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Tuesday, 11 February 1986
Page: 27

Senator MESSNER —My question is addressed to Senator Walsh in his capacity as Minister for Finance and Minister representing the Treasurer. Does he recall telling Senator Knowles in November that he expected the Government to consider the report of the Joint Economic Forecasting Group early in the new year and the review of the Budget to be completed this month? Has the review been completed? If so, has there been any revision of Budget forecasts given the fact that the Australian dollar remains at a level well below that predicted in the last Budget? Has the Minister decided whether he will make the result of the review public? If the review has not been completed, how much longer does he expect it to take?

Senator WALSH —The JEFG review has been completed. A copy was received in my office-I am not sure exactly when but within the last few days-and I have had a quick look at it. In response to the part of the question as to whether I will make it public, I will make no commitment about that at this stage. Indeed, I could not make such a commitment because the Treasurer is actually involved in that more heavily than I am. However, it ought to be apparent even to members of the Opposition that of course there will be some major parameter changes because of changes that have taken place since the October-November JEFG review and because of a somewhat different exchange rate than was assumed in the Budget, although a couple of weeks ago the average United States dollar exchange rate was almost at the level forecast in the Budget and the trade weighted index was some two points below the Budget forecast level.

One thing I can tell Senator Messner, of course, is that we certainly cannot afford the extravagant expenditure commitments to which his Leader has been committing the country. Fortuitously I have a list of them here. I will not read out the whole of the expenditure commitments to which his Leader has committed the Liberal Party, but I will go through a few of them and give a rough costing of them. Right at the top of that list we have the grossly irresponsible promise to fund the Alice Springs-Darwin railway. That costs $500m. We have the promise to repeal the wine tax. That is a revenue loss of $60m. We have a promise to repeal the tax on lump sum superannuation. By the time the next election comes up that will cost $200m. We have a promise to provide three days a week in tertiary institutions for all unemployed youth as a condition of drawing unemployment benefits. That will cost $500m. Those opposite promised to repeal the assets test. By the expiry of this Parliament that will cost a couple of hundred million dollars. They have promised not to levy any export inspection charges. That will cost another $50m. They have promised to repeal the cash bonus bidding for oil exploration territory. That cannot be costed at the moment but when the bids are received in a few weeks time we will know what that will cost. So the list goes on.

In this by no means exhaustive list that I have already given of both tax expenditures and additional Budget outlays we have reached a figure of about $1 1/2 billion. That is the sort of spending to which the Leader of the Opposition has quite irresponsibly committed the coalition parties should they be in government. I can tell Senator Messner without a shadow of doubt that the country certainly cannot afford the irresponsible expenditure promises which his Leader has been making. We know, of course, how his Leader dealt with outlays and revenue problems. The way that his Leader dealt with outlays and revenue problems was to let the deficit blow out to infinity.

Senator Chaney —On a point of order, I suggest to you, Mr President, that the Minister is debating the question now. He has moved from giving information to debating the question and I suggest that you should ask him to bring his answer to a close.

The PRESIDENT —I have listened to Senator Walsh carefully. In my opinion his comments to date are within the framework of the question asked, and I therefore rule Senator Walsh in order.

Senator WALSH —Thank you, Mr President. Relevant to this question and one or two previous questions that have been asked, this Government has to consider both income and outlays and the residual item in the deficit. It is a matter of record that the last item was not considered at all by the previous Treasurer. He let the deficit blow out to nearly $10 billion and, if he had his way and implemented the policies he is advocating now, it would blow out to about $14 billion.