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Tuesday, 26 June 2001
Page: 28550

Mr CREAN (2:40 PM) —My question is also to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Regional Services. I refer to reports of your $1 billion plan for an August announcement of a rural and regional incentive package. Are you planning to pay for this package by raising taxes, cutting programs or spending more of the surplus? Deputy Prime Minister, just where is that money coming from, or is it coming out of the same hollow log as funding for the space project?

Mr ANDERSON (Deputy Prime Minister) —I thank the honourable member for his question. The first point I would make is that there has never been a $1 billion plan. That is a bit of idle speculation that you have picked up for the most base of political purposes. When it comes to doing things for rural and regional Australia, there is an incredibly long list, all of which have been done without it being put on the national bankcard, the way you did with every initiative you undertook. We just have to take the reduction in Commonwealth debt, taxpayers' debt, if you like—governments do not have money; only taxpayers do, and when it is a debt of the sort that was run up under the Leader of the Opposition it is a taxpayers' debt. And that is what you had—$96 billion of it. It increased by $80 million in the five years that the man once described as the world's greatest Treasurer was in charge of the government that you were a part of. It blew out by $80 billion. The reduction in debt under the current government saves us around $4,000 million a year in interest alone. That sort of money has enabled us to put in place a range of very valuable programs: whether it has been around $700 million for more doctors, better services and more nurses in rural and regional areas, whether it has been $1.2 million for local roads, whether it has been $700 million for a water quality and salinity action plan, to be matched by the states, whether it has been the Regional Solutions program, or whether it has been stronger families and communities, which I have just touched on, we did not have to put the taxpayer into debt anymore to do it.