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Desire for honesty and fair go

By Wayne Swan - posted Monday, 21 May 2007

Have John Howard and Peter Costello simply stopped listening? This is the question I’ve been hearing from Australian families all over the country in recent months.

Notably, we’ve seen a series of remarks from Mr Howard lately which have struck many around the kitchen table as, quite frankly, arrogant.

A few weeks ago he declared that Australian working families “have never been better off”.This is despite slapping working families with an extreme workplace regime that cuts penalties and overtime. This is despite standing idle while petrol prices skyrocket. This is despite health and childcare costs that have spiralled on Mr Howard’s watch.


Similarly, Mr Howard declared yesterday that Australians were “more relaxed about interest rates”.

This is despite four rate rises since Mr Howard and Mr Costello gave their word to keep rates at record lows. That’s a total of eight straight rate rises on Mr Howard and Mr Costello’s watch.

In Brisbane that’s added a staggering $114,000 to mortgage interest repayments on the median-priced home over the life of the loan. This translates to an extra $380 per month squeezed from the household budget, yet Mr Howard thinks we’re more relaxed about interest rates.

But while he may seem chronically out-of-touch with Australian families, there’s one group of people who still have Mr Howard’s ear - his pollsters and spin-doctors. You only have to observe his recent pre-election back-flips to know that Mr Howard is scrambling desperately to catch up with community opinion.

Take education for example.

Labor announces plans for an Education Revolution - including 15 hours a week of early-childhood learning and Trades Training Centres in secondary schools to combat the growing skills crisis. Education has been a core Labor value for over 100 years, and our Education Revolution strikes a chord with many Australian families.


All of a sudden, hey presto - after 11 years of neglect, Mr Howard suddenly rediscovers education.

On climate change Mr Howard is hatching exactly the same plot - he’s limbering up for another pre-election back-flip - although this one is perhaps the most difficult of his entire career. For 11 long years Mr Howard has been determined to ignore the mounting evidence. Despite the overwhelming mass of scientific evidence on climate change, several of his ministers are still in denial.

But the community wants 21st century leadership on climate change. The community understands that taking firm action now is the only way to protect both our jobs and our environment.

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First published in The Courier-Mail on May 18, 2007.

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About the Author

Wayne Swan MP is the Member for Lilley (Qld). He is Federal Labor Shadow Treasurer and author of Postcode.

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