House debates

Monday, 5 September 2022

Private Members' Business

Cost of Living

10:23 am

Jenny Ware (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that:

(a) cost of living and inflationary pressures are having a significant impact on Australian households and small businesses;

(b) current and predicted interest rate rises will have severe implications for working families and the housing market, and will create immense uncertainty in the lives of many hardworking Australians; and

(c) whilst global pressures are having an impact, the Government can implement measures to ease these burdens on everyday Australians;

(2) acknowledges that the previous Government's economic plan carried the Australian economy through the COVID-19 pandemic and was inextricably linked to the subsequent successful recovery, which was the envy of the world; and

(3) calls on the Government to adopt a plan to ease pressures on cost of living for Australian families and small businesses now, and not wait for the budget in October.

Mr Speaker, 3.5 million Australians have a mortgage. Four successive interest rate rises and uncontrolled inflation are crushing the quality of life for these Australians from two directions: firstly, real wages are rapidly eroding; and, secondly, the budgets of small businesses and Australian families are being smashed with ballooning interest rate payments. Making ends meet for Australians is becoming increasingly more challenging with the current economy, and experts are warning that the real pain for families and small businesses is still months away.

The government has now been in power for more than 100 days. Last month the Reserve Bank of Australia increased rates for the fourth successive month in a row. It is noted that the RBA, again, meets tomorrow. Australians with a mortgage of $610,000 are now paying over $500 more per month on their mortgage than they were paying in May. Whilst interest rate decisions should remain the decision of an independent Reserve Bank, the government has not brought forward any plan to address cost-of-living pressures on families and also on small businesses. Instead, Labor has already walked away from its election commitment to cut power bills by $275. Similarly, Labor has already walked away from its commitment to deliver real wage increases.

The government must improve its budget position. This is the most crucial decision the government can make to ease inflationary pressures. It is what the coalition did in government, and it is what enabled the largest budget recovery in over 70 years: a $100 billion turnaround confirmed in the pre-election fiscal outlook. The government would have more credibility attacking the coalition's government debt levels if it was not proposing to add significantly to that debt. The Parliamentary Budget Office confirmed that only the coalition's election promises would put Australia on a pathway to financial resilience and, crucially, a better bottom line than Labor.

Let us revisit the coalition's record. The coalition ensured that Australia's recovery led the world on economic and jobs growth. The coalition government focused on jobs and small business, as we believe in liberalism, innovation, entrepreneurship and that a strong economy delivers improved living standards and better services for all Australians. More than two million jobs were created under the coalition government. Under the coalition government, unemployment hit 50-year lows. The coalition provided lower taxes to 10 million Australians. The coalition delivered a $250 cost-of-living payment to nearly six million pensioners, welfare recipients, veterans and eligible concession card holders. The coalition cut the fuel excise in half, for six months, saving a family with two cars around $30 per week. The coalition cut the cost of medicines and slashed health costs.

This is in stark contrast to the current government, which, to date—after more than 100 days—has not shown Australians any plan to reduce the cost of living and no overall economic plan for Australia. Over the last 30 years, Labor governments, without exception, have delivered higher unemployment and higher electricity prices.

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The member for Macnamara will cease interjecting.

Jenny Ware (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There is no evidence so far that this government will be any different. However, the coalition will hold this government to account. While nobody blames the government for many of the circumstances challenging Australia's economy, the government has both the opportunity and the levers to be proactive in its response to these challenges. Government is about making tough decisions in tough circumstances, not merely paying lip-service and announcing that planning is underway.

The risk to Australia is that whilst ever the government continues to procrastinate but fails to deliver, life simply becomes much harder for Australian families and small businesses. The government must now adopt and release a plan to ease pressures on the cost of living for Australian families and small businesses now, rather than waiting for an October budget.

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

Photo of Angus TaylorAngus Taylor (Hume, Liberal Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I second the motion.

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

And you'll reserve your right to speak?

Photo of Angus TaylorAngus Taylor (Hume, Liberal Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

And I'll reserve my right to speak.

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I give the call to the member for Dunkley.

