RATE RISE SLUG HITS LOCAL FAMILIES
By Alex Easton firstname.lastname@example.org
NOT long ago, Tanya Brown dreamed of owning a small farm; now she just wants to keep a roof over her family's heads.
And while the Tuncester resident is not yet sure how yesterday's rate rise Australia's first in an election campaign will impact on that goal, she knows who to blame.
Yesterday's 0.25 per cent increase in the official rate is the sixth since the 2004 election, when the Coalition ran a campaign on the promise of keeping rates at historic lows, and brings them to an 11-year high.
The rise lifts the official cash rate to 6.75 per cent and is expected to bring the standard variable rate to 8.57 per cent. That's an increase of about $32 per month on a $180,000 mortgage.
The rate rise is also expected to hurt renters, with property investment firm Braxton Chase predicting increases as investors cover their increased mortgage repayments. The firm predicted a rise of about $12 per week on properties presently renting at $250 per week.
Prime Minister John Howard apologised for the rise. "I would say to the borrowers of Australia who are affected by this change that I am sorry and I regret the additional burden that will be put upon them as a result," Mr Howard said.
Labor Leader Kevin Rudd said the six rate rises since 2004 were six broken promises, while Page Labor candidate Janelle Saffin and Richmond Labor MP Justine Elliot said they made a mockery of claims Australia was in a boom.
"Families have a right to know how Mr Howard can say 'working families in Australia have never been better off' when it's so hard to make ends meet," Ms Elliot said.
Asked if she thought the rise would help her election chances, Ms Elliot said: "My main concern is for the devastating effect these interest rate rises are having on working families in Richmond."
Page Nationals candidate Chris Gulaptis was also reluctant to guess how the rise might translate at the polls.
He said no one was happy about the rate rise, but that many accepted it was caused by factors outside the Government's control, such as the drought and the cost of oil.
"There are tough times ahead and what I want to see and have is the same level of expertise in the management of our economy that saw us through the Asian crisis, the dot-com crash and SARS. That sort of responsible government saw us get to this strong position," he said.
Macleans Ridges resident Marika Roessling said she was no fan of the Coalition's, but agreed the issues behind the rate rise were largely out the Government's control.
However, Mr Gulaptis' 'strong position' meant little to Ms Brown and her partner, Timothy Ashcroft, who struggle week-to-week as most of their income is lost to rent.
Mr Ashcroft is presently out of work and Ms Brown was home looking after the kids, the youngest of whom is still a baby.
"There's no way we could afford any more," Ms Brown said yesterday, after she and Mr Ashcroft squeezed their week's groceries from $70 at Lismore Central.
"I'll never be able to afford to buy my own house, I've accepted that. I wanted to start a farm, but I'll never be able to."
Rising interest rates and high property prices had killed off that dream. Asked if the Government was to blame for the rise, Ms Brown said: "Yes."
"It's the little people like us who are left behind and struggling. If you have money, that's fine, but if you don't you're pushed aside," she said.
Ms Brown said she would be voting Labor on November 24. WITH AAP