House debates

Tuesday, 22 November 2022

Matters of Public Importance

Cost of Living

4:15 pm

Matt Burnell (Spence, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but the tactics committee of those opposite keep sending their loyal soldiers over the trenches at MPI time, sending them over into no-man's-land with no ammunition and not even a bayonet.

Yesterday in the Federation Chamber I spoke about my recollections of the last leaders debate in the lead-up to election day this year. The Prime Minister squared off with the former Prime Minister—the former Minister for Finance, the former Treasurer, the former Minister for Health, the former Minister for Home Affairs and the former Minister for Industry, Science, Energy And Resources. Despite being heavily outnumbered, I reckon our Prime Minister came out on top. The main reason why my mind turned to that debate was the chalk-and-cheese comparison on where each leader's priorities were.

The Prime Minister quite simply committed to, as one of his first acts in office, intervening in the Fair Work Commission's annual wage review by making a submission from the government to ensure the lowest paid workers were able to have a shot at keeping their heads above water. How did the member for Cook respond? The mask was not just chipped. It was shattered on the ground, and everyone could see what was truly underneath: the leader of a government that could not care less about improving the living standards of some of our lowest paid workers. Nobody should have been surprised. Here the member for Cook was, on live TV, as a caricature of himself, on display for all the voters to get a better look at. The rest is history. What did the Albanese Labor government do once it got elected? It made that submission, which was ultimately successful. We will stand up for working families who have been languishing and treading water for the past last nine years.

Those opposite really do not give themselves enough credit. It might shock a few of my colleagues to hear me say this, but those opposite think six months is ample time to undo nine years of vandalism. I've heard many members use the phrase: your best day in opposition is worse than your worst day in government. But we have a long list of factory settings in need of a reset. The Albanese Labor government has hit the ground running, fulfilling election commitments as every good government should. For many of these settings, those opposite still fight us tooth and nail on them. I look no further than the secure jobs, better pay bill. This is legislation which aims to deliver pay rises for the lowest paid workers in the country.

Interestingly, we've also seen a new line being used: making a bad situation worse. In fact, I've heard the member for Dickson use it numerous times. The first instance I can recall was not long after the election. To that end, I would say this: which one of the above statements could possibly be true? You can't have it both ways. I'm sure they know this already. You just can't use the word 'responsible' in the same sentence as 'a trillion dollar government debt'. The bad situation they're talking about can only be referring to what they left our government to sort out, after nine wasteful years in the doldrums of energy policy, skills and education policy and wage stagnation. I thank the member Dickson for his candour and honesty about it.

Those opposite might not be responsible economic managers, but they did have more than the usual number of them. The former government had, after all, not just one but two treasurers and two finance ministers at the exact same time, yet none of them could see the writing on the wall. Though, to be fair, one of them had their hands a bit full with a number of other jobs. The member for Cook was a job creator, just not in the conventional way. He certainly was no fan of conventions. Two treasurers and two finance ministers could have teamed up to provide some much needed for relief for Australians out there. Think about the collaboration that could have taken place if only one had known about the other! They didn't see the inflation rising at the same time as the wage price index was basically flatlining, as they were quite proud of back in the day, except for now, when they admit that people are hurting with the cost of living—utterly craven.

At the end of the day, they could have had scores of treasurers and finance ministers—they might have, for all we know—but that would have fixed very little, because it's just not in their DNA to stand up for working families. It's not in their DNA to stand up for those doing it tough. It's not in their DNA to stand up for those out there who want to do a little better than they did last year and want to do a little bit better in the year after that too.

In May, those opposite left the engine room of government aflame, in neutral and idling. The Albanese government has reached the scene holding the jaws of life. The Albanese government is extinguishing the flames. If those opposite are genuine about helping families with cost-of-living pressures, I suggest they let us get on with the job.

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