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Monday, 26 May 1997
Page: 3954

Mrs WEST —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Has the Prime Minister heard reports that small business will not be getting the full benefits of the recent reduction in official interest rates? Are these reports correct?

Mr HOWARD —I have been disturbed today to hear reports that some of the banks are going to pass on the full effect of the official cut of half a per cent to big business whilst small business may have to wait around another six weeks and even then may not get the full amount of the cut. I say to the honourable member for Bowman, who has taken a very consistent interest in the concerns of small business in her own electorate, and to all members that this government would regard it as absolutely unacceptable if the banks were to discriminate against small business.

There is already a mountain of official complaint from people in business about the fact that they do not get a fair enough deal from the banks so far as small business is concerned. I want to say on behalf of the government that small business should receive exactly the same deal as big business. The idea that there should be any discrimination is unacceptable and ought to be unacceptable to all members in this parliament.

I point out that, if the large banks were to pass on the full 0.5 per cent cut in official interest rates to small business, the interest saving on the average small business loan would be about $2,500 a year. It is very important that these official interest rate cuts are followed as soon as possible by cuts in the marketplace. Small businesses have benefited enormously from the cuts that have occurred already, but that is no reason why they should not get the full measure of the benefit of the cut in official interest rates that took place last Friday.

While I am on my feet, I remind the parliament that that cut last Friday would not have occurred had it not been for the very responsible budget brought down by the Treasurer. That budget tackled the savings problem. Those who sit opposite left us with a $10.5 billion deficit and, at the end of year three, we will have it in surplus.

Dr Theophanous —On a point of order, Mr Speaker!

Mr SPEAKER —I think the Prime Minister has concluded his answer.

Dr Theophanous —He is clearly in breach of the rules that you put to this House earlier today.

Mr SPEAKER —I was hoping in the spirit with which the statement was made earlier this afternoon that I might get through one or two questions without an array of points of order on the thrust of what I intend. It will become very clear to all of you that the thrust of what I intend will be, in fact, executed. I am just looking for a welcome opportunity to move on to question three before we do so.