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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 1209

Mr SLIPPER(10.47) —In November last year, following yet another disastrous foreign debt announcement, I warned people in my electorate of Fisher of the growing burden being placed upon them by this Federal Labor Government. At the time, the foreign debt stood at the equivalent of $5,560 for every man, women and child in Australia. Now, under the policies of the Government, the debt has ballooned further to the extent that it has now exceeded $100 billion, or $6,000 for every Australian. Using the figures available in November last year, I calculated that the share of this debt owed by the people of the Shire of Caboolture stood at $271.9 million. This figure has now reached nearly $290m. Citizens on Bribie Island alone previously would have had to contribute $40m. This has now grown to nearly $43m. People living in the Pine Rivers Shire now owe $448m, and people in other local authorities wholly or partly within my electorate, such as the Esk, Landsborough, Maroochy, Nanango and Rosalie shires, are similarly affected. Australia's gross foreign debt has now skyrocketed from $36 billion in June 1983, shortly after this Government came to office, to over $100 billion in September 1986.

Mr Beale —It was $101,366.

Mr SLIPPER —The honourable member is quite correct. This debt rate is now increasing at the rate of $1,300 a second, $4.6 million an hour, $111 million a day. By the time I have concluded this speech, our debt will have increased by $390,000. During the 45 minutes set aside for this adjournment debate, the national debt will have ballooned by over $3.5 million. We are undoubtedly the Argentina of the Pacific. The sad fact of the matter is that the current temporary Government has not come to grips with the problem. Australia cannot afford to let this situation continue. The cost of servicing this debt places a growing burden on the Australian taxpayer. At present merely servicing our foreign debt consumes 40c in every dollar of export income.

Recently, Australia celebrated the anniversary of our Treasurer's infamous `banana republic' comments. It would seem that, sadly, despite the assurances of the Labor Party that the Australian economy is in good shape and that interest rates and inflation will fall, it is obvious to all Australians that we are now facing a crisis of truly mammoth proportions. The fact is that Australia now has exploding interest rates, rapidly rising prices, higher taxes for the average family and declining living standards. Under this Government Australians are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. Under Labor's mismanagement interest rates have climbed to record or near-record levels, while at the same time most other Western developed countries have experienced falling interest rates. Our prime interest rate, for example, has increased from 13.5 per cent in December 1984 to 18.5 per cent in February 1987. In comparison, over the same period this rate in the United States declined from 11.8 per cent to 7.5 per cent. This clearly affects our standard of living and fails to provide any incentive whatsoever for business to invest.

Mortgage repayments have also exploded. Since December 1984 average monthly mortgage repayments have increased by $172 a month for a typical $50,000, 25-year-term loan. In March 1986, 21.3 per cent of median family income was spent on home loan repayments. Now, in less than 12 months, this figure has increased alarmingly, to 26.7 per cent. Now bank home loan interest rates have risen from 11.5 per cent to 15.5 per cent and, in some cases, to 17.5 per cent and almost half a million Australians live in caravan parks, with a further 100,000 permanently or temporarily homeless.

Under Labor, this country is in real trouble. Labor should hang its head in shame at the growing crisis facing the average Australian. As a recent publication stated:

Who is to blame for this economic shambles? It is patently obvious that the ALP Government is to blame. The Federal Government is a government of mismanagement and failure, without any direction or workable solutions to the economic crisis.

Madam Speaker, the Government should resign.