House debates

Tuesday, 7 March 2023

Matters of Public Importance

Prime Minister

3:22 pm

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

I have received a letter from the honourable member for Deakin proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

This Prime Minister's broken promise that Australians would be better off under a Labor government.

I call upon those honourable members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.

More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

Photo of Michael SukkarMichael Sukkar (Deakin, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I have not seen a performance like that from a Prime Minister. He was lacking in any empathy for the struggles that Australians are feeling under his watch and, indeed, refusing to accept the words that he said before the election. There is one number that will not come out of this Prime Minister's mouth—it certainly hasn't left his mouth since the election—and that's the number 275. But it's a number that before the election was used a lot by this Prime Minister in a succession of broken promises that we heard from him.

It's an interesting political tactic: the Prime Minister just stonewalling, time after time, on promises and words that are in transcripts and that were recorded on television and on devices and completely refusing to acknowledge words that he used before the election. We're seeing a growing list of broken promises. Indeed, we heard yesterday from the Leader of the Opposition the top 10 shameful promises that have not been met by this government. We've seen, of course, their promise to bring power bills down by $275. We even had members of the frontbench confirm it in interjections across the dispatch box: 'Yes, we did promise to reduce power prices by $275, but by 2025.' Well, I hate to break it to the government, but, with every single year of price rises of over a thousand dollars, that task gets even harder. Does anybody seriously believe that the Prime Minister will be able to deliver $275 power and energy price reductions by 2025?

They promised cheaper mortgages. Every time we ask the Prime Minister if he stands by his position on cheaper mortgages, he disingenuously says: 'Well, I didn't want to mislead the Australian people about cheaper mortgages. I was talking about our shared equity plan.' There's only one problem: their shared equity plan does not exist. It was supposed to start on 1 January. That's at least two months ago, and we have not seen this so-called shared equity plan, a very token policy, to date.

We saw that they promised cost-of-living relief. Indeed, all of us will remember the drop to the papers, with the Prime Minister on the front with a supercilious smile, promising these cost-of-living reductions. Does anybody seriously think that the Labor Party ever thought they could deliver on those promises? Does anyone seriously think that the Prime Minister thought he could deliver on these promises? What we see now is a prime minister who wants to entirely divorce himself from speaking about the economy.

It should be no surprise to the Australians watching on television, the Australians throughout our country and, indeed, the Australians visiting our parliament today that a prime minister who, on day one of the election campaign, did not know the cash rate and did not know the unemployment rate—someone who didn't know those two things—is someone who now sits in a very important chair in this chamber and does not want to speak about the economy. Indeed, he has no understanding or interest in economic matters.

The message to the Prime Minister and his party is: Australians are very concerned. Australians are concerned about the pressures that they're facing. At 2.30 today, we saw an announcement that the Reserve Bank has increased interest rates again by 0.25 per cent. I'm not sure how that fits into the strategy and the promise around cheaper mortgages from this Prime Minister, but I've never seen less empathy come from a leader in this parliament. I'm not just confecting it. I have not seen a prime minister who refuses to empathise with the millions of Australians who now, every single month, when they get the letter or the email from the bank saying, 'Your mortgage has gone up,' have to make very binary decisions. Those decisions are: 'Do I send my child on a school camp? What do I buy from the supermarket? Do I fill up the car, or do I just not drive?'

These are the binary decisions that are being made by Australians, yet we've got a prime minister who stands there refusing to even acknowledge that he made those promises. He refuses to acknowledge that those words came out of his mouth. That is an extraordinary insult to the Australian people. My advice for the Prime Minister is: apologise. Australians are very understanding people. Provided you can prove that you didn't always know that you couldn't make that promise—and, to be frank, I think there are a couple of promises here that fall into that category—the least he could do is apologise, level with the Australian people and saying: 'I'm sorry; I cannot deliver that commitment of reducing power prices by $275. I'm sorry; Labor's inflationary budget and spending has now meant that we can't deliver cheaper mortgages. I'm sorry that we can't deliver cost-of-living relief, as we promised before the election.' But they're making it up as they go, and the Australian people are the ones who are paying the price.

We also see throughout question time a cavalcade of questions around their big-borrowing and big-spending funds. How many questions have we seen over the last few weeks in relation to their $15 billion reconstruction fund and their $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund? Let me turn to the Housing Australia Future Fund, as the shadow minister for housing used as an example. It will add to borrowing of $10 billion a year. If there's one message that the Reserve Bank has given the government, it's: 'Stop spending.' Why? It's because every single billion dollars that the government puts into the economy is a billion dollars that the Reserve Bank has to try to take out in higher interest rates. And so, when we hear question after question lauding the $25 billion of additional borrowing, all we are hearing from the Labor Party is that they are dedicated to pouring fuel on the inflation fire. That's why what we are suffering in Australia—yes, there are global inflationary impacts—is predominantly Labor inflation. That's what we are seeing.

