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Wednesday, 21 August 1996
Page: 2798

Senator KNOWLES —My question is directed also to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. You are no doubt aware of the very recent comments of the Labor Party's Secretary, Mr Gary Gray, following the Labor Party's electoral defeat post mortem, when he said:

We could not run on policies because they—

the voters—

thought we were liars on policy. We could not run on our record because they thought our record stunk.

This is Gary Gray, the Labor Party Secretary:

You do not like to admit you got things wrong but we did.

Can you inform the Senate as to how the Howard government will assist Australian families who were so badly treated by this Labor Party, which treatment was reflected in Mr Gray's comments only recently?

Senator HILL —Certainly, Senator. In fact, I thought that was the question Senator Faulkner was seeking to ask me.

Senator Faulkner —You were trying to give a Dorothy Dix answer to me.

Senator HILL —That is what it is all about: your credibility in coming in here and talking about broken promises, when the secretary of your party only a fortnight or so ago said that you lost the election because you lied to the Australian people—and you claim to come in here with clean hands and then start to question us. What Secretary Gray was saying, in fact, was that you deliberately misled the people before the 1993 election and you suffered the logical consequences of that, and that was, ultimately, rejection by the people—and not surprisingly. Those who deliberately go—

Senator Carr —Well, you are in trouble—a lot of trouble.

Senator HILL —Those who deliberately go out before elections with the intention to mislead should suffer that consequence—and I am quite happy to say that.

What did the Labor Party government do to Australian families? It is worth remembering, in fact, that the real average weekly earnings of families under Labor—and this is apart from those suffering from unemployment of whom there were many—fell, and they fell in an inequitable way as well. Lower income earners, Senator Carr, in whom I thought you would be interested, under Labor actually suffered more, disproportionately more. Home loan repayments for Australian families under Labor rose.

Australian families were worse off under Labor. That was the point. They suffered from the consequences of the recession that we did not have to have, the Labor Party induced recession. But they suffered beyond the recession as well. It is for that reason that we said before the last election that we would deliver benefits to Australian families, particularly to lower to middle level Australian families. I am pleased that we have been able to deliver that promise in full, notwithstanding the fact that we also have had to face up to a deficit of somewhere between $8,000 million and $10,000 million, which we had been assured by Labor—this Labor Party that claims to tell the truth—did not exist.

We announced last night, in contrast to Labor's failure, our family tax initiative which will direct an additional $1 billion a year to almost two million Australian families with children. These initiatives will provide families with a greater array of choices and genuine opportunities. They recognise the contribution of families as integral to maintaining a strong, cohesive and compassionate society—something that the Labor Party would not understand.

The majority of Australian families with dependent children will benefit. They will receive a $1,000 increase in their tax-free threshold for each dependent child. One-income families will receive a further $2,500 increase in their tax-free threshold if they have a child under five. This is an excellent initiative that this new Howard government has been able to deliver, notwithstanding the difficult economic circumstances that we have inherited. It is not surprising that it is already being applauded by Australian families who finally have a government that understands their needs and is prepared to deliver the benefits to which they are entitled.

Senator KNOWLES —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Could the Leader of the Government tell the Senate how many families who are also involved in small business will have their lot improved according to the budget last night? What are the real benefits that will flow to this crucial section of the community who—as I say, according to Mr Gray, the Labor Secretary—have been lied to and failed by the previous Labor government?

Senator HILL —The small business sector, which is, of course, critical to Australian families because so many are employed within it, benefits strongly as a result of this government. This government is a government committed to small business. In the election there were two areas of the economy we were particularly committed to—families and small business. They are, as Senator Knowles implies, so often related.

How has small business suffered? Small business under Labor has particularly suffered from high interest rates. I have put to you how our whole macro-economic policy is designed to keep pressure off high interest rates. Wasn't it exciting the other day when something disregarded by Labor happened? The fact is that official interest rates started to come down. Howard government elected; tough economic decisions taken; interest rates start to come down; small business benefits; and Australian families benefit. (Time expired)