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Tuesday, 10 September 1985
Page: 328

Senator COOK —Has the attention of the Minister for Finance been drawn to various demands for what has become colloquially called small government, in particular for a smaller level of spending by the Commonwealth Government? Has the Minister responded to these calls?

Senator WALSH —There are regular calls for small government and reductions in government expenditure. Those calls, ironically, are most frequently made by people who simultaneously advance proposals to increase expenditure. I have in mind principally, of course, the most prominent members of the Opposition. Specifically, I note that a resolution which was passed at the Liberal Party Federal Council meeting, which I think was held in July, called for a cut in expenditure of 4 per cent as a proportion of gross domestic product, which on last year's outlays is more than $8 billion. I am ever alert for, of course, and eager to receive helpful suggestions about how government expenditure might be cut without seriously affecting the quality of life in Australia or the economic growth that we have been enjoying over the last few years, ever since the previous Government was ignominiously dismissed.

Given that that Liberal Party Federal Council resolution was supported by the then Leader and then Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party-and, as far as I am aware, by all members of the Liberal Party except perhaps Steele Hall, Mr Macphee and a few dozen other people-I wrote to Mr Howard on 1 August, drawing his attention to that point and asking whether he would care to nominate a list of cuts totalling $8 billion from last year's outlays which I would then consider or put to the Expenditure Review Committee and the Cabinet. I am still waiting for a reply.

I issued a Press statement on 4 August, reminding Mr Howard that in April this year he had condemned other critics of the level of government spending who failed to provide `specific suggestions as to where cuts may be made'. I am still waiting for a reply to that letter. Although Mr Howard has publicly condemned others who say that expenditure should be cut without specifying where it should be cut, I still have not received any reply to the Press statement or the letter which I wrote. Since Senator Messner has done nothing to offend the Sydney Stock Exchange, and he is now the shadow Minister for Finance, I will also send a copy to him and invite his suggestions as to how $8 billion may be cut from outlays.