We've also seen from the government that the Labor Party is obviously ensuring that they don't bite the hand that feeds them, unleashing the unions onto small businesses throughout this country, creating a less competitive environment for our small businesses. What on earth does the government think that's going to do for inflation? It is making it more difficult for small businesses to employ people. It is making it more difficult for small businesses that have unique circumstances and now have to deal with the prospect of pattern bargaining. All of that is going to make the job much more difficult for the Reserve Bank and will force them, thanks to the Labor Party, to continue jacking up rates.

We know that the Prime Minister doesn't face these issues. The Prime Minister talks about it in his latest broken promise, on superannuation, decrying those individuals who have worked hard, abided by the law and followed the rules to provide for their retirement. The Prime Minister's defined benefit superannuation is conservatively valued at anywhere from $5 million to $10 million. I think that highly shows that he is entirely devoid of understanding the pressures that those people face. The Prime Minister and Treasurer studiously avoided dealing with defined benefits superannuation in their announcement—their broken promise. Again, the Prime Minister was saying: 'It's not really a broken promise, because it only affects 0.5 per cent of people. If it only affects a small number of people, even though I said I would not touch superannuation before the election, it actually isn't a real promise. It's not a real promise, because it's 0.5 per cent of people and it's those nasty people who've made a bit of money.'

And then we find out yesterday by happenstance in the Senate that it's actually 10 per cent of people. And who's it going to hit the most? It's going to hit people in their 20s and 30s. They're the people who are going to be hit. The Treasurer joked, 'Oh, that's 30 years away.' What does the genius think superannuation is? It's about investments for decades into the future.

We see a succession of broken promises. We don't see this Prime Minister apologising. We see no empathy. Sadly, it's the Australian people who are suffering under a Labor government that always gets the big economic calls wrong.

3:32 pm

Photo of Kristy McBainKristy McBain (Eden-Monaro, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Regional Development, Local Government and Territories) Share this | | Hansard source

McBAIN (—) (): It's quite ironic. You sit here, and it's like the last decade didn't happen. Somehow we've heard from the shadow minister that every policy that they didn't implement didn't happen. There were 22 energy policies, and they didn't land one. Four gigawatts came out of the electricity market; only one gigawatt went in. Apparently, that had no impact on energy prices. It is gobsmacking. Apparently, when you rip money out of universities and TAFE, it's not going to have an impact on skills shortages across the country. Apparently, when you're in it for power and you're not in it for action, that's not going to count. You've had 10 years to do something. You've done nothing.

Standing here with a straight face saying that, in nine months, everything that's happened has been our fault is hilarious. Let's hide from the Australian people the electricity increases before the election. Let's change the regulation so we don't actually have to tell the truth to the Australian people. That's absolute hypocrisy. But I'm not going to dwell on the negativity of those opposite, because Australians don't want short-term politicking. They don't want short-term issues. They don't want scare campaigns. Australians are after positive plans—they want a government with vision—and that's exactly what we've been implementing.

We have put significant measures in place to reduce the cost of living. The cost of medicines has gone down. The cost of child care has gone down. We've been getting wages moving. There are fee-free TAFE places. We've got an energy relief plan. We've expanded paid parental leave, because we on this side of the House are looking to build a strong economic future for the regions, one where we invest in local manufacturing, in our energy grid, in training and in regional connectivity.

Yet all we've heard from those opposite is 'no'—no to the National Reconstruction Fund, no to the Housing Australia Future Fund and no to the safeguard mechanism. Not only are we working to clean up a decade of waste and a decade of stagnation in ideas and delivery; those opposite don't even want to support the future needs of Australia. The opposition want to say no to diversifying and transforming our future industries, despite the lessons we learnt from the pandemic.

We're ensuring regional manufacturing reaches its economic potential. Our $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund will create a strong and diverse economy for more sustainable, high-value jobs for all Australians. Our $1.9 billion Powering the Regions Fund will support new clean energy industries and support our net zero economy. The Powering the Regions Fund will keep Australian industry competitive in a changing global economy and ensure our regions thrive.

We're listening to regional communities about the infrastructure they need now and into the future, and we don't need to make those decisions based on a colour-coded spreadsheet. We're delivering $750 million through our Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program. We're ensuring regional roads are fit for purpose, including through our $37.4 million investment in the Brindabella Road upgrades, which have been welcomed by locals, and $100 million towards the first stages of the Barton Highway upgrade to improve safety and freight efficiency. It's been welcomed by locals, including the Yass Valley Council, and, I'm sure, by many people in this chamber who drive on that road frequently.

In many communities that I visit, people talk to me about the need for housing. It's essential for attracting people to and retaining people in those areas. You can't accept a job if you don't have a roof over your head. That's why this government has taken on the challenge, one abandoned by those opposite. We'll support housing through the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund and the regional first home buyer guarantee. The fund will be the single biggest investment by a federal government in social and affordable housing in more than a decade. Only a Labor government will prioritise a secure pipeline of funding for social and affordable housing. Since its launch, more than 2,000 people have accessed the regional first home buyer guarantee, which has been fantastic for our regions.