10:29 am

Photo of Peta MurphyPeta Murphy (Dunkley, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I was just speculating with my colleagues whether the shadow minister wrote that speech, and, given he seconded it, perhaps he did. I'm going to give the member for Hughes this credit: she wasn't in the parliament for the last term, so, of course, didn't witness firsthand, in this place, what that government was like. It was not the fairytale that was just contained in that speech, that's for sure. But I assume the member for Hughes was in the community in the last three years and was in the community for the nine years in which the Liberal-National government did everything it could, one suspects, to trash the Australian people's trust in politics and government. It did everything it could, one suspects, to undermine the fundamental institutions of this democracy and government for—I don't know what. For their own benefit? It wasn't for the benefit of the Australian people. The member for Hughes started her speech for her motion by saying 'Real wages are rapidly eroding.' That hasn't happened in the last 100 days, you need to know. Eroding wages was part of the deliberate design feature of the last government. It's something which Australians have been struggling with for a very long time and which the previous government ignored because it was a deliberate design feature.

Here we have a new government that, in the first 100 days, argued to the Fair Work Commission to increase the minimum wage so that the wages of the lowest paid workers in this country could at least keep up with inflation. Now we have a government that is prepared to go to the Fair Work Commission and literally put its money where its mouth is and support a pay increase for aged-care workers—a highly feminised industry with some of the poorest paid workers in this country and some of the most important workers in this country, who are caring for older, vulnerable Australians—so they can get a pay rise. And we finally have a government that says, 'We're prepared to do the work we need to do to back that pay rise.' The member for Hughes says, 'Oh, well, this government has no credibility because it would spend more than the last government.' It would spend taxpayer money in areas that benefit the people that are struggling, not in areas that benefit the people who are already doing so well and are already privileged. That's the difference.

I kick myself because sometimes I give the other side a bit of credit, thinking maybe, if they've been running a line that's not particularly truthful and isn't working, they might give it up and come back to the next sitting of parliament with something else. But, no, we're going to hear again, apparently, for the next two weeks, that the government has walked away from its election promise to reduce power prices. I don't know if I have to remind you, Member for Hughes—and the shadow member at the table, Member for Herbert—but I will: there was a report about the increase in prices that was hidden by the former government before the election that we had to release. I also will explain to you that our promise about reducing power prices is part of our promise to act on climate change and invest in renewable energy, to have 83 per cent of the grid be renewable energy by 2030, to reduce emissions by 43 per cent by 2030. That's how prices will be reduced and that's how we will be working towards protecting our environment and protecting the future. A ridiculous debate based not on fact about promises from the election is going to do nothing to address the cost of living or to move things forward.

When you say we don't have a plan, we've got a plan that's already helped low-paid workers increase wages. We've got a plan to address the bargaining system in this country, which has meant that wages and productivity haven't increased. The budget has measures for cheaper medicine. We've had a jobs and skills summit which has come up with a range of options to increase workers' value and productivity and deal with cost of living. We've got a plan for cheaper child care. We've got a plan for more bulk billing. (Time expired.)

10:34 am

Photo of Angus TaylorAngus Taylor (Hume, Liberal Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I am very pleased to rise in support of this very important motion, because Australians are doing it tough. In response to that they need a government that does two things. First of all, it needs to care. It needs to see this as a top priority in its agenda. It needs to be something it is responding to right here right now. That leads to the second thing they need, which is a plan.

Every time we faced a curveball in government—and you do face curveballs in government; that's the nature of it, and particularly the last couple of years have been tumultuous—understandably, those on the opposite side of this place were very fond of saying, 'You need to take responsibility and you need to have a plan.' When a curveball comes at them they ignore it and say: 'No, we don't need to have a plan. We don't need to take responsibility.' The truth is Australians want them to have a plan. I'll tell you why—because they are feeling pain when they are at the bowser, they are feeling pain when they pay their bills, they are feeling pain at the check-out and they are feeling pain when they upgrade their house.

All we get from those opposite is a vanity project—the job summit last week. Do you know what we got out of that vanity project last week? We got a return to the 1970s. I lived through the 1970s. Tie-dye was alright. ELO was one of the better productions of the 1970s. I'll tell you what was wrong with the 1970s—inflation. That is the cost of living. The cost of living was off the charts. ELO might have been on the charts, but the cost of living was off the charts. It was insanely high. We saw interest rates going to a level where families like mine, farmers and small-business people, were in extreme pain. We saw that for real.

