Tuesday, 27 September 2022
Matters of Public Importance
Cost of Living
Well, that's 10 minutes none of us will get back. What the government needs to learn is it's not in opposition anymore. The minister just spent four minutes making cheap shots at the shadow Treasurer. What the government now has to learn to do is to have a plan about what they're doing, not just be critical like they obviously were in opposition. They need to work out they're now in government.
This is an exceptionally important MPI we're talking about today, in the sense of the cost of living. Household budgets we know are under pressure. Small-business budgets are under pressure. What they are looking for from the new government is not just critical analysis of the now opposition; they're looking for what is the plan of the new government with cost-of-living pressures? These are real pressures. We have inflation rates going up and we have interest rates going up. We know that the new government say it's going to be the bread-and-butter budget—well, it's certainly not the petrol budget, because we know petrol prices will go up 20 cents a litre on Thursday or a few days after that as people refuel their bowsers. That's certainly going to be a hit again to household budgets.
I'll come back to some of the things I think the new government would want to do, but I want to concentrate for a moment on what the now government said in opposition—and not just in opposition, but while they were in government—about what they were going to do with energy prices. I quote the now prime minister, who said on 29 April, 'I maintain that Labor can bring power prices down $275 per year by 2025.' The now Treasurer, Dr Chalmers, on 25 May—which was after the election—on 2GB Breakfast with Ben Fordham vowed that the Albanese government had a climate and energy plan to produce cheaper renewable energy available to all Australian households. He said, 'What we've said in the economic modelling of our policy is $275 a year by 2025.' The senior minister Tony Burke, in a newspaper article on 19 June—again, after the budget—insisted Labor's promise to reduce household energy bills by $275 a year over five years was still intact. The Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, said on Sky News: 'We've got plans to bring down the cost of electricity $275 a year cheaper, and these are the sorts of differences we can make to everyday lives if Labor's elected.' Katy Gallagher, now Minister for Finance, said in the Canberra Times on 18 May, two days before the election: 'There's a once-in-a-century opportunity to reinvent our economy, build a better future, end the climate wars, and cut power bills by'—I think you'll be able to guess—'$275 over five years.' The Minister for Defence, as part of Labor policy, said that 'Labor anticipates power bills will be $275 cheaper by 2025'. Mr Marles went on to talk of 'rigorous modelling' and to say that it was some of the most extensive modelling that any opposition had ever done. Senator Penny Wong is quoted as saying: 'Labor's Powering Australia plan will cut power bills, reduce emissions', 'bring renewable energy to Australian homes' and 'save families $275 a year'. But then, what happened on 28 July? An article in the Daily Mail states: 'Labor has dumped its election promise to reduce power bills by $275 a year by 2025—after just six weeks in power.' The article states that Minister Bowen, asked if he still stands by Labor's $275 figure, didn't really say yes or no; he said: 'Of course figures will move around.' So there is the hoax of those opposite. One of the major policies they took to the Australian public in the last election was to lower power bills by $275 by 2025. And, Deputy Speaker Claydon, you know this: they will not commit to that now that they are in government, and have never done that in this chamber since.
Let's go to other solutions. The shadow treasurer also said one of the big things that you can do for cost of living is as to supply-chain blockages. We know that in every industry around this country right now there's a shortage of labour. We gave a great suggestion to the new government: to double what pensioners could earn before they started to lose their pension. The government picked up a little bit of that, but not all of it. Again, the ag visa is very important, and we had great plans to extend that visa to get more workers, to make sure our fruit and vegetables got picked and didn't rot into the ground. Again, good—