House debates

Tuesday, 21 March 2023

Matters of Public Importance


3:25 pm

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

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

The Prime Minister's broken promise to cut energy bills by $275.

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 Ted O'BrienTed O'Brien (Fairfax, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker—including a thank you for your ruling. It's a reminder to all of us to be very mindful of the importance of dates in this place.

I start this MPI by reflecting on the date of 3 December 2021, for that was the day the Labor Party launched its Powering Australia plan. That was the date when the now Prime Minister first made his promise to reduce household power bills by $275. That promise—broken. On 5 December 2021, in making Labor's 'Plan for a Better Future' speech, the now Prime Minister promised the Australian people that household power bills would be reduced by $275; that promise is broken. On 9 March 2022, the now Prime Minister, in a speech to the AFR at its 'new platform for growth' conference, promised the Australian people that household power bills would be reduced by $275. That promise—broken. On 1 May 2022, the now Prime Minister promised the Australian people he would reduce power prices for households by $275; that promise is broken. On 7 May 2022, the now Prime Minister promised at another Labor launch that they would reduce power prices for Australian households by $275; that promise has since been broken. On 18 May 2022, at the National Press Club, the now Prime Minister made it very clear to the Australian people that he had a solid bond with them, and he made a promise to reduce household power bills by $275; that promise has since been broken.

You see, Deputy Speaker Claydon, dates do matter, and so, too, do promises. All I've rattled off here is half a dozen of the times when the Prime Minister and the Labor Party had promised the Australian people to reduce household power bills by $275. On 97 occasions this promise was made to the Australian people. It's not just the Prime Minister who is at fault here; every single member of the Labor Party who sits opposite is at fault and is guilty of breaking this promise. Every single Labor Party MP and candidate went to the last election promising constituents in their electorates that their household power bills would come down by $275. Every single time they made that promise, they were making a promise that would not be delivered—a promise that, instead, would be broken. Yet we have question after question from the coalition put to the Prime Minister during question time, raising issues on behalf of constituents—families that are struggling, small businesses that are struggling—asking the Prime Minister if he will commit to the $275 promise. But the Prime Minister refuses to make that commitment. He won the election of the back of that promise and now he is breaking the hearts of Australian households and their budgets by breaking that very promise.

Every single Labor MP that is going to stand up as a part of this debate and try and defend their record, try and defend their Prime Minister, is standing up as part of a protection racket, trying to protect a prime minister who has told an untruth to the Australian people. He sits here at every single question time and seeks to bat away questions that come on behalf of constituents, on behalf of Australian families, who are amidst a cost-of-living crisis today. This prime minister is completely removed, completely out of touch, and the protection racket no doubt will continue over the next 20, 30 or 40 minutes as Labor MPs come up and try to defend the fact that they broke a promise of a $275 reduction in household power bills.

The Prime Minister is from New South Wales. There are parts of New South Wales that, by the end of next financial year, will have seen their average power bill go up by $933 since the Prime Minister made that promise.

Photo of Andrew WallaceAndrew Wallace (Fisher, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

How much?

Photo of Ted O'BrienTed O'Brien (Fairfax, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

'How much?' the member for Fisher very wisely asks. Power prices will go up by $933. Do you know how much they promised to get them down by?

Photo of Andrew WallaceAndrew Wallace (Fisher, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source


Photo of Ted O'BrienTed O'Brien (Fairfax, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Fisher wins the prize today. If you add the $275 to the $933 and round it off, basically the Prime Minister has promised to reduce power bills by $1,200 more than they are actually going to pay. That's the variance: $1,200. So anybody in Sydney, especially Western Sydney, which is represented in part by the minister responsible, the Minister for Climate Change and Energy, next time you see the minister, make sure you tell him he owes you $1,200. Next time you see the Prime Minister, make sure you tell him he owes you $1,200. Anybody in New South Wales, next time you see a Labor MP, tell them they owe you $1,200.

There was a Western Sydney mum of three who was reported on in the Daily Telegraph last week. This mum of three has already made the decision that in winter, especially if it gets tough, she won't be able to turn on the heating. This is a mum of three kids. She won't be able to turn on the heating, so instead it's blankets and socks. She's already planning ahead for the winter because this government has broken its promise of a $275 reduction in household power bills.

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

In 10 years, a decade, you didn't land one.

Photo of Ted O'BrienTed O'Brien (Fairfax, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

I take the interjection from the minister at the table here, talking about a decade. She's right. She's right in two parts. Firstly, it was a decade that saw power prices come down. In the last term of government alone—this is probably why the minister is so interested—household power bills came down by eight per cent, businesses by 10 per cent, industry by 12 per cent—

Honourable members interjecting

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

Member for Fairfax, just be quiet for a moment, please. There are a lot of interjections going on, and I am finding it quite difficult to hear. I'm hearing a lot of interjections. Just dial it down, otherwise I will rule on you.

