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Tuesday, 3 June 2003
Page: 15741


Mr CREAN (2:11 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. I ask him if he recalls saying before being elected as Prime Minister, `I can promise you that we will follow policies which will bring down the foreign debt'? Prime Minister, isn't it a fact that today's foreign debt figures show that you have in fact doubled foreign debt to a staggering $362 billion? Instead of lowering foreign debt, Prime Minister, as you promised, why have you in fact doubled it?


The SPEAKER —Before I recognise the Prime Minister I will intervene as I did for the member for New England. I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that the use of the term `you' was not necessary in that question.


Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —In response to the Leader of the Opposition, I have not remembered everything I said, but I could well have said words to that effect. I am very grateful that the Leader of the Opposition has asked a question about foreign debt because today's figures revealed that the debt servicing ratio is now the lowest since March 1983. And what happened in March 1983? That was the election of the Hawke Labor government. I take the opportunity of not only pointing that out but also reminding the Leader of the Opposition of some of the other things I said before the election in 1996. I said that we would reduce the level of unemployment, and we have. I said we would reduce the level of interest rates, and we have. I said we would run budget surpluses, and we have done that on six consecutive occasions. I said we would lift the living standards of the Australian people, and we have. I said we would increase the real wages of Australian workers, and we have done so in contrast to the Labor Party, who boasted about having driven those living standards down. I look forward to another question from the Leader of the Opposition.