Close to home, I've been told by those affected by bushfires that a lack of connectivity deepens the distress of disaster. During COVID, I heard of the importance of connectivity for students and businesses in particular. We recognise how important fast and reliable connectivity is to our regional, rural and remote communities. That's why we've invested $656 million in our Better Connectivity Plan for Regional and Rural Australia to deliver change.

For business, education, entertainment and staying in touch with family and friends, having patchy, slow and unreliable connectivity isn't good enough anymore. That's why, after 10 years of poor technology choices by the former government, we're committed to enabling the NBN's full potential. As part of this plan, we're investing $2.4 billion to expand NBN full-fibre upgrades to an additional 1.5 million Australian premises. Importantly, this includes over 660,000 in regional communities, which will make a significant difference. In my own electorate of Eden-Monaro, we are improving mobile coverage in identified locations, like the Kings Highway, the Snowy Mountains Highway, the Monaro Highway and the Princes Highway, as part of our $40 million Improving Mobile Coverage Round.

Before our Jobs and Skills Summit, I heard from business owners who told me that the lack of training has left our regions with an insufficient number of tradies—that the defunding of TAFE has restricted growth and slowed down expansion. Training initiatives will go towards addressing these systemic problems. We're ensuring that we provide a stronger education and training system for people in regional communities. As I said, there'll be 180,000 fee-free TAFE places across the country, many of them in our regional locations, and we're giving regional Australians priority access to 20,000 extra Commonwealth-supported places at university. There'll also be $158.5 million worth of measures to address teacher shortages.

Support is now also available for apprentices working in the clean energy sector, as part of our New Energy Apprenticeships Program. Through this, we'll provide up to $10,000 in financial assistance to apprentices working in the clean energy sector. This will allow a pipeline of skilled workers to support our clean energy infrastructure now and into the future.

I'm sure many people in this place receive a large number of representations from constituents facing considerable hardship in accessing health services in our predominantly rural and remote communities, which is no surprise to me and something that should have been addressed by those opposite. Even in big centres like Yass, Queanbeyan, Cooma and Bega, the ongoing crisis in health workforce recruitment and retention creates daily challenges for people seeking timely and affordable access to routine health services. These difficulties are only exacerbated by the disappearance of bulk-billing GPs. We're committed to improving this and tackling the regional skills crisis. We're incentivising doctors and nurse practitioners to work in rural and remote areas. By wiping their HELP debt, we could save these health professionals between $20,000 and $70,000 a year, and we expect this will attract 850 doctors and nurse practitioners to rural and remote Australia every year across the country, and these communities will be better off under Labor.

We know that Australia needs to respond to the brunt of natural disasters. That's why we have a billion dollars over five years for the Disaster Ready Fund for mitigation projects like flood levies, cyclone shelters, firebreaks and evacuation centres across Australia. The former government's Emergency Response Fund didn't complete a single mitigation project or release a single cent in recovery funding but earnt the former government over $800 million in interest. Unfortunately, it left us dangerously unprepared for increasing natural disasters. But we won't repeat the mistakes of those opposite.

In my own electorate of Eden-Monaro, I've announced that eight organisations and local governments will share in over $2.6 million in federal funding from the $29 million Disaster Risk Reduction Fund. This will support preparedness and prevention strategies and risk mitigation initiatives—something that community members who have been impacted by multiple floods and multiple bushfires have welcomed. We want to be better prepared come the next natural disaster. And our government will implement the Growing Regions Program and the Precincts and Partnerships Program to deliver real transformation our regions need.

The Albanese government continues to clean up the mess left by those opposite. We have a strong vision for regional Australia. We will continue to deliver. We will stand with people when they need us most. We will deliver funding to those who need it when they need it. And only this side of the House is prepared with a positive plan for our future.

3:42 pm

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

Jayawardene, Daryll Cullinan and Gary Kirsten all share the same highest test score. I know the member for Banks here is a bit of a cricket tragic, like me. He would know that that highest score is a number that the Prime Minister won't ever talk about, because it's 275. And I say that because the Prime Minister is going to India. He's going to the fourth test. When he's with Narendra Modi, who happens to be a real cricket tragic, he might want to talk about cricket, and he might get onto that highest score by those three test greats. I remind the House and I remind the Prime Minister again, it's 275—a number that, for some odd reason, just can't come out of his mouth, can't come out of his lips. I wonder why that would be, Member for Banks. Why has the Prime Minister suddenly turned away from 275?

Photo of David ColemanDavid Coleman (Banks, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Because he used to say it a lot!

