Wednesday, 8 August 2007
Something that has characterised this government over its journey has been that, when things are going all right, it always takes the credit and says that it is all because of its brilliance. But you can sure bet that when things are a bit rocky it will be somebody else’s fault. We had that softening up in the run up to today’s Reserve Bank announcement about interest rates: if they went up it was going to be the fault of the states. We got the interest rate rise of 0.25 per cent—it is regrettable but some people expected it. And what do we see from the government? Don’t take any blame for it—blame others. There was not even a discussion about having an understanding of what it means to the people that we represent here. I want to dwell on that because this is the fifth rate rise since the election—it is the ninth in a row.
I think that, as people who represent the community, we should start to look at the effect on the people we represent. I have tried to be fair in making an analysis of what it means to families in the electorate of Scullin. I have looked at the average prices for homes and I have adjusted that to what is a reasonable amount of money that people would have borrowed. On the best reckoning I can get over the range of suburbs in the electorate of Scullin, when this rate rise today flows on to mortgage interest it will have an impact of something like $50 per month to $75 per month. If we look at the five increases in interest rates since the election, it is something like $250 per month to $375 per month. This has happened after the election where John Howard—whether it was in a direct, indirect or subliminal shape or form—said to the Australian people that he would keep interest rates low. He has failed and he has got to accept the blame. His government is the national government and has the levers for the national economy. This is a government that took over an economy that even the Prime Minister acknowledged was in good shape—and that was on the basis of the Hawke-Keating years when many hard decisions were made. So this government has had it pretty easy and it galls me that when things seem to be going all right and it is all plain sailing, we get the Treasurer in here taking credit for everything. But when there are a few speed humps thrown his way, it is always somebody else’s fault.
Getting back to the kitchen tables tonight, families in Scullin will be sitting down to contemplate the extra impost on their house mortgages. They might be thinking that they are there in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, dependent upon private transport because the new suburbs are deficient in public transport. Their thinking might turn to petrol costs. They will be thinking that, in October 2004, three years ago, at the time of the election, the average price of unleaded petrol in metropolitan Melbourne was around 104.3c per litre. At the moment—being generous—it is around 129.5c. What that means for an average family in Scullin, filling the tank of the family car—which is what they would probably be using, because they have to go long distances to work, to child care and to school—is, say, $20 a week, another $80 a month, since the last election.
As I have stated here before, a survey that I did of childcare costs found that prices increased in the short term to something like $47 to $67 a day. That is quite extraordinary when you start to add these things together. That is what the discussion should be about: how we are going to give relief and hope to those people and how we are going to ensure that the stress that they find because of housing costs does not drive them out of their homes, does not put them in the vicious cycle of having to take high rents and losing their homes. That is what the discussion should be about. It should not be about the blame game and pointing fingers; it should be about the realities of the situation that we confront. (Time expired)