Photo of Ted O'BrienTed O'Brien (Fairfax, Liberal Party, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy) Share this | | Hansard source

In the last term of government alone, household prices went down by eight per cent, business prices down by 10 per cent, industry prices down by 12 per cent. Under this government, prices are going up. We've already spoken about how much they're going up. The draft DMO was announced last week. These are retail prices that are going to be going up from 1 July this year: in New South Wales households, there'll be an increase of $564; in South Australia, it's $485 up; in South-East Queensland, it's $383 up; in regional Queensland, it's $430 up; in Victoria it's $426 up.

We're talking about a decade—a decade in which the Coalition was able to get the balance right. We reduced emissions, kept the economy strong and kept prices down. Labor had a decade of dithering, a decade to put a policy together. And what do they do? They put a policy together, the core promise of which is a reduction in household power bills by $275. Has that promise been delivered or broken? It has been broken, and every single Labor MP is guilty. Last Christmas people were told they would receive relief from this government flowing in April. We've since heard they're not going to get that relief in April at all. This government is breaking promises in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, and there is no greater promise they have broken than that of the $275 reduction in household power bills.

3:35 pm

Photo of Justine ElliotJustine Elliot (Richmond, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

I, too, rise to speak on this MPI, and I start by noting the fact that the opposition got the date wrong when they put this matter of public importance in. They put 9 March 2023, but do you know what? They may as well have put 1800, because that's where their views are when it comes to climate change. You know what they'll probably say?

Hon. Members:

Honourable members interjecting

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

If members are going to leave the House, leave quietly. If you are going to yell as you leave, I will call you back.

Photo of Justine ElliotJustine Elliot (Richmond, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Social Services) Share this | | Hansard source

They'll probably say it was somebody else's fault, because they never take responsibility for anything at all. I can't believe they actually come in here and lecture us after their decade of inaction, especially when it comes to energy policy and climate change, and their lack of responsibility. It's a fact that, due to their decade of inaction, we find ourselves in the position we are in today. That's the reality of it, and Australians know it.

I thought that, first of all, they might have got the date right when they put in their MPI. But maybe they could have talked about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. Did you read that? I thought they might have come here and wanted to discuss that. It highlights the urgent need for ambitious climate action—action we are taking. They didn't bring that up. No. The IPCC report highlighted the importance of getting on with the job of ambitious reforms in climate and energy, which we are doing. That's the reality. The fact is that we've taken action to take the sting out of power prices and to invest in the cheapest form of energy: renewables. That's a fact. Of course, as I said, they failed to do that for the entire time that they were in government.

Let's take a bit of time to look at the record of the Liberals and Nationals. It's quite a long track record when it comes to their inaction. Firstly, they voted against the $1.5 billion in direct bill relief to those Australians who need it the very most. They voted against price caps, which are already having an impact on prices. And of course, as we know, the member for Hume hid the price rises before the election and then misled Australians about it. We all remember the 22 energy policies, and they just didn't land one. Every other week there seemed to be some other different plan, and they never actually landed one. It was always just bits and pieces here and there, but never any concrete action. One of the worst things is that the former government refused, absolutely refused, to invest in the cheapest form of energy: renewables. And they left us with an energy grid built for the last century. Yet here they are now opposing the safeguard mechanism—their own policy. Businesses and industry want this. They need the certainty and they need stability. The opposition should be listening to what the business community is saying with that. So we—everyone, all Australians—are now paying the price for their decade of neglect, delay and denial on energy policy. In fact, those opposite are frozen in time whilst the world warms around them.

I particularly want to note the inaction of the National Party. As I've said many times in this place, National Party choices hurt. That can be seen across a whole range of policy areas, but their lack of action when it comes to climate change has been incredibly detrimental to those in regional and rural Australia. They consistently fail those in the country. And on this action—an issue that is so important to those in the country—time and time again they fail them. Even now they continue to fail them. And don't forget that the Liberals and Nationals in New South Wales sold off the poles and wires as well, which has added to the crisis. So we've seen that, across the board, at a federal level and at a state level, those Nationals have walked away from the people in rural and regional Australia.

As I mentioned before, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was released last night and confirms what we already know: that there is a rapidly closing window for transformative climate action both here and around world. We know we have to see action, and we are acting in relation to that. We've seen the increasing number of devastating climate events that we've had in recent years. In communities like mine, which have suffered so much, with the devastating floods we had just over a year ago, we are living the fact that there has been a decade of inaction on climate change by the previous government. So many in our community are still suffering because of the impact of the floods. Now, after this decade of denial and delay, Australia has a federal government that is committed to taking serious action on climate change.