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party, Shadow Minister for International Development and the Pacific) Share this | | Hansard source

He used to say it a lot. I'll make it really easy for him, because it's a number between 274 and 276. It's 275. Before the election, he said it 97 times. He stood at press conferences. He said 275. He stood in front of hi-vis workers. He said 275. He probably said it with pharmacists behind him—275. Why did he say the number 275? Is it because he likes that test high score by those three test greats that I mentioned? Or is it because he was talking about the amount of money that Labor was going to cut from power bills across the country? We all now know that $275 promise was a fib—a fib to get votes; a fib to convince people that somehow Labor cared about people's power prices; that somehow Labor cared that, when businesses and families went to turn on the switch, they were suddenly going to get a lower power bill. No. They broke that promise. Because that's what Labor governments do. Prior to an election, they say something; after the election, they do something else completely. You can never, ever trust Labor. Don't ever trust Labor for what they say they are going to do. Remember always what Labor does—push prices up.

Today, unfortunately, we've got another rate rise. Another rate rise that's going to have such an impost on those mortgaged homebuyers, those people who are paying off a house. The greatest investment they'll ever make has just become that much more difficult, that much dearer. That's the Labor way. They never, ever see a tax they don't want to jack up. They never, ever see a policy proposal they don't want to put in place if it's going to cost people more. That's the Labor way. When the Prime Minister goes to India, I wish him well. I do. I hope his trade mission is a success. I know he's going with some high-powered players. I know he's going with Alan Joyce and Andrew Forrest and others. I wish him well in his endeavours, because we do need good trade with India. It's one of our largest trading partners. But when he's talking to India's prime minister, I do need him to remember that those trading relationships are built on trust. And the Prime Minister and the Labor Party have broken that trust with the Australian people.

I also want him to remember that trade is built on jobs and opportunities for businesses that rely on lower power prices. When the Prime Minister said 97 times prior to the election that he was going to give a $275 power bill cut, he didn't mean it. We all know he didn't mean it. He didn't mean it. We knew it wouldn't happen, because that's the Prime Minister's way and that's the Labor way. He leads a party with weasel words. They say something prior to an election and do something else completely once they're elected. They've conned the Australian people yet again. But you know what? The Australian people are wise to it. They know what's happening, and they won't—hopefully—make the same mistake again. They'll remember that $275 broken promise, and they'll make sure that they kick this mob out. That's where Labor belongs—being kicked out.

3:47 pm

Photo of Gordon ReidGordon Reid (Robertson, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's always an entertaining session from the member for Riverina. What I think it shows is that the opposition are either living in a dream world or their eyes and ears are just permanently shut. It's a real shame, because if they opened their eyes, if they were listening to what's happening on this side of the House or on the television, they'd be able to see that the Albanese Labor government is focused and absolutely committed to providing Australians with stability, confidence and security.

Apart from that small tidbit of the budget absolutely heaving with a trillion dollars of Liberal Party debt—which we are working responsibly to repair—we also have the challenge of combating inflation. The Albanese Labor government's plan to combat the challenge of inflation is providing cost-of-living relief—cheaper child care, cheaper medicines, repairing our broken supply chains which have exacerbated our inflation challenges, and showing some spending restraint and economic maturity. That's something that the Liberal Party seem to know absolutely nothing about, yet you hear them raving on the television and raving in this chamber about how they're superior economic managers. It beggars belief and makes me laugh.

I'm glad members are here. I'm glad they're all gathered around. Let's just examine a small part of the path that this shameful Liberal and National coalition has taken—a path where they have turned their back on the Australian people. They're an opposition who every question time will have a question relating to energy, yet didn't support the energy bill relief for vulnerable Australians. They're an opposition who believe that our manufacturing should be done offshore and, therefore, an opposition who doesn't back Australian industry. They're an opposition who doesn't back research, doesn't back Australian science, doesn't back Australian innovation and doesn't back Australian know-how. Even more devastatingly, they're an opposition who don't back Australians. Imagine being the so-called alternative government of this country and not backing the people that you came here to represent. They're an opposition who don't support housing for our people, like for women over the age of 50—the fastest-growing group of homeless people in this country. They're not backing housing policy for Indigenous people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. They're not backing a housing policy for our veteran community—people who have put their lives on the line for this nation to preserve our sovereignty—and for those fleeing family and domestic violence.

Let's quickly go through what our government—the Albanese Labor government—is doing for the Australian people. We're providing an increase in the minimum wage, a pay rise for aged-care workers and cheaper early childhood education for millions of Australians, including thousands in my electorate on the Central Coast. That's because Labor know the importance of ensuring children get good foundations in their education. We know that this will ensure that people who want to re-enter the workforce can. Most importantly, it is a targeted, responsible cost-of-living measure. We're providing 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave, because no-one should have to choose between going to work and their safety. We convened a Jobs and Skills Summit and established Jobs and Skills Australia. We've finally ended the cashless debit card. We expanded the Commonwealth seniors health card. We established a Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme. This one I'm particularly proud of: we passed a climate change bill and updated Australia's climate change targets.

