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Thursday, 19 March 1987
Page: 977


Senator LEWIS —My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister Assisting the Treasurer on Prices and is about a price that I am interested in-the price of money. I ask: Does the Minister agree that the rate of interest people pay is the price of money? Is the Minister aware that under the Hawke Government the price of money has more than doubled for personal loans, that the price of money for businesses has risen by about one-third and that the price of money available to people on ordinary bank overdrafts has increased by almost 50 per cent? Given the Government's alleged interest in prices, I ask the Minister: When will the price of money come down?


Senator BUTTON —I have indicated on a number of occasions that I would not speculate about interest rates in the Senate or anywhere else in public. The Government is, of course, conscious of the high interest rates which now constitute a burden for many people in various walks of life, as referred to by Senator Lewis. No government wants to sustain high interest rates--


Senator Lewis —Your Government is doing it deliberately. You are keeping them up.


Senator BUTTON —When will we get from the Opposition some idea about what it would do about the causes of the economic malaise in this country, instead of the symptoms? If the Opposition is promising that if it were ever elected to government it would automatically reduce interest rates with a magic wand, it is mad and it will not be accepted anywhere in the community. Opposition senators come in here and talk about prices. What price a government under John Howard? What price Andrew Peacock this week? What price each of those people contending for leadership of the shonky political party which purports to be the Opposition in this country and which has no idea about any of these things? The answer to the question is: Who would be Opposition leader if we did? What about Joh? What price Joh as the next leader of the Liberal Party?

In the May statement the Government will indulge in, if that is the correct expression, or introduce substantial fiscal cuts. This will help with the process of reducing interest rates. However, there are no magic wands; they will not be waved by this Government. It is no good the Opposition suggesting that it has them, either.