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Wednesday, 10 May 2000
Page: 16175

Mr CREAN (2:22 PM) —My question is again to the Treasurer. I ask him whether he recalls telling the parliament on 30 June 1995, and again I quote:

A nation's currency is a mark of how its economy is perceived in international markets . . . the mark that has been given to our currency and to this Prime Minister's economic management is a fail—an absolute fail.

Treasurer, in the light of the fact that the Australian dollar was then worth US71c, do you stand by that statement?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —As I have made entirely clear, the government do not target a particular exchange rate—a policy which, as I recall, was introduced by the Australian Labor Party with the support of the coalition. For that reason we do not say a particular rate which we would expect the currency to go to, but we do say that we think it important to run strong fundamentals in economic policy.

Mr COSTELLO —I hear the Leader of the Opposition say that we are not doing that: we are not running strong economic policy. I suppose we should follow his example: we should have unemployment at 11.3 per cent; we should have the budget in deficit by $17 billion; we should have inflation at the rate of the Labor Party average in the 1980s of eight per cent; and we should be running up $50 billion worth of debt. We think it is important to run a strong economy in Australia. We think it is important to have good growth, low inflation, a good budget position. Those are the fundamentals that we focus on. Our interest rates on home loan mortgages—even though they are 7½, 7.8 per cent outside of the last year—are still the lowest home mortgage variable rates since 1973. They are lower than at any period in 13 years of Labor Party government. If you went through the 13 years of Hawke-Keating government, although you would find home mortgage variable rates at 17 per cent on some occasions, you would not find them in the seven per cents. That is another reason why—

Mr Downer —Seventeen they were.

Mr COSTELLO —You would not find the number seven in front of it, but you would find the number 17 in front of it during the 1980s. The government intends to keep running a strong economic policy. That is why we reformed the tax system. I said last night in the budget and I say it again: there are some that pretend that reform is not necessary, and there are some that are even worse; they want to oppose reform whilst hoping one day to take the benefits of it. As I said last night, you cannot take the results if you will not do the work.