House debates

Monday, 21 November 2022

Private Members' Business


5:11 pm

Photo of Sam RaeSam Rae (Hawke, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

May I extend my thanks to the member for Menzies, who I do have great regard for. In this case I extend my thanks because he is allowing us on this side of the House to highlight how the Albanese-Labor government is delivering responsible and targeted relief to Australian households after almost a decade of economic mismanagement and wilful neglect by those opposite.

As we know, those opposite often like to point to economic management as their greatest strength. They can't be relied to build schools or invest in health, but the one thing that they hold onto is that they are apparently great fiscal and economic managers. We know that this claim is entirely false, because they didn't manage to balance the books. In fact, for the benefit of everybody here, I am happy to summarise that decade of economic management, to assess the claim and draw together the economic record of the previous government in just a few words: $1 trillion of debt. The Liberals' economic legacy is $1 trillion of public debt, with nothing to show for that decade of debt driven cost.

Now, those opposite will claim that it was COVID-19 that caused this—they claim all sorts of things—but we know it was only in March this year that the former member for Kooyong delivered a budget that was absolutely rife with waste and pork-barrelling. The Australian people saw this; no-one was fooled by it. The truth is that the Labor government has inherited a dire budget position because of this terrible economic management by the former government over the last decade. This astronomical debt—I will say it again: $1 trillion of debt—provided no economic dividend. There was no economic investment attached to this and no economic dividend for the taxpayer. Instead, they oversaw the worst decade for productivity in half a century and the lowest level of business investment in this country since 1992. That doesn't sounded very good economic management to me. Unfortunately the Liberals' failure to drive economic supply left Australia exposed to the inflationary pressures of the global economy. We are now suffering the results of that.

I would also like to draw the Chamber's attention to the line in the member for Menzies's motion about low wage growth. Deputy Speaker, I trust that the irony is not lost on you or the rest of the people in this Chamber. Those opposite oversaw a decade of wage stagnation, standing in the way of any possibility of wage growth at every opportunity. It was only months ago that the former Prime Minister described a $1-an-hour increase to the minimum wage as 'reckless and dangerous'. We know that this was not a mistake. The Liberals themselves have admitted that low wages were a deliberate design feature of the economy that they were managing. Just over a week ago, they chose to vote against the Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022 in the House of Representatives, further attempting to suppress wage growth even from the opposition benches.

The record of the Liberal Party on wages is clear. Sadly, everyday Australians, like those in my electorate of Hawke, are still paying the price. Real wages are lower today than they were 10 years ago. The economic legacy of the former Liberal government was to set the conditions for the cost-of-living challenges facing so many Australians today: low productivity, low business investment and no real wage growth. Whilst Australians know that the Albanese Labor government did not create these economic conditions that we face, they did elect us to address them. That's why, in last month's budget, the Treasurer detailed Labor's economic plan to deliver a direct and deliberate response to the challenges facing our economy, including the cost of living. Under the Albanese Labor government, almost 7,000 families right across my electorate, from Ballan to Sunbury, will be provided with cheaper child care as the maximum childcare subsidy is lifted to 90 per cent. Families in Hawke will also see paid parental leave expanded, providing parents with a full 26 weeks, scaled up over time. The cost of medicines will be slashed as the cost of scripts at the local pharmacy is reduced by $12.50 a script. The rising cost of housing will be addressed through the new housing accord.

The key piece to addressing the cost of living, however, is getting wages moving again. One of the very first acts of the Albanese Labor government was to successfully argue for an increase to the minimum wage, lifting the income of almost three million of Australia's lowest-paid workers. Earlier this month, after receiving a submission from the Albanese government, the Fair Work Commission ruled that aged-care workers would receive a full 15 per cent pay rise. Just over a week ago, the Labor government's Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) Bill 2022 passed the House. This bill will restore the balance between the power of workers and the power of employers at the bargaining table. This will deliver stronger wages for Australian workers and stronger relationships between employees and their employers.


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