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Wednesday, 30 October 1996
Page: 4759


Senator SHERRY —My question is addressed to the Assistant Treasurer. Last week in an estimates committee hearing Dr Parkinson from the Department of the Treasury stated, in response to economic forecasting done by the joint economic forecasting group:

. . . we have a projection for 1997-98.

I therefore ask the minister: what is the government's forecast for unemployment based upon the 1997-98 joint economic forecasting group projection?


Senator KEMP —As Senator Sherry says, that question was canvassed at the estimates committee hearing. Senator Sherry had a good chance to discuss the issues and the differences between projections and forecasts.


Senator Robert Ray —But we weren't all there. We would like to know.


Senator KEMP —Senator Ray, seeing that you were not there, I will answer this question at some length just to assist you.


Senator Sherry —Give us the figure.


Senator KEMP —If you keep quiet, you will get an answer to the question. Senator Sherry raised the issue about the projection figure for the subsequent year. The point was made rather well that the figures which we are releasing follow exactly the precedent, Senator Sherry, that you set while you were in government. That issue was discussed. You came back to it time and time again. I thought that Dr Parkinson and I, if I may say so, answered the questions that you raised, and I do not propose to add to that answer today.


Senator SHERRY —I ask a supplementary question, Madam President. Minister, we know that there is a figure. You are keeping it secret; you are keeping it hidden. We can get figures for revenue expenditure, national saving, debt, fiscal consolidation and gross domestic product growth. Why won't you, in accordance with the Prime Minister's much vaunted charter of budget honesty, `specify expected fiscal outcomes or targets and specify key fiscal indicators against which fiscal policy will be set and assessed'? How does your failure to release the projected unemployment figure, which you are hiding, comply with the Prime Minister's intended charter or are we to assume that, just as the Prime Minister's code of conduct became the code of convenience, the charter of budget honesty will also become the charter of convenience?


Senator KEMP —As you know, Senator Sherry, the charter of budget honesty was widely welcome in the community and was largely due to the fact that there was a major cover-up on the fiscal position that Labor came to at the end of its term of office. I know that you were not party to that, Senator Sherry, but many of your colleagues—former Keating ministers who now sit on the front bench of the opposition—were party to that.

What we are doing in relation to the forecast of unemployment projections is following the precedents which were set by your government on the release of those figures, so you have little or nothing to complain about.