House debates

Monday, 22 May 2023

Private Members' Business


11:52 am

Photo of Melissa McIntoshMelissa McIntosh (Lindsay, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention) Share this | Hansard source

Along with the member for Riverina, I, too, call 'Rubbish!' Labor's recent budget is typical: big spending, big taxing, with no substance at all—nothing to address inflation, nothing to address the cost-of-living crisis impacting Australians and nothing to address the infrastructure pressures that are faced by communities like mine right across Australia and, in particular, in Western Sydney.

Prime Minister John Howard, a great Prime Minister, calls my community of Lindsay in Western Sydney 'a microcosm of Australia', because it's got families, it's got retired people, it's got lots and lots of small businesses and it's got a very strong community spirit. It is for these reasons and the aspiration driving my community that we are at the epicentre of the cost-of-living crisis, and it's why we should all be worried that, if the Howard battler of the past becomes the new Albanese abandoned of today, our whole country is in deep trouble.

Australians listened intently to the budget in the hope that it promised cost-of-living relief and that that would be delivered. It wasn't. As the Leader of the Opposition made clear, many millions of Australians had every right to be disappointed with this government.

In the coalition's budget reply, the opposition leader identified five key omissions by Labor. Ten million Australians face a tax hike this year, and around 175,000 are projected to lose their jobs. This Labor government is spending an additional $185 billion, but millions of middle-income Australians will not receive a cent.

Amidst the housing and rental crisis, migration will increase by 1.5 million people over five years, and we know that 60 per cent of new migrants go into places like Western Sydney. It is extraordinary, when this is the case, that the Labor government has cut infrastructure spending.

And, of course, power bills are going to go up, not down as promised. The government's policies will cause inflation to stay higher for longer, putting pressure on interest rates. It's the working poor of Western Sydney, working families—they're struggling on two incomes; they're just trying to get ahead for their families—that are hurting most right now.

A local homelessness and housing organisation has told me that food insecurity is on the rise, and that most of the people coming through the doors to collect food hampers of groceries aren't people sleeping rough; they are pensioners, retirees and families with parents, both on incomes. They are small-business owners. The decision about whether to pay the rent or mortgage or use electricity against putting food on the table is, in fact, very real.

Local cafe owners who have been struggling to find staff are now struggling to make ends meet. Speaking to local businesses, there are a number at threat of closing right now. They tell me they can't absorb all the increased costs of supply chain shortages and they are now left wondering how much people will pay for a coffee when the cafe needs to pass on the costs to keep their doors open.

As the shadow assistant minister for mental health and suicide prevention, it was clear to me that there was one glaring omission from the recent budget—that is, a plan to address the mental health crisis. In last week's budget in reply speech, the opposition leader, the Hon. Peter Dutton, prioritised the mental health of Australians by announcing that a returned coalition government would reinstate the full 20 Medicare subsidised psychology sessions, which Labor had cut to 10, on a permanent basis. It is extraordinary that the Labor government will not join us in reinstating these mental health sessions when Australians need them most.

Thank you to the Leader of the Opposition for acting on the calls of the millions of people who suffer from mental health issues and the mental health sector who have been calling upon the Albanese government to return the 20 sessions in full that the previous coalition government first introduced. We need these sessions now more than ever. The pandemic, multiple disasters, now a cost-of-living crisis: the Albanese government needs to listen to Australians, particularly those suffering mental health issues. Australians need and deserve a government that has a plan to address the mental health and cost-of-living crisis facing Australians right now.


No comments