Page 3452 - Week 11 - Wednesday, 21 September 2005

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MR SMYTH (Brindabella—Leader of the Opposition) (12.08): Mr Speaker, one should not miss the opportunity to rise and rebut the “sky is falling” philosophy of our leader here in the ACT. We have not seen this legislation and yet already it is bad; we have not got the written word but already it is condemned. It is condemned by those who belong to a regime that for 13 years saw the growth in real wages decline—it actually went down under the previous government. What we have seen in the last decade under the Howard government is in fact the greatest growth in real wages. The Chief Minister is leaving the chamber. He does not want to hear the truth, he does not want to hear the real story. Under the previous Labor government, of which the Chief Minister was a part, real wages grew by 1.2 per cent—1.2 per cent in 13 years. Under the Howard government, in the last nine years they have grown by over 14 per cent. So who is looking after the workers now? Who is making it better for workers and in fact who has created more jobs? In the last nine years there have been 1.7 million more jobs than there were in 1996.

Union membership—and here is the judgment of the work force, Mr Speaker—is the lowest that it has been for decades. It is the people who are rejecting the union movement and saying, “We have got a better deal and we are actually grateful for it.” So grateful were they for it, they voted Liberal at the last election and gave John Howard not just a majority in the House of Representatives but a majority in the Senate.

It is interesting to note that not only have we had real growth in wages but we have actually seen the gap in income levels between the rich and poor in Australia diminishing. The Hansard of the Parliament on 9 August 2005 shows the Prime Minister as saying:

… the mantra that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer is wrong according to the Bureau of Statistics.

The figures that came out last Friday are a stunning repudiation of that mantra. They are also a very strong endorsement of the social justice approach which has underlaid the policies of this government for the last 9½ years.

What these figures disclose is that over the period 1995 to 2003-04, the average household income in Australia grew by 20.7 per cent in real terms.

Twenty per cent growth. Are we going to shun the reforms of 1996? I will not go back over the quotes that Mr Mulcahy read earlier but, according to the Labor Party, the world as we knew it was going to end. Well it did not and thank God it did not because Australian families in that time have had 20.7 per cent growth in real terms in average household income. We are proud of that and we should be proud of that. It puts the lie to what was said by the Labor Party in 1996. The Prime Minister went on to say:

What was really welcome about this finding was that the real incomes of low and middle income households increased by a proportionally greater amount—that is, 22 per cent—than the real incomes of the richest households, which increased by 19.3 per cent over the same period: low-and middle-income households up by 22 per cent; rich households up by 19 per cent.

He went on to say:

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