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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 2074


Mr CAUSLEY (2:39 PM) —My question is directed to the Treasurer. Would the Treasurer outline to the House economic data released today and information received overnight on international interest rates? What does this suggest for Australia's economic outlook? Are there any risks?


Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —I thank the honourable member for Page for his question. As expected—as I informed the House yesterday—the US Federal Reserve overnight increased interest rates again. That followed a move by the Bank of England last week to increase interest rates. Central banks in Switzerland and New Zealand have also recently increased interest rates. It confirms that global interest rates will be rising through the course of the next 12 months. That being the case, it is very important that economic management in Australia be strong. It is very important that experienced economic management continues, because the last thing that Australia would want would be a return to the interest rates of the Labor government between 1983 and 1996.

If you think of the worst-run council in Australia and the mayor who presided over the worst-run council in Australia, what would you think of a proposition to make that mayor Prime Minister? That would be a Liverpool kiss to the economic prospects of Australia. Today consumer sentiment data was released that shows, according to the Westpac-Melbourne Institute survey, that consumer confidence continued at another decade high in the last month. Most components of the consumer sentiment index rose, including perceptions of family finances, economic conditions and economic conditions over the next five years.

It was noted that probably one of the main reasons why perceptions of family finances have risen so strongly is because of the number of Australian families who have recently received an additional $600 per child in order to help with the bills. We recognise that many families have bills which are much greater than that. I point out to the House that the $600 per child is not the total amount of assistance. For low-income families the annual assistance is $4,000 per child, and for others it is around $1,600—that is the minimum rate. So the $600 is just a component that was added into already existing family assistance by way of an annual bonus, as it were. That has really helped Australian families. As far as the government is concerned, we think it is appropriate that Australian families be helped. But there has been an ominous silence from the Australian Labor Party about that $600 payment.



The SPEAKER —The member for Ballarat is taking a gamble, and I have loaded the dice!


Mr COSTELLO —The member for Ballarat interjects, but she is part of a political party which will not guarantee that $600 if it is elected. The Australian Labor Party has guaranteed that $600 for as long as the coalition is in office, and it is holding back the prospect of taking it away. Why would a political party want to take $600 away from the families of Australia? Why would they want to make family life harder for the families of Australia? We call on the Australian Labor Party, which is now three months overdue on its tax policy, having promised it in budget week, to come out and to match this government on its commitment of that $600 per child per annum whilst ever it should get into office. Until such time as it can match the coalition in relation to that, Labor stands condemned as the party which will not look after Australian families and will not give them the support that they deserve.