The truth of the matter is that those opposite have come forward with no plan and they are making a bad situation worse. Let me talk about what we're going to see in the next couple of months. In the next couple of months we're going to see the interest rate increases that have come through—

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Member for Macnamara, the member is entitled to be heard in silence.

Photo of Angus TaylorAngus Taylor (Hume, Liberal Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Deputy Speaker. We have seen a series of 50-basis-point interest-rate increases since the election, and those increases are only being felt now. Indeed, the first has been felt from 1 September because it takes several months for these things to flow through. By Christmas—just at the time when families are spending money on presents for their loved ones, on getting together at that wonderful time of the year and on going on holidays—they are going to be feeling the extreme pain of these mortgage repayments. That'll be in November and December. We and the market are expecting a further increase coming through tomorrow, which in a few months time will flow through to their mortgage repayments.

As I said, the government have no plan to deal with this. The best we got last week was a return to pattern bargaining—a race between wages and prices. We know from experience that, ultimately, real wages lose. That's what happens. You wreck the economy. That's what happens. There is an alternative, which is a comprehensive economywide plan that recognises the full range of cost-of-living pressures that Australians are facing.

They are walking away from their election promises. They have walked away from their electricity price promise. We haven't heard the Prime Minister or the relevant minister once confirming that election policy—not once in this place, and I'll make a fair bet that they won't do that today either. We have seen them break promises on material increases in real wages. They have given up on that. We saw that in their economic statement. Those opposite have no plan to deal with the cost-of-living pressures that Australians are facing.

10:39 am

Photo of Anne StanleyAnne Stanley (Werriwa, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The contribution that we've just heard from the member for Hume really did sum up the last decade of the government in which he served. There was no plan, and the economy that we on this side of the House are facing at the moment comes directly from the policies that they didn't have or didn't do anything about.

Australians are currently facing some of the most difficult economic challenges in a generation, and the circumstances that bring them about are extraordinary. The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are still being felt and are causing extreme fragility in the global economy. Our economy is inextricably linked to the overall movements of the rest of the world. COVID shutdowns in China and border closures at home have contributed to massive disruptions in supply chains. Together with soaring prices across the economy and stagnant wages they have been a deadly combination for Australian families. The previous government's deliberate policy of keeping wages stagnant for almost a decade has contributed to the pain that families are experiencing, especially those in the electorate of Werriwa, which I represent. For some years, Werriwa residents have been affected by rental stress and mortgage stress, with postcodes in my electorate featuring in the top 10 for both those things.

The change in government has brought with it a change in policy for workers, who have kept the country running during the pandemic. Australia now has a government that is willing to make changes to improve the lives of working Australians. One of our first acts in government was a submission to the Fair Work Commission in support of an increase to the minimum wage, and, pleasingly, that happened. Last week the Jobs and Skills Summit came up with positive ideas for addressing the skills shortages that are affecting all sectors of the economy and have been for some considerable amount of time. It identified areas of reform in our industrial relations system to drive real wage growth and productivity. One of the key announcements from the Jobs and Skills Summit is the addition of 180,000 fee-free TAFE places, because our government understands that education is the foundation of prosperity and is needed for the Australian workforce. It is vital that Australians can acquire new skills to find well-paid and secure jobs for the future.

While wage increases are one aspect of addressing cost-of-living pressures, they are not the only policy area. We know that electricity prices are soaring, and that is linked to the previous coalition government's—and that minister's—policy failings. With 22 different energy policies over nine years, is it any wonder that the energy grid is failing to provide consumers with the cheaper forms of energy it needs to drive down prices? With no national leadership, the market stagnated. The resulting energy grid consists of ageing power assets that are increasingly unreliable and costly to run, and that is a cost that's being felt every day by Australians. The passage of the climate bill in the lower house means that the energy market and those people investing in it finally have certainty. The alignment of federal and state governments means Australian families can be provided with the cheapest forms of energy, putting downward pressure on energy bills in the long term. Strong wage growth, one energy policy and well-paid, secure jobs—that's what we've done in 100 days.

The Albanese Labor government has committed to tackling both the short-term impacts of the pandemic and the structural issues that have been slowly chipping away at the economic security of Australians. It has supported wage rises for aged-care workers. Today, importantly, it announced that 4.7 million Australians will receive government payment increases. This is the largest indexation increase in more than 30 years for allowances and in 12 years for pensions. The Albanese government has a plan to address the cost-of-living crisis for everyday Australians. With over one-third of Australians suffering chronic illness, it is important that we reduce the price of medications, and that's what we'll do in the October budget. And we know that one of the largest barriers to women coming back into the workforce is the cost of child care. That's why we will be introducing legislation for cheaper child care for more than 1.26 million families. The Albanese government understands that tackling the cost-of-living crisis requires structural adjustments to how our economy works, and we will do just that.

