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Monday, 23 May 2005
Page: 24

Mrs GASH (2:01 PM) —My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Would the Prime Minister advise the House of growth in the real wages of Australian workers and what role the workplace relations system has played in delivering real wage increases?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the member for Gilmore for raising with me an issue that is very important to debate on public policy in this country, and that is: which side of politics is better at looking after the interests of workers in this country? The reality is that, in the time that we have been in government, real wages since 1996 have increased by 14.1 per cent. Under the previous Labor government real wages rose by just 1.2 per cent in 13 years. This is relevant because every time I hear somebody from the Labor Party talking about workplace relations reform, do you know what they say? They say, ‘The coalition wants to cut real wages.’ They said it in 1996, they said it in 1997, they said it in 1998 and they have been saying it ever since. But what is the reality? The reality, in contrast to the fiction, is that under us real wages have gone up. I say again to this parliament: I had no prouder boast in the last election campaign than to say to the people of Western Sydney that the coalition had done more for the workers of Australia than the Labor Party could ever have dreamt of doing. And that will be the same when the government’s workplace relations reforms are unveiled. Predictably, as surely as day follows night, the Leader of the Opposition will be up here saying, ‘Oh, they are going to cut real wages,’ just as he said in 1996. I say to the Leader of the Opposition: you were wrong in 1996 and you will be wrong again in 2005.