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Thursday, 10 October 1985
Page: 992

Senator WALTERS —The subject of my question is finance and debt but I shall direct it to the Minister representing the Prime Minister because the sources I shall refer to refer to the Prime Minister and because I found the Minister's answer to Senator Sir John Carrick so interesting. I ask the Minister whether Australia is borrowing more money and has far higher debt than most people realise? Are Australians now beginning to grasp the dimensions of their economic difficulties and do they not like what they see? It has been stated that as a result of the Australian dollar being so unstable that it has fallen out of bed. The Prime Minister is losing his ability to control the left wing of his Party. Is the Minister aware that those damning accusations have been made by the bankers attending this week's meeting of the International Monetary Fund in Seoul and appear in the magazine International Investor. What is the Government doing about Australia's drop of 1.8 points in creditworthiness in the last six months alone and a fall of a massive 5.6 points since Mr Hawke came to office in 1983? Is the Minister aware that Australia's credit rating was the third worst performer in the Asian-Pacific group, with Sri Lanka and the Philippines being the only countries to report a bigger drop?

Senator BUTTON —The question demands a less than simplistic answer; that is to say, the answer has to have a different character from the question. First of all, let me say that I am not aware of all those things which Senator Walters asserts. I do not have the capacities to be able to tell what the average Australian is totally concerned about. If Australians have any concern, they would be concerned about the prospect of a government ever being elected in this country which contained somebody who could ask a question like that. That would be the major concern that most Australians would have at present. Of course the question of Australia's credit rating is of concern to the Government. I am not in a position to agree or disagree about the precise figures which Senator Walters has referred to, but I do not think that the credit rating will be helped by the knowledge that we have that sort of level of political debate in Australia.