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Thursday, 28 November 1985
Page: 2469


Senator MAGUIRE —My question is directed to the Minister for Finance. I refer to the Minister's answer yesterday to a question from my colleague Senator Sibraa in the proposed privatisation of public assets in South Australia and in particular to the Minister's comments on the sale of public assets to finance current consumption expenditure. Has the Minister had any reason to consider the comments he made yesterday, particularly in view of the surprising claim on radio this morning by the Liberal Party Leader, Mr Howard, that privatisation is not an issue in the South Australian election?


Senator Chaney —I take a point of order, Mr Deputy President. That is a gross misrepresentation of what was said by the Leader of the Opposition. It is typical of the dishonesty that we see at Question Time, usually from Ministers but now from this honourable back bencher from South Australia. It was a disgraceful misquotation.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! There is no point of order. I call Senator Walsh.


Senator WALSH —This morning, when I was slowly waking up, the wireless was on and I was astounded to hear the Leader of the Opposition on the AM program. I was so astounded and interested in what he had to say that I asked for a transcript of the program as soon as I got into the office. I have the transcript here. In discussion of the South Australian election he said:

The privatisation issue has got a lot of publicity, but I don't see the thing at issue as being anywhere near as dominant as the issue of State taxes and charges and interest rates.

He said that privatisation is not important and that what is important is State taxes and charges. He has inexorably linked the question of privatisation with that of State taxes and charges because he has circulated a document which states that the tax cuts which he forecasts or promises, or whatever one should say, would be funded from the proceeds of privatisation.


Senator Chaney —I take another point of order, Mr Deputy President. That is another lie. The Minister earlier this week in Question Time made a very clear point that there was a clear undertaking that there would be a reduction of indebtedness from the sale of any assets. The Minister is again misleading the Senate.


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! Senator Chaney, you must withdraw the word `lie'. You cannot use the word `lie' in referring to a Minister.


Senator Chaney —I said that a lie was told. It was a deliberate untruth. I withdraw `lie'; it was a deliberate untruth.


Senator WALSH —I am not offended by that. I am quite willing to be judged on the facts that are on the record. I have no qualms about that. Senator Maguire referred to my--


Senator Chaney —The Hansard makes it quite clear that he quoted the undertaking.


Senator WALSH —The undertaker? Are we talking about Mr Sinclair now?


Senator Chaney —You quoted the policy yourself.


Senator WALSH —Senator Maguire referred to my answer yesterday to a question from Senator Sibraa. Yes, I pointed out in that answer that the principal lesson to be learned from the British experience of the Thatcher Government's privatisation program is that `privatisation is a device used by Tory governments to fund current expenditure by flogging off public assets so that they can promise tax cuts immediately before an election'. That is precisely what Mr Olsen is also doing. I pointed out that the same policies which the Thatcher Government is pushing through are being contemplated and promised by the Olsen Opposition.

Then there was the AM interview with Mr Howard this morning which sabotaged Mr Olsen's privatisation strategy when Mr Howard said that the issue of privatisation really is not the dominant issue in the South Australian election; that it is the question of State taxes and charges and that the two do not have any connection. Of course, that is quite untrue. In fact, Mr Olsen has inextricably linked his privatisation proposals with his promises of tax cuts-a link which has now been severed by the Federal Liberal Party Leader. Therefore, South Australians are entitled to ask, if only for the purpose of the record because I suppose there would be little other reason to ask it, whether the Liberal Opposition in South Australia still holds with tax cuts or whether it has abandoned that promise in view of the statements on Federal Liberal Party policy made by Mr Howard.

In addition to that, the Liberals could not fund State tax cuts from Commonwealth grants because Mr Carlton, the shadow Treasurer, has already proposed that the 2 per cent real increase in general purpose payments to the States, which is on this Government's program for the next financial year, should be cancelled. So, as well as the shortfall in revenue from the now jeopardised privatisation proposals for short term revenue, a South Australian Liberal government, if a Federal Liberal government policy were implemented, would have to deal with a shortfall in revenue from Commonwealth sources. Perhaps Mr Howard and Mr Olsen should seek some economic advice from Brigadier Greville, who I understand is a Liberal Party adviser these days and who advocated in the Adelaide Advertiser yesterday the privatisation of the Australian defence forces.

Senator Maguire having directed a supplementary question to the Minister for Finance-


The DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Order! That is not a supplementary question.