10:44 am

Photo of James StevensJames Stevens (Sturt, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I commend the mover of the motion, the member for Hughes, on bringing this important subject into this chamber. I think most Australians, if stopped in the street, would say that cost-of-living pressures were the most significant thing that they were concerned about. It's something that's causing a great deal of apprehension amongst the families of Australia, who are confronting real, significant pressures from multiple fronts when it comes to the cost of living.

We have the Reserve Bank meeting tomorrow, and, regrettably, there is a high likelihood that interest rates will be increasing again. One of the largest burdens on the household budget is meeting the cost of your mortgage, for those that have a mortgage. Petrol prices have been sustained at a high level for a significant period of time, and very shortly the temporary reduction in the fuel excise is going to be removed. With other indexation, a 25c-a-litre increase in the cost of unleaded fuel is going to put an enormous amount of additional pressure onto families in this country, on top of already paying higher petrol prices. Electricity prices are also going up at a remarkably high rate, with increases of more than 10 per cent in some jurisdictions within the National Electricity Market having come into effect from 1 July. And, of course, real wages are decreasing—wages in this country are growing at a lower rate than inflation.

What is absolutely appalling is that anyone would commit a great fraud on the people of this country by going to an election in May, saying they're going to reduce cost of living pressures, they're going to reduce electricity prices and they're going to increase real wages, and subsequently failing to keep those promises. That is an absolute disgrace—a break of a covenant that was put in place through a campaign of lies and misinformation that the Labor Party ran at the recent election.

Let's look at electricity. We never hear this $275 figure anymore. It has not been uttered out of the lips of anyone, particularly the Prime Minister and the relevant ministers, since the election. But in the election campaign they said, 'We're going to implement an electricity and energy policy which will reduce electricity prices for the average household consumer by $275.' That was a very simple commitment that was given. They didn't have to give that commitment; they chose to. If it turns out to be a lie, then that will be an absolute disgrace, and a significant electoral cost will be inflicted on them for lying to people about that. Meeting electricity costs is one of the most significant challenges that households have.

The Labor Party said, 'We modelled these electricity price reductions, and that's how we know we can achieve them,' so, despite any spurious argument about existing policies of previous governments going back over the last 10 years, those policies would have been taken into account in the modelling that you did. If it were reputable modelling, if it were robust, there would be no way that you could say with a straight face that anything of significance had changed since you made that commitment. The only thing we can deduce, therefore, is that you knew you weren't going to meet it but you thought, 'We'll lie to people to get their vote, and we'll deal with the consequences of that after we've won an election and we're in government.' Well, the chickens are coming home to roost right now.

You're far from achieving that $275, so come clean and own up to it. Say: 'Yes, look, for all these reasons, we're no longer going to achieve the $275. It was someone else's fault, but, yes, when we said that it was a lie.' And now electricity prices are not going down; they're going up. They're going up by more than 10 per cent. The Labor Party went to an election and misled the people of this country on that.

They misled them on real wages, as well. They said, 'We're going to get real wages growing,' and we got lectures when they were in opposition about how real wages worked. When you look at the—

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! Member for Sturt, you should be addressing your speech through the chair.

Photo of James StevensJames Stevens (Sturt, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Certainly. Through you, Deputy Speaker: the Labor Party lied at the last election during the campaign. They lied to the people of this country, and there is an enormous political price that the Labor Party will pay for that. When you mislead the people of this country—they trust you and they take you at your word, they vote for you, you get into power and then you break those promises you made—there is an enormous consequence for those lies, which the people of this country will mete out against the Labor Party. I welcome the opportunity to contest that at the upcoming election.

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I call the member for Solomon.

10:49 am

Photo of Luke GoslingLuke Gosling (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thanks, Deputy Speaker. It is great to see you. You're looking well. You're looking fit.

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Solomon!

