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Monday, 10 October 2005
Page: 40

Mr BEAZLEY (3:13 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Where in the government’s industrial relations announcements is the Prime Minister’s guarantee that no individual Australian employee will be worse off as a result of the changes?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I thank the Leader of the Opposition for his question: if he wants a guarantee, I invite him to look at the last 9½ years. This affords me an opportunity of reminding the House that since March of 1996 Australia’s unemployment rate has fallen from 8.2 per cent to five per cent, which is a 30-year low; that over the same period the number of Australians classified as long-term unemployed has fallen from 198,000 to just 89,000 today; that 1.7 million new jobs—

Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. It was a simple question to the Prime Minister: guarantee that no Australian worker will be worse off. Can you give us that guarantee?

The SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. The Prime Minister is in order.

Mr HOWARD —I continue the narrative under the general proposition that the best guarantee anybody in my position can give is to point to my record of fair treatment of the workers of Australia. I thank the ACTU. I do not often do this, but I do thank the ACTU for running an advertisement right in the middle of the AFL grand final with a grab from me saying that the Howard government has been the best friend that the workers of Australia have ever had. That is absolutely right.

As I have said to this House before, when I opened the campaign for the Liberal Party in the electorate of Lindsay in the last election, I said the proudest boast that I could make to the people of Western Sydney was to say that we had delivered to them a quadrella, the likes of which a Labor government could never have boasted: higher employment, lower interest rates, lower taxation and improved job opportunities for their children. Indeed, the list goes on: under our government 1.7 million new jobs have been created, inflation has averaged just 2½ per cent a year, home loan interest rates are at historically low levels, the real wages of Australians have risen by 14.9 per cent over the last 9½ years, average household incomes in Australia have grown by 20.7 per cent in real terms over the period 1994 to 2003 and the real income of low- and middle-income households has increased by a proportionately greater amount—that is, 22 per cent. No government has delivered better benefits to working Australians than has this government. We have done it over the last 9½ years and we will do it over the years ahead under this new workplace relations system.