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Wednesday, 28 February 2001
Page: 24636


Mr ANDREW THOMSON (2:19 PM) —My question is addressed to the Treasurer. Would the Treasurer inform the House how previous budget outcomes varied from recent budget outcomes?


Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I thank the honourable member for his question because, also during the trade union tirade this morning from the former president of the ACTU, we had this claim in relation to trusts. Remember, on the one hand there is a huge budget windfall but in relation to trusts we had this claim:

What it is doing to the budget surplus is the real problem; this is a government prepared to blow the budget surplus.

I thought to myself that that is an interesting thing for a shadow Treasurer to say, because I have been a shadow Treasurer. I used to do radio interviews when I was shadow Treasurer and the Labor Party was in office. The phrase that I never used as shadow Treasurer was what the Labor Party was prepared to do to a budget surplus. I never once had the opportunity to talk about what the Labor Party would do with a budget surplus. There never was one. In the last five years that I was the shadow Treasurer, there was never a budget surplus produced by the Labor Party.


Mr Beazley —That is because we were in the middle of a worldwide recession.


Mr COSTELLO —He interjects that we were in the middle of a worldwide recession. In 1995-96—

Honourable members interjecting—


Mr SPEAKER —The Treasurer is entitled to be heard in silence and that rule applies on both sides of the House.


Mr COSTELLO —He interjects that we were in the middle of a worldwide recession. In 1995-96, the Australian economy grew at four per cent. In fact I saw a ghost of years past writing in the Financial Review this morning.

Opposition members interjecting—


Mr COSTELLO —They say he was good, do they—their hero?


Mr SPEAKER —The Treasurer will not respond to interjections.


Mr COSTELLO —In 1995-96 when the Australian economy was growing at four per cent plus and the finance minister was none other than the Leader of the Opposition, the budget deficit was $10,077 million—not in surplus; in deficit by $10,077 million. The year before that, the budget was in deficit by $13 billion; the year before that the budget was in deficit by $17 billion; the year before that the budget was in deficit by $17 billion; and the year before that the budget was in deficit by $11 billion. During all that period, the now member for Hotham was a minister in a Labor government which produced five record deficits in a row. And he goes out there and he says that he is now concerned about surpluses. Let us have a look at the coalition record. We took a $10 billion deficit in 1995-96 and we halved it the next year. The next year in 1997-98 we produced a $1 billion surplus, the next year a $4 billion surplus, the next year a $12 billion surplus and this year, after giving tax relief to all Australian income taxpayers, a projected $4 billion surplus. And we hear the member for Hotham going out there and talking about surpluses. This is the Labor Party that are totally opposed to GST—but they are going to keep it; totally opposed to the private health insurance rebate—but they are going to keep it; totally opposed to the changes on education reform—but they are going to keep them; totally opposed to work for the dole—but they are going to keep it. They have never produced a surplus and they are now in favour of surplus budgets. The ALP should be renamed the `Australian Lazy Party'—never produced a budget surplus and now they are in favour of huge surpluses.



Mr SPEAKER —The member for Melbourne is warned.


Mr COSTELLO —The Leader of the Opposition goes out now as the Leader of the Australian Lazy Party, and says, `They're going to pinch my policies; they're adopting my policies.'

Honourable members—Oh, he's got the card!


Mr COSTELLO —We are adopting his policies! I am glad it is in big print because it would not have got—


Mr SPEAKER —Treasurer, I have raised the attention of the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs in this matter.


Mr COSTELLO —This is the government that has done all the hard work to put the budget into surplus. To hear a trade union tirade of concern about budget surpluses after a record of $11 billion, $17 billion, $17 billion, $13 billion and $10 billion deficits is to hear somebody who will say and do anything but whatever he says, it is bound to be wrong.

An incident having occurred in the gallery


Mr SPEAKER —The House will come to order!