Photo of Luke GoslingLuke Gosling (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As you know, many Australians are doing it particularly tough right now. The costs of fuel, groceries, child care, utilities, housing and mortgages—everything—are going up, so many people rightly feel that they will be overwhelmed as household budgets get tighter and tighter.

Despite the claptrap we just heard from the member opposite, those opposite left us with many ticking time bombs. They pursued a deliberate strategy to suppress wage growth. That was for a decade, and they were proud of it. They said suppressing the wages of working people in this nation was actually part of their plan. That has led to the crisis that we're in. They did very little to diversify our economy and therefore left us very vulnerable to the shocks we saw when they mishandled the China relationship. China imposed bans on our exports, and that hurt a lot of Aussie producers and businesses.

Our government understands and has already begun work, after just over 100 days in government, to address some of these deep systemic problems, mostly the result of the ineptitude of those opposite. We must ensure that wages keep pace with the cost of living. The rewriting of history by some of those opposite is understandable, with them having lost the election and trying to explain it away, but the reality is that one of the big reasons that they were unsuccessful in the election is that the Australian people knew that those opposite were cooked and did not have a plan to address some of the big issues that we face as a nation.

In contrast, the Albanese government has a plan and we have committed to making child care more affordable for 97 per cent of families, which doesn't help our kids only. It helps parents get back into the workplace, meaning more money for families and a huge boost to productivity in our economy. It's also why we lifted the minimum wage in line with inflation so Aussies earning lower incomes aren't losing pay. Our Powering Australia plan will cut power bills for households as we do this important work of pivoting our economy towards renewables.

We've also committed to improving the affordability and uptake of electric vehicles, something that those opposite dismissed and derided as 'ending the weekend'. How ridiculous not to see where the trends are going in terms of affordability of electric vehicles and how that's going to help household budgets.

As far as fuel prices go, we have seen them rise significantly over the last decade. My constituents in Darwin, like many other regional Australians, are being gouged by the fuel retailers. Ninety-seven per cent of our refined fuel is imported. Renewable technology is obviously the way of the future, so why not invest in that and use what is very clearly to our advantage? I am running in my electorate a concerted campaign against the fuel retailers, because, even as the oil price did drop, they were taking too much in terms of profits. We'll continue to point out to them how unethical it is, how greedy it is and how it's not in the interests of our national economy to keep gouging Australians when it comes to fuel. We want Australians to pay less for their commute to work, whilst they are dropping the kids off at school or going away for the weekend, and all those things will not disappear just because their next car may have a battery in it.

Continuing to rely on foreign oil would punish Australians and their household budgets. We know that renewable technologies will take some time to be implemented, but our government, the Albanese government, is committed to looking forward not just towards this next term of parliament and the one after but towards the coming decades. We want to build an Australia with a lower cost of living and with higher living standards, especially for those who are on lower incomes and who are struggling to get by at the moment. Australians can count on the Albanese government to do just that.

10:55 am

Aaron Violi (Casey, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There is no doubt when I am in Casey, talking to my residents and constituents, that cost of living is the biggest issue that they face today. There is an old saying that I like: if you spend too much time looking into the rear-vision mirror while you're driving, you'll crash into the car in front of you. Listening to the government continue to talk over the last three months about the previous government shows that their eyes are clearly focused on the rear-vision mirror. That's because they don't have a plan to address the rising cost of living. They have no plan to tackle the economic challenges that we face today.

Let's indulge the government's obsession with the rear-vision mirror for a moment and look back to March and April of 2020. We all remember the lines at Centrelink and the Treasury prediction of 15 to 20 per cent unemployment. I was not an MP at the time. I was working in business, worried for the future. I watched the coalition government ensure that Australia's recovery led the world on economic growth and jobs growth, all with lower debt levels relative to other advanced countries. The coalition government focused on jobs, as we know the ability to get a job and to keep it gives Australians more opportunities to manage their household budget and make the best choices for their families. I remember the then shadow Treasurer saying the test of the government was the unemployment level. With it currently sitting at 3.4 per cent, hitting a 50-year low, the former government well and truly passed that test. The Treasurer would do well to remember that the next time he says Australians have nothing to show for the current debt levels. We all know that, without the then government's support, businesses, particularly small businesses, would have closed and unemployment would have hit those terrifying projected numbers.