We are now advancing a voice to parliament—constitutional recognition for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters, and a voice. We're not talking about people outside the parliament making decisions for the nation. We are simply asking the people who actually live with the issues at hand, who actually truly represent the communities we are discussing, to help us understand their perspectives of the issues and how they affect them. We don't and shouldn't profess to know everything about everything. The most powerful piece of knowledge is knowing when you are missing key information. It's the idea that consulting people with lived experience, and therefore expert knowledge, is what matters.

We're repairing international relations and establishing an anticorruption commission, and that's what the Albanese Labor government is about.

3:52 pm

Photo of Angie BellAngie Bell (Moncrieff, Liberal National Party, Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education) Share this | | Hansard source

Can I say, it's always a pleasure to go after the member for Riverina. He fires up, and everything that he said here in this chamber today is absolutely true, and I agree with every word. At the last election, the Prime Minister promised that life would be better and cheaper under a Labor government. This was a promise he made to the country. Ten months and many, many broken promises later, life has not been better and life has not been cheaper. In fact, life is harder and life is more expensive under an Albanese Labor government. The first promise he made, as the member for Riverina and many that came after him pointed out, was to reduce your electricity bill by $275. He said that 97 times. Gobsmacking! Ninety-seven times on national TV, in print and on radio, the Prime Minister said that your electricity bill would go down by $275. And we've never heard it again from this Prime Minister. It's crickets from those opposite. It's crickets in India. The Prime Minister will be there, and it will be crickets from the Prime Minister to Prime Minister Modi when they talk about that number—$275.

Labor promised they would keep mortgage costs and inflation low. But we continue to watch as interest rates go up, forcing families to struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Labor promised they wouldn't touch franking credits. But they've been caught out adding two sneaky tax grabs on Australian shareholders. Tricky Tony's done it. Labor promised cheaper child care. But centres are struggling to cover the increasing costs of rent, food and wages, and their fees are going up. In fact, child care costs in December went up a whopping 4.5 per cent. Out-of-pocket costs have already gone up 4.5 per cent under this government. That's the largest quarterly increase outside the reversal of COVID measures since 2007. Instead of delivering support for Australian families who need it most, Labor continues to deliver nothing but broken promises. And, just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, today it did! While you struggle to pay your electricity bill or you take that second job to put food on the table, interest rates have gone up again. Labor have decided to break another promise and whack you again. Labor are trying to dip their greedy little hands into your superannuation—and it's not theirs to put their hands into. It's yours!

Then they lied to Australians about whether it would affect them or not. They were exposed in the other place by their own finance minister, who admitted that, actually, one in 10 Aussies will be affected by the changes—not the original 80,000 Australians that the Prime Minister said. It's moving the goalposts and broken promises: they just cannot be trusted. This Labor government wants to take more of your hard-earned money during the cost-of-living crisis and use it for whatever they see fit. That's the problem with Labor; it's never your money. Even if you work hard for it, they see it as their money. And it won't stop at superannuation; that will only be the beginning. They haven't ruled out changes to negative gearing or changes to capital gains tax. Even if they've promised not to touch you, can you trust Labor? Can you trust 'Tricky Tony'? As the shadow minister for youth, I ask—

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Member for Moncrieff; I had hoped you'd learnt from your first error.

Photo of Angie BellAngie Bell (Moncrieff, Liberal National Party, Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education) Share this | | Hansard source

I withdraw, Madam Deputy Speaker—

Photo of Mark CoultonMark Coulton (Parkes, Deputy-Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Please refer to members by their correct titles.

Photo of Angie BellAngie Bell (Moncrieff, Liberal National Party, Shadow Minister for Early Childhood Education) Share this | | Hansard source

Certainly, thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. As the shadow minister for youth, I ask young people—who we know, historically, vote with Labor and their partners, the Greens: what about your super, when you retire? You'll likely need about $3 million by the time you get to your retirement, and this Prime Minister and Treasurer are not indexing their assault on superannuation. That means the amount won't go up with inflation.

Let's think about how Labor are actually setting up the next generation of young people to pay for their grand social agenda. Think about that. To the youth of Australia: Labor is actually setting you up to pay for their future social agenda. As a young person, you cannot afford to trust this Labor government. Labor have said, 'We won't touch your house.' But this government is basically as untrustworthy as the Roald Dahl character Harry Wormwood, Matilda's dodgy second-hand-car-dealing father. At this point, can we trust anything that Labor tells us? We can't. We can't trust Labor to keep promises and we can't trust Labor to run the economy. Labor said it had a plan; its budget shows there is no plan. Australian families deserve to know why Australian families always pay more under Labor.

3:57 pm

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

The Albanese government was elected by Australians to improve their lives, and since May 2022 the government has been working to move away from the inaction of the previous government over the last 10 years. It was 10 years of inaction on health, energy, infrastructure and climate change, and the list goes on. In the short time that we've been in government, we've already delivered on key promises to improve the lives of Australians. The previous government had 22 energy policies and they failed to land one. In less than a year, we've legislated our 2030 emissions target of 43 per cent; our 2050 net zero target; made EVs an option for more drivers; and supported offshore wind farms. And this is only the beginning.

