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Thursday, 12 September 1996
Page: 3394

Senator TROETH —My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer and the Assistant Treasurer. Minister, everyone is aware of the gross neglect of Australian families under 13 years of Labor and how much the gap between rich and poor widened during that time. In the light of this, could you please enlighten the Senate as to how much better off families will be as a result of the recent reduction in home loan interest rates and how much better off they will be as a result of the Howard government's family tax initiative.

Senator SHORT —I thank Senator Troeth for that question, which enables me to point out the very stark contrast between what happened to Australian families, the lifeblood of our nation, many of whom are also small business people, under Labor's 13 years of misrule and what this government has already put in train to correct that situation. It is true, as Senator Troeth has acknowledged in her question, that Labor's policies when in office effectively ignored Australian families. Not only did they ignore Australian families; the impact of the policies that they did introduce caused enormous damage to Australian families. During that period, and as a result of Labor's incompetence, home mortgage rates rose to 17 per cent, which dashed many families' hopes of buying a home and even forced many families into extreme financial hardship.

We all remember the so-called recession we had to have, which was a recession we should never have had to have and which forced unemployment up to 11 per cent. Nor will we forget the savage increase on families in recent budgets in terms of sales tax increases and the like. Indeed, in the 1995 budget the sales tax burden on families increased by no less than $60 per week. So that is the former government's record.

The Australian people acknowledged that overwhelmingly on 12 March when they threw that lot out of office comprehensively and showed that Labor, by 2 March, had become as irrelevant then as it is now. That was acknowledged by the Secretary of the Labor Party, Gary Gray, when he said:

We couldn't campaign on a positive policy agenda because no-one believed us; they thought that we were liars. We couldn't campaign on our record because by and large the perception of our record was that it was stuffed.

I think most Australians said amen to that. In stark contrast to Labor's neglect, under this government we have already seen welcome falls in home loan rates. Variable home loan rates offered by the major banks since earlier this year have fallen from 10.5 to 9.25 per cent. That is a fall in interest rates of 10 per cent and delivers a benefit of $88 a month on a $100,000, 25-year loan.

Fixed home loan rates have already fallen since the budget, delivering a very substantial benefit to families taking out these loans. For example, five-year fixed home loan rates offered by the Commonwealth and NABS have fallen from 9.75 to 8.95 per cent. We are, therefore, helping Australian families to achieve their dream of home ownership. We also delivered on 20 August in the budget our electoral commitment to Australian families in the form of major assistance to families with young children, a tax initiative which was a $1 billion a year injection into the paypackets and pockets of Australian families. We have also assisted them in numerous other ways, for example with private health cover. (Time expired)