House debates

Tuesday, 22 November 2022

Matters of Public Importance

Cost of Living

4:10 pm

Sam Birrell (Nicholls, National Party) Share this | Hansard source

Cost of living is such a real and challenging issue for households and for people in my electorate, and it's the thing that they talk about the most. There's real fear out there. We in regional and rural electorates represent people who perhaps aren't as well off as people in seats such as in inner-city Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney, and those people can perhaps afford to focus on issues that they believe are higher order in their lives. But, for people who are doing it tough and for people who are really struggling to make entrepreneurship work, these cost-of-living pressures are really serious. In the six months of this government, we've seen rising inflation, serious rising prices for household energy—and that's forecast to rise by more than 56 per cent over the next two years—and the rising prices of basic household goods.

I find the energy thing really disturbing. I think if you go to an election and you make a commitment that people's household energy bills are going to drop by $275 and they don't, and you don't look like doing it, the people who voted for you deserve of some sort of explanation. I'm new to this place, like some of you over there. When I listen to question time, I don't hear explanations. I don't hear reasons why we're not delivering on what we said we would do. I just hear, 'It's all the previous government's fault.' I suppose, as an observer, I'm just wondering how long you can run that argument before you realise that are you the government and that you've got to put some policies in place to ease this pressure. I don't want to give you advice—I shouldn't—but the people in my electorate don't like seeing people on the government benches laughing all the time when things are going really, really badly for them, particularly with energy prices. So you can take that on board if you like. It rubs them the wrong way, I can tell you. So just a message on tone there.

In terms of basic household goods, obviously in my electorate agriculture is what we do and what we've done for many, many, many years, and we're proud of the fact that we provide cheap, clean, really high-quality food to the people of Australia, and people can go and buy amazing quality apples and pears and dairy products and meat and grains all at really good prices and trust in the quality of that because of what people in my electorate do. Those people are businesspeople, and unfriendly business policies are going to increase the prices that people pay at the check-out. The worst unfriendly business policy that those opposite are proposing is to rip more irrigation water out of places like my electorate of Nicholls and make it harder to produce that clean, cheap, green food for people. We've already given up 2,100 gigalitres of water to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, and that's had has a massive effect on people in my electorate. What we don't want is for you to rip a further 450 gigalitres out. It causes the cost of living for people in my electorate to rise, but it causes the cost of living for everyone in Australia to rise because food prices will increase. Not only that—the other problem we've got with agriculture at the moment is labour. People can't get the labour they need to work on the farms—to work in the dairy farms. The Nationals brought a really good policy during the last term of government called the agriculture visa. It is a real win-win. When you go and talk to some of the Filipino people who have made their lives in my regional communities and are contributing to the dairy industry in a fantastic way—the farmers are happy, the workers are happy and it's fantastic. We wanted to increase that with an ag visa, and those opposite have ripped that away.

In my final 14 seconds, I will just say that the IR legislation is the most business unfriendly stuff I've ever seen come out of this parliament. Hawke and Keating would never have done something so radical that rips productivity away from the economy. (Time expired)

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