House debates

Thursday, 9 March 2023

Matters of Public Importance


3:41 pm

Photo of Pat ConaghanPat Conaghan (Cowper, National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Social Services) Share this | Hansard source

I'd like to bring this MPI down to the granular level and the reason we're here, and that is our people—our people and those people who run businesses in our electorates. I cannot believe for one moment that the members sitting opposite haven't spoken to their constituents on this very issue of their power bills going through the roof. I don't believe for one second that you haven't had emails or telephone calls saying, 'My bill has gone up 20 per cent,' or, '40 per cent.' We'd all have examples, but for some reason—and that reason would be a broken promise of $275 said by the Prime Minister on 97 occasions—you're not bringing those stories to the fore.

Cynthia and Allan Ross from South West Rocks in my electorate are two pensioners. They live frugally. They don't go out spending money at the pub or putting it through the pokies. They live frugally because they're on the pension. Recently we saw an increase in the pension of $44 a fortnight. They just got notification that their electricity bill is going up 44 per cent. That equates to $11 a week for them. So that automatically takes away half of that increase to the age pension that they received. Imagine their terror when they heard that the bills are going to go up another 20 per cent in winter. That's not us saying that; there's a report in the newspaper today from Origin Energy—on 1 July, 20 per cent. So you can wipe out that increase to the age pension for Allan and Cynthia Ross in South West Rocks.

Worse is yet to come if we then talk about businesses. Peter Feros owns the Dorrigo hotel. Dorrigo is not awash with money. He gets his regular clients in there. He called me recently. He had to renew his contract. His bill is going up $25,000. What does that mean? He might have to lay off workers. He might have to lay off staff.

These are just examples from around the country and, as I said, I do not believe for one moment that these examples aren't happening in the electorates of members opposite. It's happening in all our electorates. If that's the price that the Dorrigo Hotel has to pay, imagine what the people living in Dorrigo are having to pay? I can tell you right now that Dorrigo gets very, very cold in the winter. People will be rugging up with blankets and jumpers rather than switching on their air-conditioners because, come 1 July, that 20 per cent goes straight onto their bills.

Add that to cost-of-living pressures. I'm more than happy to say that I actually do the shopping at Coles on a Sunday, and that I know what things cost. In the past 12 months I've seen that go up by 30 per cent—I can guarantee you that. People out there are hurting, and when they're lied to by the Prime Minister, who said, 'We're going to save you $275 a year,' that hurts. It hurts because they believed him, and that's why he's the Prime Minister. He broke that promise to the Australian people and they're out there hurting. But Labor are sticking their heads in the sand about power prices and the cost of living, pointing the finger at the coalition. In reality, we pushed prices down: we pushed electricity prices down.

They can hurl headlong into ideology, but on the street, at that granular level, those people who we represent and those businesses we represent are hurting. The Prime Minister broke his promise.


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