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Tuesday, 27 May 2003
Page: 15072

Mr DUTTON (5:36 PM) —I want to continue my speech on Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2003-2004 tonight in the same vein in which I started last night; that is, to comment on how this budget and how this government generally have been providing for families, not just in my electorate but right across the nation. It needs to be put in these terms. After our commitment to Iraq, which totalled some $750 million, after our commitment to strengthening our borders and to strengthening the Australian economy and after facing the worst drought in living memory, this government, despite all that expenditure, was still able to deliver two things: a surplus in excess of $2 billion and modest tax cuts for all Australians.

I think that people in my electorate most appreciate that, whilst those tax cuts are modest, the government had to face enormous expenditure in preparing the budget. The people in my electorate recognise that. The other thing they say to me is that this budget stands in stark contrast to the budgets that have been brought down around Australia by Labor governments in each of the eight states and territories. Indeed, we are waiting with great anticipation for the Queensland budget, which comes up very soon. People in Queensland are worried—as, rightly, people in Victoria are, where 300 taxes have increased, and as are people right around the nation. Once again, the Labor Party are in a situation of economic mismanagement in the same way that they were irresponsible with regard to the Australian economy over their 13 years of power right up until 1996 when this government came into being.

One of the most significant measures the Howard government has been able to deliver to young families and small business is low interest rates. We now have a period of sustainable low interest rates. We have not seen such a period for 30 years. Very proudly I am able to speak with young families in my electorate. They are in a better position not just because of the low interest rates we have been able to deliver but also because of the first home buyers grant and other economic measures this government has been able to deliver to young families right across Australia.

We have been able to repay $63 billion of the $96 billion in Labor debt we inherited when we came to power in 1996. In no small way should people think that is responsible for lowering of interest rates and being able to keep interest rates at these 30-year record lows. Interest rates are now at 6½ per cent. For families with a mortgage of $100,000, that represents a saving of almost $4,000 a year. I think that, because house prices have increased dramatically in recent years, we have a situation which provides much certainty for many young Australian families.

We have been able to deliver in the areas of employment and jobs growth. This government is very proud of the fact that, since we came to power, we have created 1.1 million jobs. Indeed, the unemployment rate has fallen from the 8.6 per cent it was under Labor and when we came to government, to 6.1 per cent now. We are very committed to driving that rate as low as possible. One of the other facts that the Australian Labor Party do not like to hear is that unemployment peaked at 10.9 per cent under Labor and, indeed, stayed at over 10 per cent for 28 consecutive months. The Labor Party do not want to tell you that, under this government, real wages have grown by 10.6 per cent, whereas they only grew by 2.3 per cent under Labor over the period of 13 years while they were in government.

As I said, this government was able to deliver a balanced budget with modest tax cuts. Most tax cuts are on the back of the most significant tax cuts ever introduced in this country, when the government took the responsible action of delivering a new and fairer taxation system in July 2000. For my electorate that has meant that funding has been able to be provided to bodies like MISA, which provides a tremendous service within my electorate and indeed right across north Brisbane. I have spoken about the work of MISA before. Tonight I want to thank the Treasurer for his ability to deliver a budget which has provided the circumstances to see funding for MISA continue.

We want to increase funding for those sorts of organisations and we want to continue to be in a position where, after having repaid that significant amount of Labor debt, we can now contribute about $5 billion towards those sorts of programs because we are saving money in interest. The other significant funding provided to my electorate is in the area of child care. I commend the minister responsible for that area, because there has been a record allocation under this government of around $8 billion for child care over the next four years. It is significant: a record $1.6 billion was spent on child care in 2001-02. (Time expired)