House debates

Tuesday, 1 August 2023

Matters of Public Importance

Cost of Living

4:16 pm

Photo of Keith WolahanKeith Wolahan (Menzies, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I remind the House what this MPI is titled 'The Prime Minister's broken promise to address the cost-of-living crisis'. A promise goes straight to the heart of integrity, because promises should be judged by what we do, not what we say. We all remember what the Prime Minister said when he was desperate to move from here to over there, and now we see the consequences of that. The consequences of that are a matter of public importance—that's what MPI stands for. We hear comments from the member for Fremantle—and I listened carefully—such as, 'We see the coalition talk more crap about the cost of living.' What a disgraceful thing to say about an issue that is affecting every household and every Australian in the country.

We saw at 2.30 today that rates were, thankfully, kept on hold. But inflation is still too high. At six per cent, it is double the statutory target of two to three per cent. That is why we welcome today's decision, but we won't be celebrating. We won't be engaging in hubris like we saw from the Treasurer today and from many members in this MPI debate. That is why we also recognise that the RBA did something other than just keep rates on hold. They said something ominous. They said that further rate rises might be necessary, and that is a message to you to do more of the heavy lifting so that it's not left to the RBA to raise rates again. This is not a time to celebrate. It's not a time for hubris. It's a time to do the work that you were elected to do. It's a time to do the work that you promised.

Inflation is a cloud that hangs over every household. It is an insidious tax that is indeed levied on every Australian. When you open your insurance bill and see that it has doubled, that is inflation. When you find yourself putting fresh food back on the shelf because it is out of your budget, that is inflation. When you see a power bill increase by close to 30 percent, as many people have seen, including in Victoria, that is inflation. When families are paying $25,000 more than they did the previous year on the average mortgage, that is inflation. When Lifeline is reporting that 80 per cent of its calls now relate to cost-of-living pressures, that is inflation. So when we come here and talk about this core problem that's affecting every Australian household and every Australian, we're not talking crap. We're talking about the things that matter to them. Inflation saps productivity, hurts families and destroys hope. Australians are looking to us in this place to provide solutions. Providing solutions must start with having a discussion and a debate about it. Again, when we do that, we're not talking crap; we're talking about the things that matter to Australians.

What did we see today? At 2.31 we saw a question put to the Treasurer. The Treasurer stood up with a big smile on his face and made jokes. He made jokes about the tactics of question time, not about the substance of the problem that Australians are facing. He dodged questions that were put to him with things like, 'The first rate rise occurred on your watch.' Yes, it did. No-one's denying that. But what are you going to do to solve the problems that Australians are facing today?

We saw the Treasurer fail to mention the Measuring what matters report. What is that document? I had the pleasure of reading it, and I encourage others to read it. It's 131 pages, but there is a neat summary at the start. On the website it says that this statement 'is the first iteration of Australia's national wellbeing framework'. It has criteria other than just GDP, including health, security, sustainability, cohesiveness and prosperity for all Australians. We know that there was a massive error in that document. It referred to two-year-old data on mortgage stress. That's a bit of a clanger. The Treasurer may like to blame someone else, a staff member or a public servant—we heard all of the speeches about how only that side loves public servants, but we all do; we don't need to hear more speeches like that from the other side. When we look at a document like that and it talks about mortgage stress, one of the most important stressors facing families, and it uses data from 2019 and 2020, there's a serious question about competence from the Treasurer's office, the office that people are looking to to solve this problem. There won't be any health, security, sustainability or cohesiveness if the Treasurer is not up to the job.


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