Tuesday, 7 November 2006
Questions without Notice
Household and Personal Debt
My question is to Senator Minchin, the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is the minister aware of Reserve Bank figures that show credit card debt passed $37 billion in August? Doesn’t this mean that every credit card in Australia has an average $2,820 worth of debt on it? Isn’t this credit card debt now at the highest level since records began? Can the minister now explain how the Prime Minister’s decision to give the green light to another hike in interest rates this week will make it easier for families to pay off their credit card debts?
It is not for the Prime Minister to give the green light or otherwise to the Reserve Bank. The Reserve Bank is entirely independent and it will make its own decision on interest rates in accordance with its charter, which is to keep inflation in the band between two and three per cent over the course of the economic cycle.
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Hasn’t the Reserve Bank also found that on average an extra $1,255 is being put onto every credit card in Australia every month? Won’t the amount of spending put onto credit cards increase even further in the lead-up to Christmas? How could the Prime Minister be so out of touch as to invite another interest rate hike that will make it even harder for families to pay off their credit card debts?
What the Labor Party does not seem to understand is that Australians are experiencing the most substantial and favourable economic conditions they have probably ever experienced in the history of this country. We have had 16 years now of continuous economic growth. We have living standards higher than they have ever been. We have unemployment at a 30-year low. So no doubt Australians are feeling confident about their finances and about their employment and are prepared to take on greater debt than they might otherwise, especially given that household equity and household balance sheets are stronger than they have ever been.
I rise on a point of order, Mr President. I ask your advice, Mr President. Beyond the need to be neatly and properly addressed, is there any reason why a member of the press would not be allowed to cover question time in the Senate from the press gallery?