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Tuesday, 5 November 1996
Page: 5060

Senator KERNOT —My question is directed to the Assistant Treasurer. I ask the minister: is he one of the federal government ministers who, according to a report in today's Financial Review , believes that the overhaul of federal-state responsibilities has foundered; doesn't this failure represent a considerable threat to a foundation stone of the government's budget strategy, that is, shifting costs to the state but not revenue; and doesn't it represent an even greater threat to those ordinary Australians who rely on some community assistance in the areas of health, aged care and housing and who are now, it seems to me, caught in the COAG crossfire?

Senator KEMP —Thank you for the question, Senator Kernot. As you would be aware, there are continuing discussions with the states on these types of issues. I would not wish to give any preview or comment on the state of those particular negotiations. But, on the general issue, we are very proud of the budget which we have brought down. That budget has been described as a fair budget. It has been widely accepted in the community. Judging by recent polls, the community acceptance of the budget is extremely good.

We believe that, in discussions with the states and with the budget we have brought down, we are effectively addressing community concerns. If there is anything I can add to those matters, I will come back to you.

Senator KERNOT —Minister, if you fail to persuade your conservative state colleagues to accept this cost shifting, won't your budget stand to fail? You have relied so much on this—shifting the cost, none of the responsibility—that your budget looks doomed, doesn't it? If you cannot deliver now, when you have the best opportunity with your conservative colleagues on your conservative agenda, is next week's COAG meeting doomed to fail to deliver this substantial part of your budget?

Senator KEMP —As often happens in question time, there is a tendency to exaggerate and perhaps beg the question. We will be having discussions with our colleagues and I am sure that those discussions will be extremely constructive.