House debates

Monday, 18 March 2024

Private Members' Business

Cost of Living

10:59 am

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

A few months ago, I wrote to my constituents across Mallee to ask them how they were going in this cost-of-living crisis. Their stories were harrowing, with many going without meals—if you can call toast a meal. The Albanese Labor government have been distracted with pet projects, and rewarding the union movement and others that got them into government, rather than focusing on the cost of living. They claim that their broken promise on the stage 3 tax cuts, adjusting the rates, now passed in this place, will help with the cost of living. But that relief will not arrive in voters' pay packets until 1 July and, even then, they will be receiving around a 10th of what they're losing currently.

The member for Corangamite spoke about the struggles primary producers are facing under the major supermarkets—perfectly correct. The latest behaviour by the supermarkets has happened on Labor's watch. The Albanese Labor government were embarrassed into having the ACCC inquiry she spoke of, after sustained advocacy from the Leader of the Nationals and the National Party.

Let me reflect on energy bills. The upcoming draft default market offer released by the Australian Energy Regulator will announce the reference price for electricity bills in coming weeks for the 2024-25 period. Labor's election pledge to reduce household electricity bills by $275 is set to be another broken promise, unless the upcoming regulated price actually decreases by more than $1,200. The Prime Minister must apologise to everyday Australians hit by skyrocketing power bills if there is less than $1,238 in reductions in their power bills.

Mallee families are paying more and more under Labor, whether it be at the supermarket checkout or the petrol bowser or simply to keep their lights on. The Albanese Labor government is making a habit of failing to deliver on its promises, from 24/7 registered nurses in aged care to not changing the stage 3 tax cuts and is now failing to deliver on cost-of-living relief through reduced power prices.

The impact of high energy prices continues to be felt by industry as well as by families. Mallee's manufacturers and small businesses are being driven to the wall. Mildura Fruit Juices Australia, for example, previously anticipated its energy costs would increase to $1 million, forcing the company to reduce their grape intake as energy price hikes made it unviable to evaporate grapes into concentrate.

Labor simply does not care about the rising cost of living. Instead, they're railroading costly and unwanted renewable and transmission-line projects in regional areas and compromising productivity, while simultaneously saddling families with higher prices to pay for this new infrastructure.

Inflation is running at 4.1 per cent persistently, well above the two to three per cent target. Our core inflation in Australia is 4.2 per cent—higher than in the US, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Singapore, France, Italy, South Korea, Canada, Japan and the entire Euro area. This sits squarely at the feet of the Albanese Labor government. As a result, during the Albanese government's term, the Reserve Bank has met on 19 occasions, increasing rates 12 times and keeping them on hold seven times. But also, last week, the Treasurer was talking about spending because he was worried about the cost-of-living crisis which Labor has created. So he's going to deliver a surplus, but spend more and tax less. It's the usual economic magic pudding of Labor governments.

Just on Saturday, we saw the consequences for Labor of neglecting the cost-of-living crisis in Queensland. This was a cost-of-living election, and the two leaders actually debated only in the final days of the campaign on cost of living. My voters in Mallee are feeling that cost-of-living pain that's been made in Canberra and in red states across the nation. From Prime Minister Albanese to the Labor premiers, they should be very concerned about making sure that they are attacking the real issue, which is cost-of-living pressures here across Australia. The coalition warned it would not be easy under Albanese, and now, more than ever, this prediction is coming to pass.

Debate adjourned.


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