite correctly tried to get up. Other areas, such as air fares, are explicitly excluded from my responsibility and should be directed to the Minister for Aviation. Accordingly, when the central elements of the question-as the honourable member for North Sydney would say, a matter of characterisation-involve specific areas of activity such as health, aviation, communications and housing they ought to be directed to the appropriate Ministers.