Australians expect our government to make up for the wasted decade under the previous government, and that is just what we're doing. Australia must reap the benefits of a clean energy future, and with the introduction of the New Energy Apprenticeships Program, we will provide support for Australians seeking apprenticeships in the clean energy sector, the sector of the future. Australians voted for a government that will deliver on climate change, and we've delivered on that promise. It's good for the climate and it's also good for Australians, because we know it's the cheapest form of energy. It's renewable, and it's good for our standing in the world—to be seen, finally, as somewhere which wants to make the changes necessary to address climate change, especially in the Pacific.

We've promised to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, to improve the lives of our older Australians. We've addressed 37 recommendations of the royal commission directly by putting nurses back into nursing homes, introducing mandatory care minutes and ensuring that Australians have access to transparent information on aged-care homes. Our older Australians built this nation, and they deserve to have access to adequate health care and aged care when they need it.

We promised to deliver cheaper medicines so Australians could continue to have access to affordable medications and not have to choose which ones to give up. From 1 January 2023, our government reduced the PBS co-payment by $12.50—the first time it's fallen in 75 years. In the months of January and February alone, 3.2 million prescriptions were cheaper, with four out of five receiving the full $12.50 discount. Australians are $36 million better off in just two months of this year. If that is replicated across the entire year, that will save Australians a total of $218 million, but, more importantly, they will get the medications and the health care they deserve.

The Albanese government promised to implement our cheaper childcare policy, and on 1 July we will deliver. Around 96 per cent of families in Australia will be better off under this policy. That's 1.26 million families. A family with a combined income of $90,000 with one child in early education and care will be $1,100 better off a year.

We've delivered on increasing the income threshold for the Commonwealth seniors health card. Just recently, 10,000 additional older Australians and veterans gained access to the Commonwealth seniors health card. That's 10,000 Australians with access to cheaper medicines and additional benefits.

The Albanese government is also delivering on its promise to build more social and affordable housing for the most vulnerable Australians. We passed the Housing Australia Future Fund Bill 2023 in the House in the last sitting. This will be the largest investment by a federal government in social and affordable housing in a decade. But the bill was opposed by the coalition, who found an ally in the Greens who abstained on a plan to build 30,000 new social and affordable homes.

We promised to implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full, and this year Australians will have the opportunity to vote on an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament.

There isn't enough time in the debate today to discuss everything our government has accomplished since it was elected, but I am also thinking about the National Anti-Corruption Commission, getting wages moving and the Energy Price Relief Plan. All on this side of the House are committed every day to making Australia a better, kinder place that delivers our positive agenda to improve the lives of all Australians. Unfortunately, those opposite seem to continue to say no. We know what Australians voted for, and we will continue to do our plan.

4:02 pm

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

Before I spend some time talking about the broken promises of this Albanese government, particularly in my electorate of Casey, I would remind those opposite and especially my friend the member for Robertson, who I do like and respect—I notice that he went with the $1 trillion debt claim. I expect that from the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, but, and I know I've spoken to him about it before, the budget papers are very clear: it's $514 billion in net debt. It's in the papers. It would be nice if we could stick to facts in these discussions.

But onto the broken promises from this government: the residents of Casey know that the Albanese government have broken promises. The roads for communities program was slated to seal over 150 kilometres of roads in my electorate. We have over 734 kilometres of unsealed roads in the seat of Casey. This project was needed to improve lives, improve safety, get people home quicker and allow emergency services access to our most remote areas, and it had bipartisan support. Prime Minister Albanese, when he was in opposition, committed to this program 'to build the safe roads our communities need'. In the October budget, he ripped that money out of our community, and he broke his promise.

I was at the Kallista Flood Watch event last Thursday night. I want to thank Mark and Karen from Kallista Flood Watch for organising that event and the many residents who turned up and shared their stories. There are many stories that were really impactful, and I would love to share them all today, but I can't. I think the one that impacted us the most was from Mel, who was the last speaker of the night. She shared her story of how her four-wheel drive was rolling backwards on a dirt road, and it was a matter of seconds and just good luck, as she said, that her car with her daughter in it didn't roll backwards onto a main road and get hit by a truck that had just gone past the intersection. That's what we're talking about. By ripping this money out of my community, by breaking its promise, the Albanese government is putting the lives of the residents of Casey at risk. They said it at the time. Under questioning in December, the department admitted that this project improves safety. They have broken their promise and ripped this money out of our community. I'm calling on the Albanese government to put this money back into the May budget and admit that they made a mistake and broke a promise. Over 20,000 residents in Casey are impacted. They live on these roads every day—whether it's the safety risk or whether it's the health risk of breathing in the dust. And there are many others who travel these roads on a daily basis. So I call on the government to return that funding to our community.

