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Thursday, 6 April 2000
Page: 15448


Mr BEAZLEY (2:54 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister, and it follows the one asked previously from this side of the House. Prime Minister, is it not a fact that your GST family TV advertisement states: `Relax, John and Wendy. From July, the government is providing special additional assistance for the cost of raising children.' Can you confirm that, if John and Wendy are expecting a child in December this year and John has an annual income of $30,000 and Wendy $28,000, they will, under the new tax system, when Wendy stops work lose $67 a fortnight in existing parenting payment? Is it not the case that, even with the tax cuts and family allowance increases, John and Wendy are $29 a fortnight worse off, and that is before they pay any GST, without even taking into account interest rate rises? Isn't your TV advertisement blatantly false and will you withdraw it?


Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —We have no intention of withdrawing the advertisement. I have not brought a ready reckoner or a calculator with me but, as always, I take on notice assertions made from the other side of the House about what has been said by anybody, be it a government, a TV advertisement, a member of the government or, indeed, a member of the community.

Can I just pick up on one other aspect of the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition. It is this dishonestly selective use of interest rate movements—an absolutely dishonestly selective use. To start with, taxation, as the Treasurer said, moves quite independently of interest rates.


Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker—


Mr HOWARD —On what basis can this be irrelevant?


Mr SPEAKER —Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition has not as yet indicated on what reason he is rising. I recognise the Leader of the Opposition.


Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, I am rising on the grounds of relevance. We have asked here a set of very specific questions related to what will be a very substantial impact on an ordinary Australian family. My remarks were made without even taking into account anything in relation to interest rates, so how could it be relevant to talk about them?


Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat.



Mr SPEAKER —Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat!




Mr SPEAKER —The Minister for Forestry and Conservation and the member for Prospect! I will check the Hansard, but in fact I made a note while the Leader of the Opposition was asking his question and I was certain he made reference to interest rates in that question. In that sense, the Prime Minister's reference to interest rates could hardly be deemed to be irrelevant.


Mr Beazley —My words were exactly this: `without even taking into account interest rate rises'. This is $29, irrespective of anything that happened with interest rates.


Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition made reference, as he freely concedes and as I am now indicating, to interest rate rises in order to in fact make that point in his question. In that sense, I cannot rule the Prime Minister's answer out of order.


Mr HOWARD —Returning to my theme, the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition have sought quite persistently during question time, with a very dishonest and selective character, to link movements in interest rates to reductions in taxation.


Mr Beazley —Mr Speaker, I have just been described as dishonest in relation to interest rates. Let me read you the paragraph and you make a judgment as to whether or not I was incorporating within it figures related to interest rates.


Mr SPEAKER —No, there is no need for the Leader of the Opposition to do that. I will rule—


Mr Beazley —I think it is very important that you hear it to be able to rule on it.


Mr SPEAKER —I will hear the Leader of the Opposition.


Mr Beazley —Thank you. I said `even with the tax cuts and family allowance increases, John and Wendy are $29 a fortnight worse off, and that is before they pay any GST—


Mr Reith —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This point of order from the Leader of the Opposition is repetitious because he said, `I want to put the point to you again.' It is frivolous, given the absurdity of the point that he is attempting to make. He cannot stop talking. He asked his question and he ought to wait for the answer.



Mr Reith —You've proved my point!


Mr Beazley —I continue my point of order, Mr Speaker. I came to that point in that paragraph in which I said `without even taking into account interest rate rises'. It was specifically excluded from that $29 worse off figure.


Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. I have ruled on this matter. My ruling is entirely consistent with rulings made in the past and I call the Prime Minister.


Mr HOWARD —Mr Speaker, I return again to the theme that I was making before the Leader of the Opposition interrupted—that is, that throughout question time today, members of the opposition have sought frequently to dishonestly and selectively—


Mr Beazley —On the Prime Minister's own admission, he is referring to other questions and not to this one, which specifically excluded the impact of interest rate rises.


Mr SPEAKER —The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. I have already ruled on this point of order. The reference to interest rate rises was made. It cannot be excluded without being referred to, and the Prime Minister is for that reason relevant. It is not unusual for people to refer to previous answers in answering a question.


Mr HOWARD —The opposition has sought quite dishonestly and selectively, both in the Leader of the Opposition's question and by the linking of the two—he mentions it and then he pretends he did not mention it. The reality is that since this government has been in office interest rates have come down dramatically and, even after you allow for the latest increase in interest rates, the average family is $250 a month better off than it was in March 1996 and Australian families will be dramatically better off as a result of the government's taxation reforms. No attempt by the Leader of the Opposition to falsely and selectively drag in the issue of interest rates can possibly alter the unassailable fact that Australian families will be better off.

As to the particular example quoted by the Leader of the Opposition, as always, as I said at the beginning of my answer to the question, I will take that on board. I will check it, and if there is anything further that needs to be added, it will be added.


Ms Hoare —Withdraw your ads. They're dishonest.


Mr Tuckey —Mr Speaker, I ask her to withdraw.


Mr SPEAKER —The Minister for Forestry and Conservation did not have the call.


Mr HOWARD —And he doesn't want it.

Opposition members interjecting


Mr SPEAKER —The member for Charlton!


Mr Zahra —He's got a long memory, Wilson.


Mr SPEAKER —And the member for McMillan for the second time.