Tuesday, 27 September 2022
Matters of Public Importance
Cost of Living
Thank you. Australians are struggling with cost-of-living pressures. Australians can rightfully feel duped by this government. My constituents in Flinders are, rightfully, feeling misled. They were promised the world, in terms of cost-of-living redress, and they have received none. I think you call this, in the common vernacular, 'bait and switch'. They thought they'd bought one thing and they've got something quite different in return.
This month we saw the fifth consecutive cash rate increase from the Reserve Bank. At 2.35 per cent, this is Australia's highest official interest rate since mid-2010. The rate is rising at the fastest pace since 1994, almost three decades ago. For an Australian household with an average new mortgage of around $600,000, that will mean monthly repayments that have increased, over those five interest rate increases, by about $760 a month. These people want to know that there is a plan that makes sense for them and supports the challenges they're facing in their everyday living and meeting their everyday costs, but we have not yet seen any of that from this Albanese government.
Earlier this year the price of oil skyrocketed to almost US$120 a barrel, with prices at the pump reaching stratospheric levels. The coalition government took action and halved the fuel excise to 22.1 cents a litre back in March. This was a sensible solution to inflationary pressures, the war in Ukraine and supply chain issues caused by the COVID pandemic. Despite the fact that the price of oil has dropped to less than US$80 per barrel, prices remain high and it is hitting Australian families and businesses hard.
Just last week, in the southern Mornington Peninsula, we saw prices of fuel by a litre go up from about $1.50 to about $1.95 yet again, and tomorrow night we will see the excise reimposed, and it will get much harder for families to meet the weekly fuel bill. The Treasurer's words have been, 'We're under no illusions. This will be difficult for people. It's a difficult decision for us to take as well.' But this brings very little comfort to those who are trying to work out how they're going to pay their weekly fuel bill.
Some may say there is a solution: take public transport, take the bus, take the train. That is not an option for my constituents in Flinders. Every single workday, roughly 50,000 people get in their car to go to work. Even more get in their car to go to the school drop, visit friends or family or head out and do their local shopping. Even though the Mornington Peninsula is technically metropolitan Melbourne, 82 per cent of our landmass has absolutely no access to public transport whatsoever, meaning the car is the only way to get things done. My constituents don't really have a choice. They need to get to work, to school, to the shops; and the car is how we do it.
Alongside fuel prices, we are seeing wholesale energy prices go up, causing additional stress in the average household. We all remember those opposite saying to anyone who would listen through the campaign that they were going to reduce their power bills. In fact the Prime Minister promised to cut the power bills by $275. I have heard from someone today: '$275! I am waiting for my cut too!' Maybe he said it 97 times. Someone else said it today that he said it 100 times. Was it 97, 98, 99 or 100? Whatever it is, I haven't seen it. They now say, 'We meant that over the long term.' I heard an interjection earlier saying 'by 2025'. It is little solace to the parents opening their power bills when they get home at night, the pensioners who thought they had saved enough for a comfortable retirement, now wondering what they will have to go on and what they will have to do to keep the lights on.
What Australians need from this new government is a clear and comprehensive plan to deal with the cost of living. We do not need more bland commentary from the Treasurer or the new Prime Minister. We need to see some real action. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will be keeping a close eye on this. Indeed, that is their role. A letter from the Treasurer reminding them of this is not government policy and should not be treated as such.
The Treasurer says he will be handing down a bread-and-butter budget. We all know what Labor's real bread and butter looks like: big spending and higher taxes. These issues will continue to flow through to each household budget over some time. This country cannot afford for Labor to make this worse. Australians need to see a clear, comprehensive and whole-of-economy plan from the government to deal with inflation, rising interest rates and cost-of-living pressures. We cannot afford for Labor to be asleep at the wheel or dig deeper into Australian savings.