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Monday, 17 June 1996
Page: 1598

Senator WATSON(3.33 p.m.) —I rise in support of my colleague the Assistant Treasurer (Senator Short), who successfully deflected a number of spurious opposition questions during question time this afternoon. My comments will have a very familiar ring to many colleagues sitting on the opposition benches who have come from the union movement. As many a good union organiser well knows, some of the most robust of negotiations result in the best outcomes. It was the outcomes on which my colleague Senator Short concentrated most successfully this afternoon.

A successful outcome followed the Premiers Conference. As Senator Short said, the outcome was satisfactory in that the states did recognise that they do have a role in overcoming a most embarrassing deficit that must be sheeted home to the previous ALP federal government. It makes for very easy government to run up debt. Some of this debt is deliberate while other debt results from bad policies. In this latter category, we categorise international debt, which rose from about $34 billion when those opposite came into power under the Hawke administration to about $180 billion when Mr Keating left office. The first responsibility of this responsible new coalition government is to restore the underlying budget. I believe that we are moving in that direction very satisfactorily.

Today's question time showed the utter hypocrisy of the ALP in relation to so-called broken tax promises. Other questions were preoccupied with attempting to debate or highlight a whole lot of immediate situations rather than concentrating on the final outcome. Perhaps those opposite were somewhat embarrassed as a result of what was a very satisfactory final Premiers Conference outcome, despite some hard bargaining in the process. I therefore take my hat off to all those state premiers who showed cooperation and leadership in aiming to overcome Labor's legacy of debt. I thank the Senate.