Tuesday, 16 November 2010
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer to the fact that a family with a $300,000 mortgage is now paying over $21,000 a year in interest, including the fact that their interest bill went up by over $1,000 a year in the last fortnight alone. When will a government that had lost its way in June find its way and start taking upward pressure off interest rates for Australian families and small businesses?
I can only imagine how he must have hung his head in shame every morning for being such an incompetent minister in such an incompetent government. If he wants to go down this track, well let us do comparisons of track records—I am very happy to.
Government members interjecting—
Order! Those on my left could learn a lesson by not interrupting as much as they do because, quite frankly, I could not listen to the answer because of the hubbub that was going on, and given the reaction of members on my left I am assuming that the member for North Sydney was going to raise a point of order on relevance. He is lucky not to have been named or given one hour because of the way that he approached the dispatch box. We might rule a line in the sand about this question time now, but I am telling you, the behaviour has got to pick up. The Prime Minister has the call. She will be directly relevant to the question.
I was asked about interest rate pressure. What I can say to the shadow Treasurer about interest rate pressure is I understand that families are under pressure from interest rates and paying the mortgage. I understand that in the past, under the former government, they struggled with higher interest rates than now. But interest rate movements do cause pressure on working families—absolutely right—which is why of course we want to make sure that there is competition in banking so that people have the ability to shop around and get a better deal. That is why the government has already acted to introduce competition reforms, and we will act to introduce further competition reforms. Even today, if you check the products and prices that are on offer, my attention has been drawn to the fact that a good bank, Adelaide Bank, from my old home town, is offering a mortgage rate of 6.59 per cent compared with, for example, today’s Westpac mortgage rate of 7.86 per cent. It does make a big difference to families if they go and get a better priced product. The difference in cost between Westpac and the Adelaide Bank is $245 a month. I give that as an example because it shows that if you can facilitate competition in banking, if you can enable people to move from one product to another, then they can look around, look for better deals and use their purchasing power effectively as consumers to drive different conduct in our banking sector. That is why the government has delivered competition reforms in the past and that is why we will deliver further competition reforms.
In terms of the macroeconomy and supply-side constraints, we as a government understand and we have understood for a long period of time that we need to lift the productive capacity of our economy by investing in human capital. That is why we have a transformational education agenda after 12 long years of neglect, why we are nation building with the infrastructure projects, overseen by the government generally and particularly by the minister for infrastructure. That is why we are so committed to the delivery of the National Broadband Network, because of its ability to drive new ways of doing business, new productivity enhancements, new ways of expanding economic capacity.
Mr Speaker, on the issue of direct relevance, the Prime Minister was asked about how the government was taking pressure off interest rates. She was not asked about infrastructure spending on the National Broadband Network or any other kind of infrastructure spending.
Perhaps at some point someone could explain to the opposition about the question of supply-side constraints, explain to the opposition about economic capacity, explain to them about the role of infrastructure and explain why I am being directly relevant to the question that is asked. Really, nothing could tell you more about the economic incompetency and illiteracy of the Liberal Party in the modern age than that point of order.
We will deliver the further competition reforms. We have already delivered competition reforms. I will say again, as I have said previously, people should use their power as consumers to put pressure on banks. The banks have behaved badly. They deserve to feel the pressure of competitive powers. Unlike the Leader of the Opposition, I am critical of the banks’ conduct. He wanders around saying: ‘I don’t blame the banks. I believe they bear their fair share of responsibility.’