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Thursday, 16 August 2007
Page: 147


Ms HALL (11:58 AM) —I would like to take this opportunity to examine the Prime Minister’s assertion that Australians have never been better off. I am constantly contacted by constituents within the Shortland electorate who advise me that they have never found it harder to make ends meet. They talk to me about the price of their groceries, their meat, their fruit and their vegetables. In recent times we have had another interest rate rise, which is the ninth interest rate rise in a row and the fifth since the last election, when John Howard promised to keep them at a record low. This was done in commercials that the government ran at the time. I have never heard anyone try to move further away from it quicker than John Howard has in recent times.

To demonstrate the fact that Australians are not better off than they have been in the past, I would like to refer to a letter that I received from one of my constituents. This gentleman has now retired. When he first started working, he was earning the equivalent of $9 a week. He purchased his first house for £1,200 at the time. He has equated that using a formula of multiplying his house price by 58, which brings the figure to $139,200. He has recently had his house evaluated, and it is now valued at $800,000. His council fees have gone up at a much steeper curve and are much higher than he was paying initially.

What this demonstrates very clearly is that the income that he was getting at the time made it much easier for him to purchase a house—it cost a lot less than it does now. You now need a much higher income to purchase the house that he purchased—a house that cost the equivalent of $139,000 but that you would have to pay $800,000 for now. You would have to be on quite a sizeable income these days. This person was on a pretty much average income.

What these changes have meant to people like my constituent is that they have a lot of difficulty making ends meet. Another example he gives me is the cost of having a tooth extracted. Believe it or not, it was 25c in 1938. If you multiply that by 58, that is $14.50 now. If anyone has been to a dentist recently, they will find that to have a tooth extracted costs a lot more than $14.50. In fact, I had a constituent come into my office the other day. She had just had her tooth removed and it cost her $250.

I would argue very strongly that what these figures demonstrate is that Australians are not better off than they have ever been in the past. What they show to me is that the Prime Minister is really out of touch. He does not know the issues that are affecting the Australians that I represent in this parliament—pensioners, people who have jobs where they just earn the average income. People living in the Shortland electorate have a very low median income. The government and particularly the Prime Minister seem to have lost touch with people. He seems to have lost the ability to connect with them and the issues that are affecting them. My constituent also highlights the fact that the government is very quiet on the high wage rises for CEOs but very active in arguing against workers getting increases in their wages from the Fair Pay Commission.