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Thursday, 19 September 1996
Page: 3581

Senator CRANE —My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Senator Cook —Go for it, Winnie.

Senator CRANE —I will. Opinion polls show us that there has been an overwhelming level of public support for the government's budget strategy. What other recent endorsements have there been of the government's economic strategy?

Senator HILL —A very good question, too. We are pleased to see the overwhelming level of public support for the government's budget strategy. It is not surprising because that is exactly what the public elected us to do. Just recently, it was demonstrated by the Morgan poll—I mentioned that the other day—which showed that 77 per cent of people, including at least 60 per cent of Labor supporters, rated the budget as higher than any of the previous Labor budgets. Sixty per cent of Labor supporters said that we were doing a better job on economic management than 13 years of Labor.

That is reinforced today by the poll that appeared in the Australian. I will just run through a few of these figures for the benefit of the Labor Party, in particular: best party to handle interest rates, the coalition by 44 per cent to 26 per cent; best party to handle taxation, the coalition by 40 per cent to 28 per cent

Senator Robert Ray —Tell us the figures for industrial relations.

Senator HILL —Best party to handle inflation, the coalition by 45 per cent to 25 per cent, Senator Ray; best party to handle the balance of payments, the coalition by 46 per cent to 21 per cent. Just in passing, I might say, it says that the best party to handle the environment is the coalition, Senator Faulkner. That is a little closer but isn't it interesting that the public of Australia recognises that the new coalition government is even better at handling the environment than the Labor Party.

This is important, Madam President, because it demonstrates that it is still the view of the Australian public that the policies upon which they elected us they wish to see implemented. In other words, the budget that we put down which took the hard decisions they endorse and they want to see passed in this chamber. That is critically important. Why is it? It is because people are still reflecting upon the failures of Labor and the consequences of those failures.

I remind you, Madam President, that, under Labor, general government debt increased from $17 billion in 1990 to $96 billion last year. If there had not been any adjustment in this budget it would have increased to $120 billion. That is what the people of Australia were not prepared to cop any more. That would have been an increase of over 600 per cent in just 10 years. In underlying terms, debt had increased by $69 billion in the past five years. This is the record of Labor that the Australian people rejected. It has a consequence because it means that 7.5 per cent of this year's budget outlays are going to meet the cost of debt that Labor ran up. We need to spend some $10 billion to pay for debt that could have been spent on much more worthwhile programs.

Michael Egan, the Labor Treasurer in New South Wales, even recognised it when he said recently that more debt now simply means bigger interest bills in the future and fewer dollars to spend on hospitals, schools, roads and other key priorities. That is what the people of Australia rejected at the last election. They wanted us to take a new direction and they wanted us to take the hard decisions. We have done that in this budget. Now they want this budget passed in order that the benefits that can flow from those hard decisions do flow, to the benefit of all ordinary Australians.