I find it unbelievable that, even today, those opposite won't support the reforms to the safeguard mechanism before the parliament. This is the first opportunity in over a decade for action to bring down emissions from Australia's largest emitters. The parliament has a choice to seize this opportunity or to absolutely squander it. Of course, if passed, our safeguard reforms will come into effect in just over 100 days from now. With only 82 months left before 2030, it's critical that we seize every possible day of the remaining time to drive down emissions. We have to be doing that.

As I said, we've had this decade of denial, but now we have a government that is acting. We're very proud that we've legislated Australia's target of a 43 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030, along with net zero by 2050, supercharging a new offshore wind industry and delivering the $20 billion Rewiring the Nation investment to decarbonise our grid and take us to 82 per cent renewables by 2030. We're doing that because on this side of the House we understand how important action is and we are so committed to investment in renewables. We are delivering huge investments in renewable energy, and record investments are being put forward by the private sector as well because of our policies.

We're also working hard to deliver on the $400 million in community batteries. This is in addition to the $176 million from ARENA for eight large-scale batteries. Since we've come into power, large-scale wind and solar farming investment has grown significantly. We have also seen a huge take-up in rooftop solar, with over 300,000 families investing in these systems in the second half of last year. We are working hard. In the last 10 months, we have set Australia on a credible path to net zero because our national interest absolutely depends on it and, importantly, our economy depends on it for the jobs and growth of the future.

This is what our community voted for. One of the many reasons they voted the previous government out is its inaction on climate change, and we are delivering on our commitment to take action. We are absolutely focused on transforming Australia's economy to a low-carbon economy. It is the most important thing that we can do to support the ambitious international action that is necessary to contain global warming.

Australians deserve protection from the impacts of climate change. This is an issue that I hear about every day in my community because we have lived the devastating effects of inaction. It resonates through a community for a very long period of time. In fact, in my area it will take years and years to recover from the devastating floods. It is often hard to articulate how that impacts throughout the community. There are the obvious distressing examples of people losing their homes, their businesses and all their possessions, but when communities are destroyed there is a huge impact upon individuals. They are triggered often by so many things. These events create much sustained trauma when they hit. Yes, we can look at it in purely bricks-and-mortar terms and financial terms, but the trauma throughout families and communities goes on for years and years. That's why taking action is so incredibly important. People in areas like mine and in the areas of many other members in the House have lived through that. That's why action is so immensely important and why we as a government are taking action.

As I say, Australians voted for action on climate change because we know how vitally important it is. It was without a doubt one of the biggest issues at the election, time and time again. People were frustrated for many years, with many different prime ministers under the previous government refusing to take action. There were just weasel words after weasel words and no set planning at all.

Here we are now with business demanding certainty. They need to have that certainty in place. They were calling out to the Liberals and Nationals to provide that certainty to them, and the Liberals and Nationals are still refusing to do it after all of these years. They still just keep digging in. As I said at the beginning, it may as well be in the 1800s, the way these people think about things. They need to start listening to the community. They need to start talking to people. In particular, members in the National Party should start talking to people in regional and rural Australia. What they will tell you clearly is that, when the Liberals and Nationals were in government, they failed the people of regional Australia when they didn't act. Here they are now, still refusing to act. You should start listening to people in the country, in the cities and everywhere, who do want to have action on climate change. The fact is we are focused on delivering that. We are doing that and we are very proud to be delivering, finally, real action on climate change in this country.

3:45 pm

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

I think it's important that I actually read out the topic for the MPI. It's:

The Prime Minister's broken promise to cut energy bills by $275.

It was put forward by the member for Fairfax. I'm not sure the memo got to the other side. Hopefully, the other speakers will actually address the topic. I didn't hear anything about electricity or energy prices for struggling families, struggling pensioners, struggling single mothers and single fathers, and small businesses who may question whether they can still stay open. It wasn't addressed at all. Instead we got the usual slogans—slogans like 'decade of denial and delay', 'the cheapest form of energy is renewables' and 'serious action on climate change.' Those slogans aren't going to help the young families, pensioners and small businesses in my community pay their power bills. Slogans won't help. It's easy for us in this place. We're paid well. We're paid enough that we don't have to worry or sweat when the power bill comes in. Most Australians aren't. They're on a lot less money than we are. It may give you comfort on a politician's salary to talk about slogans, but it doesn't give comfort to Australians who are struggling.

