House debates

Tuesday, 7 February 2023

Matters of Public Importance

Cost Of Living

4:02 pm

Photo of Josh WilsonJosh Wilson (Fremantle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

It tells the Australian people a lot about those opposite that they think cost-of-living pressures began with the inflation circumstances the world has experienced since the war in Ukraine started last year. It tells you a lot about those opposite that they think all of us should engage in some exercise in collective amnesia and put aside the nine years they were in government. The Australian people right now are looking at two stories: a nine-year story of the government of those opposite and an eight-month story of the Albanese Labor government to date.

All of us in this place know that there are cost-of-living pressures. We know what that means for Australian households and Australian businesses. When it comes to Australian households we know particularly what it means for low-income households, for young people, for people on the minimum wage, for people who rely on the age and disability pension and for people in rural and regional Australia; it means some very difficult choices. There are some households where the choices are in that discretionary space. There are some households where it is about essentials. There are people in this country who are going to the pharmacist and instead of getting the four medicines they have been prescribed they're thinking about which three of the four medicines they can afford. That is a terrible thing. This government has responded to that particular kind of circumstance by delivering the largest decrease in the maximum cost of PBS medicines in Australia's history. That's what this government has done.

The cost-of-living pressures that are the foundation of the circumstances people experience right now include 10 years of stagnant and falling real wages that those opposite did nothing about. In fact, it was a deliberate design feature of their approach to the economy. It includes what the health minister said in question time amounted to the gutting of the universal public health system in this country—six years of Medicare freezes. Since the turn of the century the maximum PBS medicine cost doubled, and half of that was under those opposite. Those are the kinds of things that Australian households experienced, with no relief, for the nine years under those opposite. We've been in government for eight months, and we know that there is a cost-of-living crisis that is putting Australian households and businesses under enormous pressure.

So, what have we done? We've increased the minimum wage. We've changed bargaining conditions under the secure jobs, better pay laws—that they opposed—so that people can actually get a fair share of the productivity and the profits that their labour contributes to.

At the end of 2021 and in early 2022, after nine years of those opposite being in charge, wages as a share of the economy had fallen to the lowest proportion of the economy, as a whole, in the record books, while profits were at the highest share of national income in the record books. That's what they delivered for this country, and that's what Australian households have experienced from the coalition, which is now, in opposition, the 'noalition'.

We've taken a very different approach. We know that cost-of-living pressures are real. We know that the Australian people expect their government to take a focused, stable and competent day in, day out approach to tackling those issues, and that's what we've done. We've done it with wages. We've done it with medicines. We'll do it with child care. We're doing it with expanded access to parental leave arrangements. We're doing it with energy. We've done it with a cap on the wholesale cost of gas. We've done it in all of those areas in eight months.

That contrasts starkly with nine years of those opposite. Nine years of stagnant wages. Nine years of rising health costs. Nine years of rising education costs. Nine years of rising costs in pretty much every category that you can possibly think of. Yet they now expect the Australian people to forget those nine years altogether, to go through the Men in Black magical device exercise and indulge in the collective amnesia that would see all of that neglect, all of that dishonesty, all of that incompetence and all of that mismanagement put aside so that they can indulge in the same old scare campaigns, the same old blame campaigns and the same kind of negative politics that has characterised them in all of the 21st century. Well, they're getting something different from the Albanese Labor government. It's what people in Australia should expect from government, and it's what they're going to get from us.


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