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Monday, 26 March 2001
Page: 25573

Mr BEAZLEY (Leader of the Opposition) (2:01 PM) —My question is to the Prime Minister. Has the Prime Minister seen Labor's banking policy, released today, with a social charter for the banks that includes fee-free banking for social security recipients, a no-frills bank account for all Australians and full disclosure of ATM fees at the time of transaction? Prime Minister, do you support Labor's measures to give Australians a decent level of banking service?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I have seen Labor's banking policy, and I have also seen the level of interest rates today compared with what it was under a Labor government.

Opposition members interjecting—

Mr HOWARD —I might remind those excited ladies and gentlemen opposite that when the Leader of the Opposition last had a serious position in the government of this country the interest rate charged by banks was 17 or 18 per cent. I would say on behalf of the coalition that the best banking policy is a low interest rate policy. Therefore, on the track record of what Labor did when it was in government and what this government has done since it has been in office, there can be no doubt that the best banking policy—namely, a low interest rate policy—is the policy to be delivered by a coalition government.

Amongst a number of commitments contained in Labor's banking policy is a commitment to restore all of the services that have disappeared. Is that going to be funded by the government? How many bank branches are you going to reopen under that policy? Are you going to force the banks to subsidise the restoration of those services or are you misleading the Australian people? It is appropriate that the research centre that gave birth to this policy is the Chifley Research Centre, and the name Chifley will forever be associated not with progress in banking but with an attempt to destroy the private banking systems of this country. Let me say yet again that the best banking policy is a low interest rate policy, and on that score Labor has no credibility.