It's not just dirt roads in Casey that this government have broken their promise on. There is $110 million for the Wellington Road duplication that, again, they committed to when in opposition and are now refusing to fund. That is impacting the residents of Casey, La Trobe and Aston. That is a road that would get emergency services onto our mountains in a time of emergency and allow residents to get off.

This government needs to also pressure the state Labor government in Victoria to spend the $20 million to upgrade Killara Road. That money was funded in 2019. The state government was given $20 million to deliver that project in 2019. That project has not started. The state Labor government in Victoria is now talking about pulling that funding into other projects, which we in the outer east know is code for 'suburban rail link'. The Albanese government needs to pressure the Victorian government to deliver on their promise to fix the Killara Road intersection. It's a dangerous intersection. Sean Bethell, a CFA captain, has advocated and spoken repeatedly about how important this funding is. It's getting worse because a bike pump track has been installed about 500 metres down the road from that intersection. We have now got young children leaving the estate to go and get some exercise and crossing Melba Highway—crossing a major road—with no lights. Lives are at risk. The Victorian state government need to deliver on this promise. The Albanese government need to make sure they honour the commitment they made when they received that $20 million from the federal government.

These are just two examples of this Albanese Labor government continuing to break their promises, leaving the residents of Casey worse off.

4:07 pm

Photo of Sam LimSam Lim (Tangney, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In my electorate of Tangney, we have so many people crying out loudly about the cost of living. I recently went doorknocking in the leafy suburb of Shelley, overlooking the Swan River. I spoke to many householders, and this was the first concern on people's minds. Once upon a time, $100 could get you pretty far. Now, you pay the same amount of money, but you get a fraction of the value. Tangney is an electorate which is filled with hard workers. Having migrated to the electorate of Tangney when I first came to Australia from Malaysia, my family chose to live in this area because it is full of aspirational people who want to do well and have a comfortable life. As a result, Tangney is seen as being very affluent and privileged in comparison to other areas. But that does not mean that the everyday concern of things being more expensive does not affect them.

Tangney also has a lot of self-funded retirees. They do not benefit from the Commonwealth by accessing the pension, because the value of their assets is too high. But that doesn't mean that they have infinite cash flow. One key benefit which many in my electorate were excited about was the passing of changes to access the Commonwealth's seniors health card. Since November last year, single, self-funded retirees who have reached the government age pension age of 66½ years can now qualify for a concessional senior health card, where their income is $90,000. Couples can get cards where their joint annual income is $144,000. If a couple is separated by illness, this was increased to $180,000. This was so significant, because, under the last government, it was only $57,000 for singles, but now it is $90,000. It was only $92,000 for a couple, but now it is $144,000. It was $115,000 for couples separated by illness, but now, under the Labor government, it is $180,000. I was contacted by so many constituents thanking this Labor government for the expansion of this benefit.

Also for the first time in this 75-year history, the maximum cost of general scripts under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, otherwise known as the PBS, has fallen. Since 1 January 2023, millions of Australians pay almost 30 per cent less for their PBS scripts, with the maximum general co-payment dropping from $42.50 to $30. This amount will then be indexed on the first day of every new year from 1 January 2024. This means that someone taking one medication a month could save as much as $150 every year, or for two or three medications, they could save as much as $300 to $450 a year. Many of my constituents were also extremely happy about these changes.

I doorknocked almost 20,000 houses in every suburb, which the previous member did not do at all. So, when I talk about what our government has delivered for the people to help them with their everyday, I can say with confidence, based on my conversations speaking with everyday Australians within my electorate, a lot.

Our government is serious about delivering our election commitments and easing the cost-of-living pressure left by the former Liberal government. I'm so proud to say we have done it, we will continue to do it, and we, as a team, will deliver a better future for Australians.

4:11 pm

Photo of Andrew WillcoxAndrew Willcox (Dawson, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to express my and my electorate's disappointment on the Albanese Labor government's ongoing list of broken election promises. During the 2022 election campaign, we were promised that Australians would be better off under Labor. Ten months into the Albanese government's leadership, it is clear history is repeating itself. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd promised many election commitments, then left a trail of backflips and broken promises. Following in Kevin Rudd's footsteps, Prime Minister Albanese is on record prior to the election stating that he would not meddle with retirement savings if Labor were elected. He said, 'We have no intention of making any super changes.' Yet the Prime Minister and his Treasurer announced only a couple of weeks ago that they were, in fact, coming after our super. Prime Minister Albanese claims that these changes will only affect a small number of Australians, yet they have failed to consult industry and peak bodies and are forgetting about our farmers. For many farmers, their land and their farms are their superannuation, and it is common practice to hold land assets in superannuation. Labor's announcement throws up significant uncertainty for family farms, with scant detail on things like grandfathering, treatment of re-evaluations and the impact on lending in a climate of rising interest rates.

