House debates

Tuesday, 27 February 2024

Matters of Public Importance

Cost of Living

3:40 pm

Photo of Ged KearneyGed Kearney (Cooper, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care) Share this | Hansard source

Thank you so much to the opposition for the opportunity to discuss the priorities of the government and what we are doing to provide real support for Australians on the cost of living. We just heard a whole lot of drivel from the opposite side. We know that the cost of living is biting into household budgets. That is in no small part due to 10 years of complete policy ineptitude and inaction by the previous government—10 years of keeping wages deliberately low, 10 years of policies that saw people with languishing wages, 10 years of a climate change policy debacle and 10 years of allowing energy costs to run out of control.

We are a government that listens. We have made every policymaking moment count. Relieving the cost of living without raising inflation has been our No. 1 priority. Those opposite's policies? Nothing. Nada. Zip. They are a policy void. They've voted against every good policy we have put forward to manage the cost of living. They have done absolutely nothing to support this government in helping households manage their budgets. What they have done is scaremonger and discredit good policy.

Today we saw an important report that showed how stark the gender pay gap is. The gender pay gap matters. It matters to women; it matters to families. We know the gender pay gap costs the Australian economy $51.8 billion a year. We know that 62 per cent of private employer gender pay gaps are over now over five per cent in favour of men earning more and 50 per cent of all employers have a gender pay gap of over 9.1 per cent. In the context of cost-of-living pressures, this means that women are essentially bringing home 80c to 90c for every dollar that a male worker brings to the supermarket or has in his bank account to pay the bills.

Let me be incredibly clear. The pay gap matters when it comes to cost-of-living pressures. It matters for single mothers looking after their kids. It matters for young women working in cafes and paying rent. It matters for families paying a mortgage and relying on dual incomes. So when a particular senator today has said that today's release of the national gender pay gap material is 'useless data that breeds resentment and division' I believe we need to pause and unpack what this means. This points to a person and an alternative government that do not care about the pay that 50 per cent of Australians bring home. It points to a mentality, an ideology, that would rather see women doing the ironing, like a well-known former prime minister said, than earning money and supporting their families. The senator seemed to say the silent bit, the bit that regressive misogynists think but never actually say. And the world shudders when they do say it. It's like when the previous prime minister said women were lucky not to get shot for protesting against that government's complete lack of empathy and effective policies for women. This gives us an insight into the dangerous and sexist agenda of the alternative government.

This is a shambolic group of people who, in the simplest terms, don't care about the financial pressure that Australians are feeling. They don't care about increasing the real wages of Australians. In fact, we know it was their policy to deliberately keep wages low. They don't care about looking after people. They don't care about bringing down the cost of living for Australians, and they vote against every single measure this government puts forward. They would rather run scare campaigns and not upset the apple cart that is gender inequality. They're a group of people disinterested in workers, in women and in the real worries and pressures on Australians.

Let me assure you Labor is a government that listens. And we don't just listen; we act on what we hear. That's why our No. 1 priority is addressing inflation and the cost-of-living challenges. It's why the Prime Minister has announced that, come 1 July, Labor will deliver a tax cut for every single Australian. That's 13.6 million people with more take-home pay in their pockets—from teachers to nurses, from truckies to cleaners, from hospo workers to childcare educators.

If you're a uni or TAFE student who has a part-time job and rents, you'll benefit. If you're a working parent who feels the pinch of rising costs, you'll be better off. If you're nearing retirement and working part time, you'll have more money in your pocket. If your name is Sue and you work in construction, you will benefit. If you went to Taylor Swift and you love your mum and you work three days a week as a receptionist, you will benefit. Every single Australian will be better off under Labor. That's more cost-of-living relief for lower income and middle-income Australians.

But this builds on an additional $23 billion in targeted relief—targeted relief that the opposition has opposed every step of the way. This includes making medicines cheaper by allowing people to buy two scripts for the cost of one, making it easier and cheaper to see a doctor by making the biggest investment in bulk-billing in Medicare's history, providing energy bill relief through rebates and capping the prices of coal and gas, making child care cheaper and expanding paid parental leave, building more social and affordable homes, and making the biggest increase in rent assistance in 30 years. We've done all this while delivering the first budget surplus in 15 years and taking stronger action on climate change and creating a record number of jobs, not to mention overseeing significant wage rises.

I want to be clear. We know the pressure that households are under when it comes to rising rent and mortgage repayments. I know in my electorate of Cooper there are share houses that are selling their couches on Marketplace, as people have to move back into their parents' houses when they get a rental increase of $1,000 a month. A whole generation of young people feel like homeownership is out of reach for them for the rest of their lives.

It's clear that only Labor can be trusted to help more Australians into homes that they own. We've helped more than 100,000 people across the country into homeownership since the election. Help to Buy will bring homeownership back into reach for tens of thousands of Australians, but the Greens and Liberals are now standing in the way of this vital new assistance—again. And why? Because—it's no great surprise—they're more interested in painting the picture of a crisis than being part of a solution. They're willing to make political sport of the financial misery of people doing it tough.

We're doing everything we can to boost the supply of affordable homes, through the Housing Australia Future Fund. We know people want to live close by to the jobs and opportunities we're creating in communities right across the country. Through the National Housing Accord Facility we have an ambitious target to partner with the states and territories to build 1.2 million homes over five years.

I feel like a mum teaching kids to share and play nicely when I say we need everyone to work together and put their petty political agendas to the side. We need to work across all levels of government, across all parties, to reach across the corridor and engage with the private sector in order to fast-track development and get more Australians into more homes.

We know Australians feel under pressure from the cost of running their cars and crippled by the lack of meaningful choices we have in Australia. That's why we're giving Australians more choice of cars that are both cleaner and cheaper to run, through our new vehicle efficiency standard. This is good for household budgets, and it's good for the environment.

Right now, 85 per cent of the global car market operates under a standard, and Australia is in poor company. We join Russia as one of the only developed countries that don't have efficiency standards. The United States has had a policy in place for 50 years. Historically Australians have only been able to choose from a limited range of cars and a limited range of manufacturers. Under Labor, this list will grow and expand to have new options: new hybrid cars, more electric vehicles and more zero-emission cars.

I'd like to wrap up by returning to my first point: we are hearing the difficulties people are feeling right now. We know that Australians deserve roofs over their heads and food on the table and that they need these to be affordable. This is our priority, this is what Labor governments care about and this is what Labor governments deliver.


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