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Friday, 6 December 1985
Page: 3187

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —by leave-The statement which has just been incorporated involves at least one page of quite unnecessary pejorative attack on the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Howard. The reason I respond to the statement is that it seemed inappropriate at this moment, as Parliament is drawing towards an end, that in a statement on such a serious matter which deserves the attention of the Senate the Minister should have retailed an attack, an alleged exposure, on the Leader of the Opposition that he made in the Senate on 14 October. After that attack the Leader of the Opposition asked the Government to provide details of the material relating to this matter.

Senator Walsh —Debate this about Patrick Partners. We would be delighted to take you on.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —I am glad to hear that the Minister has nothing more to say than the usual personal abuse. It is his normal style in this place. I have learned to expect it. It has no impact in keeping me quiet. I will not be blackmailed or terrorised by that Minister.

Senator Chipp —What did you do to Senator Foreman the other day-absolutely despicable?

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —I thank the Senate for its attention to this important matter and I thank the honourable senator for his interest, too. As I was endeavouring to say to a Senate which claims it is in a hurry, and which is endeavouring to disrupt my speech as much as possible, when this false accusation was first made by Senator Walsh, Mr Howard sought the release of the papers by the Government on 14 October. These papers, which are central to this issue, have not yet been released. Yet Senator Walsh retails this allegation again. I say with some vigour that the whole funding exercise that Senator Walsh then claimed to have exposed was fully disclosed in the Budget Papers of the time, on pages 105 and 106 of Budget Paper No. 1 of 1978-79, and in the Australian Telecommunications Service and Business Outlook for 1978-79 the details were fully disclosed. If Senator Walsh really wants to find a Budget fiddle he need look no further than his Government's actions in May 1983. At that time the Hawke Government put at least $300m into the last Fraser Government's Budget of 1982-83 by making capital advances to various statutory authorities in lieu of those authorities seeking funds in the subsequent Budgets. Senator Walsh was a party in that case to advancing at least $60m to Qantas Airways Ltd, $90m to Trans Australia Airlines, $85m to the Australian National Railways Commission and $90m to the Australian National Line in May-June 1983, the sole purpose of that action being to inflate the last Fraser Budget deficit and correspondingly decrease subsequent Hawke Government deficits. There is no doubt that Senator Walsh is an expert on fiddles, particularly Budget fiddles.

Senator Gareth Evans —You are reading your speech, and you are reading it very badly.

Senator MICHAEL BAUME —I am relying on notes. Some of them are copious, others are not. It is true that in fact I am reading at this point from the Budget Papers of 1978-79 at page 106, if that interests honourable senators opposite. There one can see that the Government agreed that Telecom Australia may retain in 1978-79 an amount of $122m, representing a portion of its superannuation provision-I stress the word `provision'. If Senator Walsh was in the real world and knew what provision meant in commercial terms, he would know that it does not mean expenditure on; it means making a provision for. In commercial areas provisions of this sort can be made and reinvested in normal operations of a corporation. That is the normal situation. It is one that Senator Walsh does not understand. It is grossly improper of Senator Walsh to retail his inaccurate, unreasonable and improper accusations, particularly in a document at this time.