Labor promised the world during the election campaign, but the only thing they have been able to deliver is a string of broken promises. They have abandoned their commitment to cut power bills by $275 a year for the average Australian, a practical measure that could have made a difference to millions of Australians. Worse than having no plan, this government can't even accept a good idea and implement it immediately to help pensioners and veterans with their cost-of-living pressures and businesses with labour shortages. It took three months for the government to adopt our position on allowing pensioners and veterans to work more hours without impacting their pension. That is three months they could have been earning more as the economic clouds were looming, three months in which they could have possibly saved a little as prices continued to rise. To make pensioners and veterans wait three months to announce the policy at the jobs summit shows this government will always put politics and optics over the interests of Australians.

All of this is going on as interest rates rise. This is already hurting many Australians who are doing it tough. If the Treasurer fails to act, it will mean more pressure from inflation, more pressure from interest rates and higher costs of living for Australian families and small businesses. The single most important thing any government can do to help ease inflationary pressure is improve their budget position. That's what the coalition government did in government. We saw in recent years the largest budget turnaround in over 70 years—around $100 billion.

Labor has no plan to reduce the cost of living and no economic plan for Australia. The Labor Party went to the last election promising to run bigger deficits. This was confirmed by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office. By contrast, the PBO confirmed that the coalition were the only parties that went to the election with a pathway to improve the budget bottom line. The coalition's 2022-23 budget was balancing, and Labor extracted all these efforts.

Over the last 30 years, Labor governments have, on average, delivered higher unemployment, higher interest rates and higher electricity prices. This Labor government will do the same. Labor can't manage the economy and can't manage money. I just hope that the government stops looking in the rear-vision mirror and focuses on the road ahead. The last thing Australia needs right now is a crash.

11:00 am

Photo of Joanne RyanJoanne Ryan (Lalor, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Sometimes you have to pinch yourself, and this motion is one of those occasions. Here we are in this chamber; we've formed government. And there's a trillion dollars of debt, with not enough to show for it. The fact that members of the Liberal Party want to talk about cost of living—the crisis they created—is just extraordinary. Seriously! The party that admitted they deliberately kept wages low for a decade now has the audacity to come into this House and pretend they care.

In fact, one of the biggest cost-of-living pressures on families in the electorate of Lalor and around the nation at the moment is the availability of doctors and the cost of seeing one. This is a direct result, in my community, of changes to the distribution priority area funding that saw our area lose 40 per cent of local GPs. Let us not forget who froze Medicare rebates, let's not forget who changed the rules so those local GP clinics couldn't recruit more doctors, and let's not forget who wanted to tax every single visit to the GP: the worst health minister, it was said at the time, since 1980, who's now the Leader of the Opposition. Trash, attack and tax Medicare, and you get promoted in the Liberal Party.

And let's not forget, too, that they hit, prior to the election, a massive hike in electricity prices. In fact, high electricity prices are the result of the fact that they had 22 ineffective energy policies. Imagine how much better off families would be to manage the cost-of-living pressures they now face if the previous Liberal government hadn't made low wages growth a deliberate design feature of their economic plan.

The Albanese Labor government is already addressing the cost-of-living pressures Australians are facing. We've supported a $1-an-hour increase in pay for Australia's lowest-paid workers, helping millions across the country—something those opposite said would cause the sky to fall in. We're supporting an increase in the pay for the heroes of the pandemic, our aged-care workforce. Last week's Jobs and Skills Summit brought unions, employers and industry groups together to work out how we boost wages and deliver secure employment for Australian workers—the best way to tackle cost-of-living pressures. Our Powering Australia plan will invest in renewables, delivering cheaper power prices, lower emissions and more jobs.

This Labor government, in just over 100 days, has taken more action than those opposite took in nearly a decade on cost-of-living pressures. We've extended the pandemic leave that was due to expire under the Liberals. We've introduced legislation that will drive investment in cleaner and cheaper energy, as I said. We're making sure enough gas stays in Australia for Australian households and businesses. We'll introduce legislation for cheaper child care for 1.26 million families. Our budget will cut the cost of medicines. We're fast-tracking fee-free TAFE places. In September, pensions, allowances and rent assistance will increase in line with inflation; that will see 4.7 million Australians receive a government payment increase. That is directly impacting 4.7 million Australians and their capacity to deal with the cost of living.

