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Monday, 5 March 2001
Page: 24914

Mr BEAZLEY (2:19 PM) —My question is to the Treasurer. In the light of your public warning to the Prime Minister and to your colleagues on Friday morning of the need for `a tight spending budget' and given the Prime Minister's acknowledgment of the need to `reorder priorities', can you give a guarantee that the promised $1 billion welfare reform package will be exempted and protected from any budget cuts?

Mr Hockey —What would you know about a tight budget?

Mr SPEAKER —I have not as yet recognised the Treasurer because it seemed that the Minister for Financial Services and Regulation believed the question had been addressed to him.

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —The government last week cut taxes in relation to petrol excise —

Mr Crean —You mean you honoured a promise not to—

Mr SPEAKER —The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has defied the chair for the third time.

Mr COSTELLO —Last week the government cut taxes by cutting the petrol excise by 1.5c a litre, and I think it is a decision that the Australian public have welcomed. In addition to that, the government did something which the Labor Party could never have done and that was it announced the end of automatic indexation in relation to petrol—again, a decision that the public have welcomed. Both the Prime Minister and I have made the point that having cut taxes means that coming into this budget round, the government will have to take a tight rein on expenditure and will have to target measures accordingly. I am asked the question about the welfare statement. As I recall, the government has never put a sum, any sum at all, on the amount of the reforms in relation to welfare. The fact that the Labor Party asserts it has, of course, does not make it fact; that is one of the Labor Party's old tricks. As to what will be done in the budget, and I will be giving this answer a lot between now and the end of May, I can assure the House, the government will not speculate on the measures it will be announcing in the budget. You can wait until budget night when all will be revealed.