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Transcript of doorstop interview: 16 October 2007: Howard's interest rate gaffe; tax.

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Howard's Interest Rate Gaffe, Tax Doorstop Interview - 16th October 2007

SWAN: Last night on national television the Prime Minister Mr Howard demonstrated just how out of touch he has become. He couldn’t name the official cash interest rate.

At the last election John Howard promised to keep interest rates at record lows and there have been five interest rate rises since then. That core election promise has been broken and last night he demonstrated he didn’t understand its impact on average Australian families with a mortgage.

Five interest rate rises have hit people with mortgages for six and as a consequence of John Howard’s broken interest rate promise many families out there are hurting.

John Howard took personal responsibility for interest rates at the last election. Five interest rate rises later, he doesn’t even know there’s been five rate rises.

Five rate rises for Australian families have been a big hit on their mortgage. An average mortgage is something like $300,000. That’s $3000 extra, but John Howard just doesn’t understand it.

Now an interest rate rise mightn’t be a lot for John Howard but it’s a lot for people out there in the suburbs struggling to pay off their mortgage.

He’s pretty comfortable spending an additional $4 million a week on his extreme industrial relations laws but he simply doesn’t understand the impact of rate rises on average Australian working families with mortgages.

This Prime Minister is completely out of touch. No wonder he’s out there saying all the time that working Australian families have never been better off. He doesn’t know how many interest rate rises they’ve had.

Interviewer: Talking about working families - under a Labor Government will they be paid more?

SWAN: Under a Labor Government we will put in place all of the foundations of a strong economy. We need to be investing in our workforce. We need to be training the best educated workforce in the world.

We’ll put in place a fair and balanced industrial relations system as indeed we’ll support a fair taxation system that puts incentive in the system for people that work hard.

Interviewer: (Inaudible)

Wayne Swan

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SWAN: Well, we’re going to take our time to examine the Government’s proposals from yesterday. Peter Costello has had all of his officials working on those proposals - the revised estimates and the tax package for many months. We’ll examine it responsibly. We’ll take our time and then we’ll announce our package.

Interviewer: Is the Prime Minister’s gaffe any worse than Kevin Rudd’s tax cascade remarks?

SWAN: Everybody makes mistakes. There’s no doubt about that. But here, at the last election, the Prime Minister made interest rates the centrepiece of the campaign.

His interest rate promise should be seared on his brain, but apparently it’s not.

I think his gaffe yesterday gives you a very clear insight into the fact that he doesn’t understand the financial pressures on average Australian families with mortgages.

Interviewer: When can we expect the Opposition’s tax package?

SWAN: Look, we’ll take our time. People will see our proposals well before the election.

Interviewer: Why do you need to examine the Government’s tax policy before you draft your own? Shouldn’t yours be in the best interests of Australia regardless of what the Government does?

SWAN: Ours will be in the best interests of Australia and we will take our time to do it because we are responsible economic managers.

We believe that tax should be as low as possible consistent with quality public services and strict budget discipline, but prudence demands that we take our time to examine all of the estimates that were published yesterday.

For example, there’s been an improvement in the budget bottom line over the forward estimates of $60 billion. Now that’s one hell of a jackpot for the Government.

But what we have to do is look at all of those figures, look at them carefully and do the best for Australians.

Interviewer: The tax policy that was announced yesterday - is that responsible in that it could lead to higher interest rates?

SWAN: We’re looking at the tax package released yesterday. We’ll have a look at its impact on inflation and interest rates. That’s very important. We will judge it by the extent to which it puts incentive into the tax system, by the extent to which it is fair, by the extent to which it encourages people to increase their skills, by the

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extent to which it makes us more internationally competitive.

They are all very important criteria and we’ll take our time to use those criteria to judge the package that the Government put out yesterday.

Interviewer: Are you worried about making a lot of political capital out of this gaffe given that we’ve got a six week election campaign? There’s obviously going to be more pop quizzes.

SWAN: It’s not just a question about a pop quiz. During the last election campaign John Howard said he could be trusted when it came to the vital question of interest rates and he made a commitment to keep interest rates at record lows.

Interest rates have gone up five times since John Howard made that commitment to the Australian people during the last election campaign and last night on national television, he didn’t even know interest rates had gone up five times.

Authorised by Tim Gartrell, 161 London Circuit, Canberra City, ACT 2600

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