Tuesday, 1 August 2023
Matters of Public Importance
Cost of Living
Another day, the same coalition, the same conversation, the same complaints, the same complete lack of responsibility and the same lack of interest in being part of the solution. The cost of living is a real issue for lots of Australians. It's an issue around the world; it's an issue here in Australia. We inherited that. We inherited that from a government on whose watch interest rates began to go up, on whose watch we experienced the largest jump in inflation in the course of this century, who racked up a trillion dollars worth of debt, who actually changed the legislation in order to hide scandalously from the Australian people rises to energy prices they didn't want the Australian people to pass judgement on.
We know that the cost-of-living pressures on the Australian people are very serious, and we are acting to do something about it. If they cared about it, we wouldn't mind if they wanted to help pass some of the measures we have committed to delivering for the Australian people and have been delivering month in and month out. But that's not their interest. They want to come in here day after day, conversation after conversation, and pretend to be angry and pretend to care about the people in their community. They want to come along with these overheated, confected complaints. It suits them, and it suits their political interests, and that's all they are ever interested in. That's all they ever want to do—find something to bang on about that will be in their political interest. They could not give a stuff about Australians who are facing cost-of-living pressures. If they did, they would have supported our energy price relief bill; they would have supported any number of measures that we've taken; and they wouldn't be blocking in the Senate right now measures that provide relief to some of the most disadvantaged Australians.
At the same time, they abjectly fail to take any responsibility for one of the great scandals in Australian political history, the robodebt scandal, by which they sought to make some budget savings on the backs of the poorest and most disadvantaged Australians. Not one person has been prepared to stand up and say: 'This was wrong. We made a terrible mistake. We turned a blind eye to one of the most gross industrial acts of cruelty perpetrated on the poorest and most disadvantaged Australians in this country and probably in any country.' Elsewhere, dozens of people have taken responsibility when similar things have happened. There have been multiple ministers who have lost their jobs. People have had the decency to say 'sorry'. When the topic comes up here, it's the only time that the complaints, the rubbish, the catcalling and the carry-on stop. They all look at their phones and their desks, and not one of them has the courage to stand up.
Today during question time, when we were pointing out the multiple and serious failures of the member for Cook, there were members opposite who went around and clapped him on the shoulder, had a good laugh, and probably talked about having a drink later on. It is disgusting. They come in here day after day and pretend that they care about ordinary Australians, that they care about cost-of-living pressures, when in the other place right now they're blocking the increase that we're trying to deliver for people on JobKeeper, JobSeeker and youth allowance. They are standing in the way of the expansion of single parenting payment to 60,000 single-parent households—some of the poorest households in the country, like the household that I grew up in, a single-parent household. They are denying the expansion of the higher rate of JobSeeker to older Australians, when we know that some of those households, particularly involving single women over the age of 50, are not going to get the benefit, because they can't bring themselves to support it. They're blocking the Housing Australia Future Fund—30,000 affordable houses, $70 million in direct support for homelessness support services and crisis services that they can't bring themselves to support.
So, it is ridiculous that they come in here day after day after day pretending that they give a stuff about Australians who are at the sharpest end of the cost-of-living crisis. They don't care one bit. They would like that to continue for month after month, because they think it's their ticket back onto this side of the House. That's the only thing they have ever cared about. The only thing they've ever cared about is being in positions of power, being in positions whereby they can suit themselves and the people they support, and that's not Australians who are doing it tough. They're the people those opposite don't have the courage to stand up and actually say sorry to after the scandal of robodebt. But they'll come in here day after day and they'll talk about cost-of-living pressures and measures that they won't support. They'll bring in emails that they're probably happy to receive. They get an email from a business or a household that's doing it tough and they're happy, because they think, 'I can come in here and talk more crap about the cost of living.'