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Thursday, 4 June 1987
Page: 3996

Mr HALVERSON —Does the Prime Minister recall the promise he made to the Australian people on 13 November 1984? He said:

And I now give this undertaking-that for the term of our next Government, the Medicare levy will not be increased.

How does the Prime Minister square this solemn undertaking with the fact that in the 1986-87 Budget the Medicare levy was increased from one per cent to 1.25 per cent? Can the Prime Minister now give a similar categorical undertaking to the Australian people that he is not going to the election with a hidden tax agenda which includes a further increase in the Medicare levy.

Mr HAWKE —As I have had cause to say before, what has characterised this Government has been the preparedness to make the hard decisions which have been necessary to deal with the new economic circumstances that have been forced upon us. If the Opposition members-while it very temporarily retains the honourable member for Casey amongst its ranks-want to continue to say to the Australian people that the loss of $9 billion from our economic capacity makes no difference, I urge them to continue with their voodoo economics in the election campaign. I hope they do, because all the evidence is that the people will not buy it.

We have been forced to take a number of decisions that we did not want to take. No politician in his right mind would wish to pursue a tight monetary policy which would involve an increase in interest rates. As I have said in this place before, no politician wants interest rates higher for a day longer than is absolutely necessary.

But a number of decisions, including that to which the honourable member referred, were adjudged necessary by the Government to bring in a responsible economic policy to match the economic challenge confronting the country. As distinct from the Leader of the Opposition and the various spokespersons for the conservative forces, we will not be preaching voodoo economics.

In the May statement and in the associated meeting with the Premiers at the Premiers Conference we made the toughest set of decisions in more than 30 years in this country. We took no pleasure in making those decisions, but they were necessary not merely to adjust this country to that loss of national economic capacity but also to put this country in shape for the restructuring of its economy so that in the future it would not remain so exposed to the variations in international commodity prices. We make no apology for that. If the honourable member wants to talk about a hidden agenda, that will be very much on the election agenda. When he considers what his Party will have to explain to the Australian people about its hidden agenda, he should shudder with fright. The fact is that the Opposition has been saddled with the promises of its current Leader. If we look at what the Leader of the Opposition has said-word for word; not something that someone else has said-he has a $16 billion credibility gap. What we have been told, of course, is that to pay for that he will find $3 billion from Medicare. The fact is that he will not find a net cent from Medicare.

What is involved in this hidden agenda? What is involved in this most remarkable statement by the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, after his cap in hand visit to the Premier of Queensland? We should remember what he said because it will come to haunt him and members of the Opposition because the Australian people will hear it every day. He said:

At a meeting in Sir Joh's Brisbane office today, the two leaders agreed that any important variations between their basic policies for Australia's economic recovery could be resolved immediately after a new Conservative Government was sworn in.

Does the House remember the famous statement of the Leader of the National Party of Australia? He said the same thing even more graphically on 29 April.

Mr Spender —A point of order, Madam Speaker.

Mr HAWKE —We are talking about hidden agendas, Madam Speaker.

Madam SPEAKER —Order! I call the honourable member for North Sydney on a point of order.

Mr Spender —The question was on a specific subject. In my submission the Prime Minister should not be allowed to return his pathetic censure of yesterday--

Madam SPEAKER —Order! I remind the honourable member for North Sydney that if people stopped interjecting we would not get these widenings of the answers to questions.

Mr HAWKE —What the Leader of the Opposition said yesterday on the subject of the hidden agenda was central to the question. On 29 April the Leader of the National Party stated:

It will be necessary to go into the election campaign with our separate policies and then after the election to enter negotiations with the Liberal Party and then work out which of the policies that have been presented to the people are going to be in fact put in place.

We will disclose during the election campaign the inevitable fact that the Leader has on his hidden agenda a 12 per cent consumption tax. That is on the hidden agenda because there is no way that he could begin to pay for the suggested income tax cuts that he is talking about. We have no hidden agenda. We have done the job. The Opposition has a hidden agenda. The problem for the honourable member, and one of the reasons why this is his last day in this House, is that we will expose that hidden agenda during the election. The honourable member, and many like him, will be swept from this place.