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Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Page: 1293

Senator IAN MACDONALD (3:26 PM) —The Labor Party is very rapidly developing a reputation, well earned, for being incapable of answering questions during question time. Today we had this spectacle of Minister Wong, Minister Carr and the leader, Minister Evans, simply unable to address a question. Very simple questions were asked. I do not think Senator Wong has yet answered one question she has been asked. Senator Carr tried, I have to say, but simply could not answer the question: how much will it cost? It is very simple, and he was not capable of answering it. His actions today were the same as they have been since we came into this new parliament: Labor ministers simply incapable of answering the most simple questions.

Senator Polley raises the issue of petrol prices. I will tell you what the Howard government did about petrol prices: we actually stopped the automatic half-yearly indexation of petrol prices that the previous Labor government had implemented.

In all these things you have to look at what Labor do in office, not what they said, when in opposition, they would do in office. During the time of the last Labor government, we saw record interest rates of 17½ per cent on housing loans—I have my bank statement to prove it. You might recall inflation being in double-digit figures. They are accusing us of three per cent inflation and saying how terrible that is. When we came into power inflation was about seven or eight per cent, but it had been 11 per cent under Labor, and now they are again trying to make the public of Australia believe that they will do something about inflation.

Petrol prices under the Howard government dropped because we did the only thing a government can do, and that is stop the automatic indexation. If you want to do something about petrol prices, Senator Polley, get Mr Rudd to slash the excise on petrol and then you can do it. Before the election, the Labor Party and Mr Rudd wandered around Australia promising that grocery prices would come down, that interest rates would come down and that petrol prices would come down. What have we seen since the Labor government came to power? Petrol prices have gone up, and what have the Labor government done? They have set up a committee or something. Since the Labor government have been in power, grocery prices have gone up. What have the Labor Party done? They set up another committee. Since the Labor Party have been in power, interest rates have gone up twice, and yet we are looking again to the sorts of interest rates that we saw at the time of the last Labor government.

There is a report out today that the Labor Party would be very interested in having a look at. A new economic analysis says that Labor’s mandatory renewable energy target of 20 per cent by 2020 is unnecessary, will cost the economy $1.5 billion and will drive up power bills by six per cent. How is that going to help working families: petrol prices, energy prices, electricity prices up by six per cent? Labor have also whacked a new charge onto transport—a new charge on trucks. Of course, trucks carry food, and those of us who live in rural and regional Australia are particularly dependent upon trucks moving goods up to where we live. But the additional charges that this Labor government and the state Labor governments are going to put on trucks will mean that our costs for groceries will rise even further; hence, the cost of living will go up. There is another thing that they are talking about—well, I think they are talking about it. You never know with Mr Garrett—remember, he famously said before the election, ‘We’ll promise everything before the election and then change it after the election,’ and you can never be quite sure whether he has got to the change area yet—but he says he is going to put an extra tax on shopping bags. What are shopping bags used for? To take home the groceries. So, again, ordinary working Australian families will be attacked by this government. The increased energy price, the increased petrol price, the increased trucking price and the increased cost of shopping bags are all adding to inflationary pressure. Quite frankly, the Labor government have no idea what to do—(Time expired)

Question agreed to.