Monday, 22 May 2023
Private Members' Business
When Labor handed down its budget two weeks ago, Australians were hopeful. They were hopeful that it would ease the cost-of-living crisis that leaves them with very little at the end of each week, with rising mortgages, energy bills and grocery bills. They were hopeful it would rein in spending to bring down inflation and ease the cost of living. Instead they got a typical Labor high-taxing, high-spending budget. This budget confirms the cost of living will continue to rise, gas and electricity prices will continue to skyrocket, unemployment will rise and inflation will remain stubbornly high. Real wages are also going backwards. It also confirmed that 10 million Australians will face a tax hike this year and around 175,000 are projected to lose their jobs.
Small businesses are doing it tough. I have been out in my electorate, like many members of parliament, talking to small businesses. They are struggling. Revenues are down, costs are up and it is putting pressure on them. Unfortunately—they don't want to do this, but one of the key variable costs they can control is wages; they can't control fixed costs like rent and energy—they are having to reduce people's hours and let people go. That's a devastating impact of the economic challenges that we face at the moment. Australians are doing it tough. The number of businesses that have gone into insolvency has almost doubled in the past year. The typical Australian family is $25,000 worse off compared to a year ago. Lifeline reports 80 per cent of its calls now relate to cost-of-living pressures. That's why the coalition is committed to restoring the number of Medicare subsidised psychological sessions from 10 to 20.
It's simple. The only way to ease the cost-of-living crisis and bring down inflation is to rein in government spending, but this budget failed to do so. It fails hardworking Australians, when they need a plan to address inflation and the cost-of-living crisis. This government has made inflation worse. Since coming to power, they've increased government discretionary spending by $44 billion—and that's just the on-budget spending, not to mention the off-budget spending of over $45 billion. We know through Chris Richardson, a well-respected economist, that every $6 billion in net government spending requires at least a 0.25 per cent increase in interest rates to balance out that inflationary pressure. So we know that this government's decisions are driving inflation and are forcing the RBA to continue to increase interest rates, punishing all Australians.
In fact, the only area where Labor has reined in spending seems to be my community of Casey, where almost all of our road infrastructure projects have been axed or are considered for cuts, including $100 million for community programs for sealing the roads—which this government agreed to when in opposition—and the Wellington Road duplication. And now the Canterbury Road and Killara Road upgrades are under review. Despite this, the government has still found $2.2 billion to redirect to Daniel Andrews's Suburban Rail Loop. Residents in my community deserve to get home safer and sooner, and they want to see these projects delivered.
The question for all Australians really is: are you better off today than you were a year ago? Think of how hard Labor has made things after just one year. The Prime Minister may have promised to reduce your power bills by $275—including 30 times after the Russian invasion of Ukraine—but he's yet to deliver on that promise. Our power bills have only gone up, and they will continue to go up.
Those opposite benefited from the nine years of strong economic management by the coalition. The books they inherited had the lowest unemployment rate in almost 50 years, with almost two million jobs created over nine years. When we left office, interest rates were at historic lows and unemployment was 3.9 per cent. This low level of unemployment was one of the key drivers of the budget improvement announced earlier this month. I urge this government to start to make decisions to reduce inflation and take pressure off, allowing the RBA to get inflation back to the two to three per cent target. That's the way all Australians can benefit.