It is astounding to be in this House, to be here today, and have those opposite raise these issues. A trillion dollars of debt and not enough to show for it, and they have the audacity to come into this chamber, first thing on a Monday morning, to talk about cost-of-living pressures that they did nothing—nothing—about for nine years. In fact, having been in this chamber for those nine years, I can hark back to that 2014 budget—that cruel, cruel budget that was introduced into this House. It was horrendous. It was driven back by the Australian people and by those on this side now, who worked so hard to make sure that people understood what that Medicare rebate freeze would mean and what the freeze to pensions would mean. Those on this side can walk in here proudly, with our heads held high, because we are getting on with the job; we are introducing the things that need to be done to ensure that Australians are better off, because that's why we exist: to ensure that Australians get a fair go—unlike those opposite, who are happy to see those vulnerable Australians suffer, year in and year out, most potently across the last nine years.

11:05 am

Photo of Terry YoungTerry Young (Longman, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The first 100 days, and the key word I'm getting from my electorate is 'disappointment'—100 days of disappointment. In the first two weeks we sat in parliament, all we heard about was climate change and the voice to parliament. The people in my electorate said, 'Are these really the priority of this new government? Here we are struggling to make ends meet, and they're talking about those issues.' All these issues have to be dealt with, of course, but it's about prioritising what is right. The people of Longman don't believe that climate change and the voice to parliament are the major issues that are facing our country at the moment. The fact is that the cost-of-living pressures and the homelessness issue in my electorate far outweigh those other issues that the government has been prioritising. The middle-class people in the suburbs of Australia feel abandoned by the Labor Party. It's as simple as that. Interest rates are killing people. The interest rates are going up and, therefore, the mortgages are going up. So the investors who have to pay these mortgages have to raise the rents of the people who are renting. So their cost of living is going up.

Let's have a look at what Labor's solutions are: 'Let's abolish the fuel excise and stick another 22 cents a litre on their fuel bill.' That's probably going to work out to be an extra $50 a week for the average Aussie. That's a great move; they can really afford that! Labor put up wages. But, unfortunately, the Labor Party are full of people who have never been in business, who have no concept of what that decision means. I was talking to a local baker, and I said, 'How did you go with the pay rise?' He said, 'It was easy; I just cut 40 hours a week out of my wages bill. I laid a couple of casuals off, and the full-timers are going to pick it up.' Every employer wants to work or earn as much as they can. But, at the end of the day, they have a budget and, if their budget is $200,000 for wages, when you put up wages, all of a sudden, they don't have a bigger budget. In 35 years of small business, 22 years in ownership, I've never had someone walk in the next day and say, 'Hey, there was a pay rise yesterday; can I pay you a few more dollars?'

The money is not endless. But, unfortunately, this is a concept that Labor never understands. The money just comes off a tree at the back of Parliament House, apparently, and you just keep pulling it off the tree. I always laugh about the 'trillion dollars of debt' comment. It is a joke, because we know that Labor were responsible for over half of that. Every person I talk to in my electorate are completely behind the fact that the government had to go to extraordinary measures during extraordinary times and were admired around the world for the way that they handled the pandemic and, in fact, were asked for advice by many countries around the world.

Then I look at the electricity promise. We have a promise from the Prime Minister, saying, 'We're going to cut electricity prices to households by $275.' He's not going to come forward on this. There's a difference between a leader and a manager. We don't have a leader in this country; we have a manager who runs around putting out fires. He doesn't build firebreaks to prevent fires; he just runs around trying to put out fires. He's either misled or he is incompetent if he hasn't done due diligence. If he has made promises without knowing all the facts, as I say, he is either misled or he is incompetent. It's one of the two. Only a fool would come out and make promises without knowing all the facts. That again shows that this is not about delivering for the people; this is about winning votes at whatever cost—and it sounded good and, because it sounded good, 'I'm going say it.' Who isn't going to be happy about $275? But, when you don't deliver on it, that's not on; you've treated the Australian people like fools—and they will respond.

The Australian economy is a big business. That's all it is—a big business with big numbers. It concerns many people out there that we have running this country a party that is full of political career people who are from unions. I say, 'God help us all,' because the future will not be good under this government.

