House debates

Tuesday, 7 February 2023

Matters of Public Importance

Cost Of Living

3:56 pm

Photo of Aaron VioliAaron Violi (Casey, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

The member for Parramatta did mention some of the struggles that his electorate has. I know every member, including me, could share stories of the struggles that we have, and it's acknowledged that we have a cost-of-living crisis. As the member for Dunkley said—I caught the end of her speech, and I agree—there is no silver bullet. This is a complicated matter that poses a lot of challenges. I would note that during the election campaign the then Leader of the Opposition did offer quite a lot of snapshots and quick bites on how he could fix this problem. It's definitely challenging. If the opposition leader at the time had been a bit more circumspect about the challenges, maybe we would be in a different place.

The member for Parramatta did mention the IMF, and he talked about the budget. What he failed to talk about is the government's role when it comes to off-budget spending. That's a nice little trick that governments like to use. Off-budget spending, as the name suggests, doesn't go into the budget. The IMF and economists have talked about the challenges of off-budget spending and how it increases inflation and put pressure on everyday Australians. This government has already committed to $36.5 billion of extra borrowing in off-budget spending, and that will have a direct impact on inflation. While it's very easy for the Treasurer and the member for Parramatta to talk about the headline numbers in the budget, they always fail to mention off-budget spending, which does contribute to inflation. Much like the Treasurer and the Prime Minister, the member for Parramatta also used that favourite line of theirs about $1 trillion of debt they inherited. We've heard it a lot, and it's working because we all see it on social media. So well done to the Treasurer and his team for their political spin.

I thought I might check that number because $1 trillion that they say they've inherited did seem rather high to me. I was shocked. I went to that very reliable source: the very independent ABC Fact Check. They found:

When the Coalition left office in May 2022, net debt stood at $517 billion.

That's a long way from $1 trillion. That's before we talk about the debt the former government inherited from previous governments—I'm not going to talk about that. The pure fact is it's $517 billion—a long way from $1 trillion.

Once again this is the pattern that is emerging from the Treasurer, and it's not surprising. He is a doctor in political science, so he is well experienced at political spin. He's clearly setting the Australian people up. It's at $517 billion, and now he wants to talk about it. He can continue to drive spending up, he can continue to spend more and put pressure on inflation. That is what this government can control. It can spend responsibly, it can spend less, it can start to take the debt down.

It's true this government does not have a plan, eight months in. Every time they're asked, the Prime Minister talks about the same two or three talking points. It's not surprising we've got a prime minister that doesn't have a plan for the economy. We've got a prime minister that doesn't know the cash rate. We've got a prime minister that doesn't know the employment rate. Just yesterday in question time the Prime Minister was asked a very important question: 'How many Australians are coming off a fixed loan this year?' It's a really important question because that is going to impact a lot of Australians. Every rate rise we see—nine in a row—those people that come off that fixed rate this year will be feeling that the hardest. It's a pretty important economic indicator at this time.

We heard for about 2½ minutes the Prime Minister not be able to answer. He did answer at the end, but, for those that probably couldn't see it at home, there was a standing order and he needed to sit down, and his faithful Treasurer was there to pass him the numbers. We've got a prime minister that doesn't understand the economy and can't remember basic numbers, and that's why this government has no plan for the cost of living.


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