Labor promised that no-one would be held back and no-one would be left behind, but 30 per cent of Australians who live in regional areas have been left behind. Under Labor, the regions have had over $6 billion cut from their dam funding, opportunities that have been taken away. We have seen mobile black spot funding slashed and road infrastructure funding slashed. Multimillion dollar regional programs have been scrapped under Labor, including the Energy Security and Regional Development Plan, the Regional Accelerator Program, the Community Development Fund and the Building Better Regions Fund. They're all gone.

Since Labor, groceries are eight per cent higher. The Albanese Labor government have done nothing to combat workforce shortages, which are driving prices up. Instead, they decided to scrap the coalition ag visa, leaving farmers with uncertainty and consumers with food shortages. The Albanese government promised that power prices would be reduced by $275. This was not just a slip of the tongue. This promise was repeated over 97 times. It's another broken promise. Treasurer Chalmers has forecast electricity prices will rise by 23 per cent in 2023. He provided no new relief measures for households in his October budget and no future plan. Australians with mortgages are buckling under the pressure, and the RBA has just lifted interest rates for the 10th consecutive time. The Albanese government's only solution to this is to break promises and to increase taxes.

The Albanese Labor government has also turned its back on vulnerable Australians by slashing mental health support. This is a tragic repeat of history, as the current health minister cut the same program back in 2011. The Albanese government has once again disregarded experts, peak bodies and medical professionals, who have all called for these psychology sessions to be reinstated.

Let's not forget that, leading up to the 2022 federal election, Prime Minister Albanese and his party promised there would be no carbon tax. Labor promised that not a single Australian coalmine would be impacted by their policy to reduce carbon emissions, but after the election the Albanese government said that any new gas or coal project would automatically come under the remit of the safeguard mechanism, which is essentially the carbon tax 2.0.

As we can all see, history shows us that the Labor Party are very good at making promises but are just not very good at keeping them. Australians are struggling under the Albanese government. Australians are not better off under the Albanese government. Why do we always pay more under Labor?

4:16 pm

Photo of Cassandra FernandoCassandra Fernando (Holt, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

During the federal election last year, the Australian Labor Party, led by the current Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, promised to deliver a better future for every Australian. We are dealing with circumstances that occur once in a generation. With the substantial slowdown of economies around the world, an environment of high inflation, the RBA recommendation to raise interest rates and a succession of natural disasters, the Albanese Labor government is facing unique situations that no-one could foresee. Yet we have gotten on with tackling these challenges, introducing a range of policies that will benefit this country not only for months to come but even for the coming decades. Indeed, this government can be aptly described by Joe Kennedy's saying, 'When the going gets tough, the tough get going.'

For the first time in its 75-year history, the maximum cost of general scripts under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, known as the PBS, has fallen. Australians began paying 30 per cent less for PBS scripts from 1 July this year, meaning someone taking one medication a month could save as much as $150 annually. This change brings significant relief to millions of Australians like me, who depend on PBS medications. The maximum cost for PBS medications has doubled since 2000, and I am proud the Albanese Labor government is delivering on its commitment to reduce medication costs.

Similarly, childcare costs ballooned over the last few years due to the continued apathy of the Liberal-National coalition government. I am glad the Albanese government has locked in more affordable early education for families in Holt. The passage of the cheaper childcare legislation means that, from July this year, around 96 per cent of families with a child in early childhood education and care will benefit. It will also mean the childcare subsidy for families earning $80,000 or less will increase to 90 per cent. A family with a combined income of $120,000 with one child in care will be $1,780 better off in the first year under the reforms. This policy delivers real cost-of-living relief while boosting productivity. It is a significant reform that is good for children, good for families and good for the economy.

As a TAFE student who completed a certificate IV in patisserie and a diploma in hospitality management I was thrilled to speak about this government's fee-free TAFE policy at William Angliss alumni International Women's Day breakfast last week. School leavers and people in Holt wanting to retrain, upskill and re-enter the workforce are encouraged to enrol in one of more than 55,000 fee-free TAFE and VET places on offer in Victoria in 2023. Along with tackling skill shortages, these places will benefit the people of Holt by providing opportunities for school leavers and people wanting to retrain or upskill to get back into the workforce.

The Albanese Labor government is investing in our greatest resources, our people, to give them the skills and training they need to harness the jobs and opportunities of the future. Whether it's the need to build our care sector, construction, hospitality and tourism, or technology and digital sectors, we must deliver these skills during the acute skill shortages. We have a government that delivers and an opposition that refuses to learn anything other than saying no. They say no to a National Reconstruction Fund, no to the Housing Australia Future Fund, no to the safeguard mechanisms and clean energy, no to a First Nations' Voice to Parliament—just simply plain no.

The Albanese Labor government is working to clean up a decade of waste and a decade of stagnation in ideas and delivery. Still those opposite don't want to support future Australian needs. The only people who have broken these promises are the opposition. They promised to learn from their mistakes after the last federal election but have repeatedly demonstrated they are far from doing so. I thank the House.

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The discussion is now concluded.