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Wednesday, 1 May 1996
Page: 150

Mr BEAZLEY —My question is to the Prime Minister. During the election campaign the Department of Finance found a $1.2 billion dollar error in your election promises for which there was enough public detail to allow independent costings. It also found $3.3 billion worth of promises too vague to cost. Do Finance Department costings of your election commitments still leave a $1.2 billion error and a $3.3 billion `too vague to cost'? If not, what are now the costings and the assumptions on which they are based? Will you now release the revised advice to the public? Will you also release departmental advice to you on the costs of your promises provided when you assumed office?

Mr HOWARD —I ought to tell the Leader of the Opposition that advice from the Department of Finance and the Department of Treasury since the election has blown an $8 billion hole in his credibility. I cannot believe my luck.

Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. You would appreciate, Mr Speaker, that we would raise a point of relevance when there is a very direct question asked without answers being received.

Mr SPEAKER —There is no point of order.

Mr HOWARD —I cannot believe my luck. He has had six weeks to work that out. What a question! What a terrific start! All I can say in conclusion to the Leader of the Opposition is: you will be hearing a lot from us about the way you deceived the Australian people.

I take this opportunity of saying to the Leader of the Opposition that the day after the election I walked up from the Intercontinental Hotel to the Commonwealth office in Phillip Street—I think all Australians and particularly members of this House should understand this sequence of events—and I was handed by the Secretary to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet a booklet of documents, the blue book, that had been prepared for the incoming government. As he knows better than most on the other side, a like book had been prepared for him and for the former Prime Minister if he had been successful.

That book clearly spelt out the fiscal reality. It was available to me the day after the election and yet you and your former leader told the Australian public that it was too hard to assemble. You said it could not be done. I asked the former Prime Minister about this twice during the first debate and I asked him about this time without number on other occasions. I said that we would throw open to any kind of inspection and costing. My colleague the now Treasurer offered the services of his staff to visit the Department of Finance—

Opposition members —Ha, ha!

Mr HOWARD —You laugh. You had all of the resources of the Treasury and the Department of Finance at your disposal, but what did you do? You chose to close your eyes. You chose not to ask the question. Every time you told the Australian people the information was not available, you knew that was wrong. Every time you told the Austral ian people that it was too hard to get it together, you knew that that was deceit. The fact that the information was available the day after the election demonstrates what a humbug you are on the question of fiscal credibility. If you think you have any credibility in this place asking me and the people on this side of the House about fiscal credibility, then I point out that there are eight billion reasons why you have no credibility to ask it.

Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. Could we actually have an answer. This is the chap who gave us a $22 billion problem when we walked in. A 60c tax rate and $8 billion worth of tariffs were built into it. Could we have an answer to the question.

Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition is stretching a very long bow. I was under the impression the Prime Minister was winding up. Has the Prime Minister concluded his response?

Mr HOWARD —I have.