House debates

Tuesday, 1 August 2023

Matters of Public Importance

Cost of Living

3:56 pm

Photo of Anne WebsterAnne Webster (Mallee, National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Regional Health) Share this | Hansard source

This risky Albanese Labor government promised to reduce electricity bills by $275, but they are going very fast in the opposite direction. Risky Labor governs beside the Greens, alarmed about—what did the UN Secretary-General call it this week? It's not 'global warming' anymore; it's 'global boiling', apparently. There was a hot summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and apparently now it's 'global boiling'.

I'll tell you what's boiling in the electorate of Mallee. It is not the kettle, and it's not the climate. What's boiling is the anger of voters, furious that Australia has one of the highest core inflation rates among advanced economies and the highest collapse in real wages on record. Australian tempers are boiling, but risky Labor is more focused on a divisive referendum and fantasising about a double dissolution election than making good on their promises on living costs. Risky Labor's energy intervention has failed. Energy bills have increased by over 28 per cent on average, or an extra $564 per annum, yet those opposite would lead the Australian people to believe that, by the end of 2025, households will get their $275 saving. Well, that is if they haven't had their power disconnected because they actually cannot pay their bills.

The cost of generating electricity soared by a further 31 per cent between April and June this year. Yet, in my home state of Victoria, what is the Andrews Labor government doing? Banning gas. Victoria will no longer be cooking with gas. Gas will be banned in new developments to prevent supposed 'global boiling'. We're taking Victorians off gas and forcing them onto electric stoves. The gas needed for a smooth energy transition is being abandoned because of those with power such as Minister Bowen, who claims that renewable energy is the cheapest form of electricity. The lived experience of Victorians and all Australians is that energy bills are not going down; they are going up to boiling point.

My constituents, like Brendan, are experiencing bill shock. With his young family, they'll fork out around $970 more this year. Or take Clem in Ouyen, for example, who needs heating and cooling due to a chronic medical condition. His bill is increasing by $380 over the next 12 months. Increased childcare subsidies might be cost-of-living relief for urban voters but not for Mallee residents and not for the working mums and dads in regional Australia. Those who live in childcare deserts pay through their taxes for the subsidy for those in urban centres who earn up to $500,000. You can't get ahead on cost of living if you can't work and raise your household income. Regional Victoria has low unemployment, at 2.8 per cent. It's better still in my area, at 2.4 per cent.

The lack of child care is compounding worker shortages like the crisis we now face in regional health and aged-care staffing. The lack of child care limits the nursing and carer workforce. Mallee's horticulture worker shortage has been in dire need with recent harvest, but risky Labor's industrial relations policy in agriculture is making it even harder to ensure food security and growth in horticulture. I pushed for the agricultural visa when we were in government to assist in getting workers, but risky Labor put a stop to that. Risky Labor's return to water buybacks in the Murray-Darling Basin will also see horticulture production reduced, not increased.

The Mildura Swan Hill region in my electorate is the largest horticultural region in the nation on the cusp of 32 per cent growth or half a billion dollars by 2030. How can that happen if fruit actually can't be picked, harvested or processed? Risky Labor's minimum 30 hours a week for Pacific Australia Labour Mobility Scheme workers and mandating a 30 per cent increase from 1 July happened for those on skilled visas and has Mallee's horticultural industry in despair. Risky Labor knows 'same job, same pay' is on the nose and could be rebranded. We know on this side of the House that it's 'same Labor, same risks'. Increased horticulture labour costs are becoming cost-of-living costs at the supermarket because risky Labor cares more about paying the piper than rewarding working Australians with cost-of-living relief.


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