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Wednesday, 28 May 2003
Page: 15197

Mrs CROSIO (2:07 PM) —My question today is addressed to the Prime Minister, and it follows revelations of the $43,000 bill for his four-night stay at the St Regis Grand Hotel in Rome. Is the Prime Minister aware that the hotel worker I referred to in my question to him yesterday would have to work more than three years in her Australian hotel in order to earn what the Prime Minister spent in four days at his Roman hotel? How can the Prime Minister justify such an extravagant taxpayer funded Rome visit when Australians like the hotel worker are doing it so tough?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —Can I say in reply to the honourable member for Prospect that it is always, of course, possible to make those sorts of comparisons, no matter who the Prime Minister is and no matter what the circumstances are. But there is another comparison you can make, and that is the comparison between the movement in the real incomes of battlers under Labor and the movement in the real incomes of people under this government. No matter who the Prime Minister of Australia is, he or she will travel overseas, and properly so, to represent this country—no matter who the Prime Minister is. Let us face it, nothing is going to be dramatically different in relation to that, if we are all perfectly honest and do not engage in games.

What can be different are the economic conditions that you create. I remind you, as the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations reminded you yesterday, that the sort of person you referred to has fared far better under our government than they did under your former administration. The former government used to boast about how they had reduced wages. I can remember the former Prime Minister standing up here and saying, `We have reduced wages during our term in office.' They used to boast about it. They did not boast about the fact that they increased interest rates. They did not boast about the fact that unemployment went to 11 per cent. I would say to the member for Prospect, and any others on the other side who are seeking to make comparisons, that I am happy to make comparisons—comparisons between the treatment of average workers in Australia under my government, which has been far superior, and their treatment under former Labor administrations.