11:10 am

Photo of Julian HillJulian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I was trying remember whether there is in fact a point of order for weirdness but concluded that there isn't, otherwise it certainly could have been taken. This is an absolute treat, isn't it? It's a lovely start to a parliamentary fortnight, this motion from the Liberals congratulating themselves on their economic record. I mean, what a contribution to debate. I read it, and I did actually laugh out loud. I thought, 'Is this April Fools' Day?', and then I looked more closely and I thought, 'Oh, it's a new member. It's the member for Hughes. She's new here.' But she has a great advantage over most of us here; she has low expectations, because all she has to do is not be Craig Kelly and people are going to welcome her contributions and presence here.

But really this motion is utter, total nonsense. If the Liberal or Morrison government's economic record is success then I would hate to see failure. I mean, seriously! A trillion dollars of Liberal debt—the previous speaker said, 'Well, it's not fair when they say that, because half of it was from Labor.' It wasn't. It actually wasn't. That is an untruth. He has a problem—a pattern of mendacity, if he keeps saying that, because I'm not allowed to call him a liar; I know that. The former government paid $20 billion of JobKeeper to companies to increase their profits. If you were big business, you'd be backing up the truck at the Treasury, thinking, 'Really? They're going to shovel it full of cash for the next generation to repay?'. What a bunch of stooges. Over a billion dollars they spent on taxpayer ads advertising themselves.

I mean, where were the rorted grants programs? Well, anything the National Party administered you can guarantee was rorted, all on the national debt for the next generation. Real wages fell in this country, and they can't hide behind COVID. That is the big lie they keep repeating, 'It was a tough time. We had to pour out the cash everywhere because of COVID.' It was 10 years of dysfunction and division. The OECD comparisons are clear: real wages went backwards for a decade even before COVID. Productivity was falling even before COVID—the worst productivity performance, over the decade they were in office, of the last 60 years that they've measured and recorded it. It is an appalling economic record: the highest inflation rate in 20 years; flatlining productivity, as I said; and a cost-of-living crisis.

I agree with some of the defences, excuses, the former Prime Minister gave. There are global factors in this. But there was also policy laziness at a domestic level. There were contributions because of what they did and what they failed to do that led to the mess that we've inherited now. Their response was always one of bandaids or sticky tape: throw a little bit of cash, make a silly announcement at a press conference and give it a cute program name. Remember JobMaker? That was the centrepiece a few budgets ago. We had good old Josh—what happened to him?—and Scott Morrison, now the member for Cook, I think we call him, standing up there going, 'We're going to create 450,000 jobs with JobMaker.' Well, 12 months on they'd created one per cent of what they said, and they quietly scrapped the program. It's all announcement. It was never about delivery and serious structural reform.

Now, the motion has these little gems. It says:

cost of living and inflationary pressures are having a significant impact on Australian households and small businesses—

Well, no—I'm not allowed to say that word—Sherlock—

current and predicted interest rate rises will have severe implications for working families and the housing market—

That's genius, isn't it? It's like the Liberals discovered reality—

… whilst global pressures are having an impact, the Government can implement measures—

Imagine if they'd been the government for the last 10 years. Maybe they could have done something. The former Prime Minister's vision, remember, was snapback. After COVID we were just going to go back to how things were. It was all going so terribly well, wasn't it, with falling productivity, falling real wages and rising national debt.

Labor did not make the mess, but we are taking responsibility for fixing it. In the first hundred days we backed the minimum wage rise, which was approved by the Fair Work Commission, benefitting 2.8 million Australians. On climate change legislation, the previous speaker said, 'That's a waste of time. No-one cares about that.' Imagine supporting renewable energy, the cheapest form of new energy, to put downwards pressure on power prices? Imagine such a radical step?

But instead, the former government actively covered up—they actively covered up!—the power price rises which were coming from them. They know it; they don't like to talk about it. We could call it a lie, but we won't say that—will we, Deputy Speaker Freelander? There are 180,000 fee-free TAFE places coming on board this year and we're fixing the migration mess they left, with nearly a million visas backlogged right across the economy and families. It's hurting the economy and we're taking action to fix their mess.

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the shadow minister making a point of order?

Photo of Julian HillJulian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

No; he's kind of randomly yelling, as he does. But at least he's not in the permanently confused state, which is the default—

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Well, you were commenting a lot there. The member for Bruce has finished?

Photo of Julian HillJulian Hill (Bruce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, but I can do more!

Photo of Mike FreelanderMike Freelander (Macarthur, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

No, that's okay. The time allocated for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.