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PM apologises for interest rate rise -

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PM apologises for interest rate rise

Broadcast: 09/08/2007

Reporter: Dana Robertson

John Howard has apologised to homeowners and others who will soon be paying more for their loans
after the lift in official interest rates.


TONY JONES: It's a word he's found hard to say in the past, but today the Prime Minister wasn't
shying away from saying sorry.

The target of his contrition? Homeowners and others who'll soon be paying more for their loans
after yesterday's lift in official interest rates.

But Labor wants Mr Howard to go a step further and apologise for the 2004 campaign promise to keep
rates at record lows.

Dana Robertson reports from Canberra.

DANA ROBERTSON: There's no escape for John Howard from the interest rate fallout.

JOHN HOWARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: We have taken a hammering in the press this morning. I
accept that and I'm not going to complain about that.

DANA ROBERTSON: He was eager to make amends to the families who'll bear the brunt of the 0.25 per
cent rise.

JOHN HOWARD: I'm sorry about that, I regret it. I didn't want an interest rate rise, but one has
come about.

Nobody has ever argued that interest rates should never on occasions be adjusted either up or down.
I didn't argue that during the last election campaign.

DANA ROBERTSON: But in Question Time, Labor was in no mood for forgiveness.

KEVIN RUDD, OPPOSITION LEADER: Why is the Prime Minister's promise to keep interest rates at record
lows still on the Liberal Party's website today?

JOHN HOWARD: The promise I made has been validated by the experience of the last two and a half
years, and is validated by a comparison of the policies of the Government and the Opposition.

DANA ROBERTSON: And even some on the Prime Minister's own side think the 2004 interest rate
promises were pie in the sky.

BARNABY JOYCE, NATIONALS: Well, it's a promise you can never make. How can you possibly determine
the flow of trillions of dollars of money around the world and think we can control that from
Australia? You can't.

DANA ROBERTSON: But John Howard was on the attack too, mocking Kevin Rudd's claim that there's not
a slither of light between the two men when it comes to Budget policy.

JOHN HOWARD: He belongs to the school of "echo-nomics" which seems to me it's going to rival the
Chicago school. You stand up here and you say "budget surplus" and "budget surplus" comes back.

DANA ROBERTSON: But parliamentary taunts are the least of Mr Rudd's worries. He's fending off
claims that Labor's controversial candidate for the Tasmanian seat of Franklin has been offered
inducements to quit.

KEVIN HARKINS, FORMER CANDIDATE FOR FRANKLIN: This is the best thing I can do to help get rid of a
Howard Government.

DANA ROBERTSON: Retiring member Harry Quick's been doing his level best to have union official
Kevin Harkins ousted since he first won preselection. He went so far as to campaign with the
Government to voice disgust at the Party's choice to replace him.

HARRY QUICK, LABOR MP: I think people in Canberra have decided that the smell around the whole
issue of Franklin and its preselection needs to be resolved.

JOE HOCKEY, WORKPLACE RELATIONS MINISTER: At no stage has Kevin Rudd said that Harkins should be
disendorsed, so it would be a complete turnaround and would appear to be the result of a dirty
little deal involving Kevin Rudd.

DANA ROBERTSON: Mr Rudd vehemently denies claims that Mr Harkins is on a promise of a Senate seat
and he said he's stood down because of the Government's smear campaign against him.

The Prime Minister's also keeping up the assault on the Queensland Government over its plan to
merge local councils. Today, he's taken aim at Peter Beattie's threat to sack any councils who take
up the Federal offer of a vote on the issue.

Mr Howard says it's the fundamental right of citizens to express their views about the dismantling
of a structure of government. But given the vocal protests against the forced amalgamations,
there's no doubt he knows just what those views will be.

PROTESTERS: Two, four, six, eight, we will not amalgamate!

JOHN HOWARD: This is a slap in the face for every Queenslander. It's the act of a Labor Government
drunk with power, Mr Speaker.

DANA ROBERTSON: But despite his condemnation, Mr Howard says he's not arguing that all the
amalgamations are wrong.

Dana Robertson, Lateline.