House debates

Tuesday, 27 February 2024

Matters of Public Importance

Cost of Living

4:10 pm

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

It's wonderful to see schoolchildren above us watching this debate. We have just heard from the member for Holt, and can I say something nice about the member? The member migrated to Australia when she was 11. She got a job at Woolworths and worked there for 15 years. I think the sense of perspective that she brings to a debate like this is one that means her contribution comes from a well-meaning place even if I don't agree with everything she says. I too arrived in Australia when I was 10, and I am grateful for my work experience at McDonald's.

I want to say something about aspiration. We have heard a lot this week and in this debate about quotes from pop stars, and Taylor Swift is No. 1. The outgoing member for Cook did a very good job of quoting Taylor Swift. But I want to say something about another pop star, a country music star. His name is Jason DeFord, also known as 'Jelly Roll'. In November last year at Nashville, Jelly Roll won new artist of the year at 39 years of age. He gave a great speech. He said there was something poetic about him winning new artist of the year at that age. He said he wanted to say something to people who were struggling. He said, 'I don't know where you're at in life or what you're going through, but I want to tell you to keep going.' He said: 'I want to tell you success is on the other side of it. I want to tell you it's going to be okay. I want to tell you that the windshield is bigger than the rear-view mirror for a reason.' He said, 'It's because what's in front of you is so much more important than what's behind you.'

In debates like this, we hear again and again the Labor members stand up and go straight to the rear-view mirror and not look through the windshield that Australians are looking through right now. What is through that windshield? This is what they see. Food is up nine per cent, housing is up 12 per cent, electricity is up 20 per cent, insurance is up 22 per cent and gas is up 27 per cent. In my home city of Melbourne, many young families are giving up on the aspiration of homeownership. If you take the medium household income and look at medium houses, that family can afford none of the 354 houses available in the suburbs of Melbourne. None. If you lower their expectations to look at what a medium-earning household can afford, for units it's 15 out of 354 suburbs.

If we take the windshield metaphor, Australians are looking through a cracked windshield, the wipers aren't working and it's raining. While the Labor Party focuses on this side and the previous government, the Labor Party needs to turn its mind to the fact that it is now in government and it can do something about what Australians are seeing in front of them right now.

We have seen lots of press releases about the great gift that is coming from the stage 3 tax cuts amendment. Of course we support that because it supports families across the board. But when you give the average family $800 with one hand and they are losing 8.6 per cent or $8,000 from the average wage with the other you are looking through the rear-view mirror and not through the windshield.

We have a problem with government spending in this place. When you look through the Intergenerational report, which I've got here in front of me, on real 2022-23 incomes the executive in this place, Canberra, spends $25,000 per Australian. Not adjusted for inflation, that was $15,000 in 2002-03. And it's projected, in the Intergenerational reportagain, not adjusted for inflation—to be $40,000.

I urge the government to take a leaf out of Jelly Roll's speeches. He recently appeared before the US Congress. There was a hearing on fentanyl in January, and he's someone who has spent time in jail for dealing drugs. He said:

I was part of the problem … I am here now, standing as a man who wants to be part of the solution.

That is good advice for this government.


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