Wednesday, 8 August 2007
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Does the Prime Minister accept any responsibility whatsoever for nine back-to-back interest rate hikes and their impact on family budgets? Does the Prime Minister still maintain that working families in Australia have never been better off?
Mr Speaker, let me say to the Leader of the Opposition that I accept total responsibility for things that happen under my watch and under the watch of my government. I accept responsibility for the good things as well as the bad things. It is true—and I do not mind saying it to the Leader of the Opposition and through him to the broader Australian community—that there have been increases in interest rates, most recently today. It is true that interest rates have moved up by 1¼ per cent since the last election. It is also the case that interest rates now on housing are still lower than they were at any time in 13 years of Labor. It is still true that interest rates on housing averaged 12¾ per cent under Labor over 13 years—a full 4½ percentage points higher than they are at the present time. It is true that unemployment is now at a 33-year low. It is true that working families’ wages in general have increased significantly in real terms during our time in office. It is true that business conditions now—and the profit share as a result—are at near record levels. It is true that the Australian economy is in a stronger position now than it has been at any time since the end of World War II including, by any proper comparison, the 1950s and 1960s.
In asking me if I accept responsibility, I accept responsibility for everything that has gone wrong within the government’s control over the last 11½ years.
In doing that I am entitled to point to the successes that this government has had. Looking through the transcripts of interviews that I gave during the last election, I have come across an interview I gave with Barry Cassidy of the Insiders program on 7 October 2004. This was two days out from the last election and it was probably the last interview I gave on a significant ABC program during that election campaign. The very last question I was asked was:
Prime Minister, if you are fortunate to win on Saturday, what do you think will have made the vital difference?
My answer was as follows—I have read through the answer and now, almost three years on, I would not alter a word of this answer because it remains as true today as it was on 7 October 2004:
The fact that the people trust us to better manage the Australian economy. That we have delivered periods of very low interest rates, of strong employment growth and great stability. And they better trust us to lead this country at a time of international peril as a result of the threat of terrorism.
I would not alter a word of that three years later.