We heard in the election last year a lot of lessons. Whenever you're in opposition, you must eat some humble pie, and we did. One of the top issues was integrity, and the most important part about integrity is trust. You trust what people say, and the test is what they do. On that, we will never forget what the Attorney-General did in this place. What he did was disgraceful.

When Australians looked the Prime Minister, the then opposition leader, in the eye, he looked down the camera and gave them that promise so many times—97 times. We've heard the reply about the war in Ukraine and supply chain problems. Of course those are challenges, but they were challenges when he made that promise. To still go ahead and make the promise in those circumstances is either dishonest or desperate or maybe a bit of both. In the desperation to move from these benches to those benches, he looked down the camera and told Australians what he thought they wanted to hear, not what they needed to know. What they need to know now is that the government has their back.

In question time we had many of my colleagues speak directly to the Prime Minister and the other ministers about people in their electorates who are struggling. They've named them, and they have to ask permission for that. There are many people who write to us and would prefer that their names aren't read out in this place. They're real people with real problems who, when we use their names, tune in and listen to the response, and they note that there is no answer in the response. There is no answer to their problems.

I'm a Victorian, and there are particularly concerning statistics for Victorian energy prices. In a week and a half we'll have a by-election in the seat of Aston. There are many families in Bayswater, Ferntree Gully, Knox, Rowville and Scoresby who are struggling and small businesses that are struggling to pay their bills and will question whether they will stay open. Here are the statistics for Victoria. The number of affected customers for the draft determinations—and the finals will be made in May—is 2,666,000. For small businesses it's 289,474. That's so many. That's almost three MCGs of small-business owners who are really struggling.

I'll give an example from my electorate: Fratelli Engineering. We talk about making things in Australia; we hear that a lot from the other side. Fratelli Engineering actually makes things in Australia. They are a small business that employs people in huge numbers in my electorate, but they don't know whether they will survive past this year. There are many pressures, but No. 1, after wages, is the cost of energy. If that business closes, that's a great tragedy. That business opened in the 1990s, set up as a family business. In fact, it's in their name: Fratelli means 'brothers' in Italian. To that company, to Sam Leo, who's the owner and managing director: I'm sorry that you were given that promise.

Anyone in small business knows that when you hear a promise and you rely on it, you make plans. So, when Australians heard the promise by the Prime Minister, they made plans, and they also gave a commitment, the most important commitment that they could give, which was their vote. A vote is trust. That trust has been abused by this Prime Minister and this government.

3:50 pm

Photo of Marion ScrymgourMarion Scrymgour (Lingiari, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

As I rise to speak on this MPI, I'm getting a sense of deja vu, standing here speaking on this issue. I feel like I've spoken to it before. I guess this is what happens when you have a directionless opposition, an opposition who are desperate to try and get one over a government which we all know is doing all it can do to address the cost-of-living challenges facing Australians.

If the opposition wants to keep throwing mud and playing cheap politics—because that's what it is—I'll keep reminding them, particularly being from the Northern Territory and holding the seat of Lingiari, who caused this mess. The foundations for the energy price problems we see today were laid by those opposite. When you have an incompetent government like the Morrison government was, you see long-term issues take root. When you fail to plan and prepare for the future, you create a mess. Luckily, the Albanese Labor government is stepping up to clean this mess.

A high cost of living and intractable effects of energy prices are a hard thing for anyone to cope with, but are particularly hard in regional and remote Australia. I know, in my electorate of Lingiari, my constituents are hurting right now. I hear about it on the way to the shops. I see it in our communities. I see it on the shelves of my local shopping centres. I see it on the street. I know just how tough Territorians, particularly in Lingiari, are finding things, particularly amongst some of our families.

With these challenges, it has been important to be part of an Albanese government that is implementing its key cost-of-living reforms—cutting the cost of child care, making medicines cheaper, investing in our regional economies and working on our new remote employment program. All of these will go towards easing the cost-of-living burden on families in my electorate of Lingiari. Unlike those opposite, the Albanese Labor government has an agenda. It's an ambitious one but one that will greatly benefit the people of Lingiari and, indeed, all remote and regional Australia.

Part of our government's agenda is to work on energy prices but also on energy more broadly. Last year, in a special sitting of parliament, we passed legislation that would cap the price of energy. This meant that Australian homes would be spared huge increases in energy prices. I remind those opposite that they voted against this price cap and rebates for working people. Recently, we had a by-election in the Northern Territory. Energy prices were part of the discussion we had, and I can tell you the result of that by-election was to vote against what those opposite stood for. Those opposite voted against any changes that would benefit people in regional and remote communities. So I echo the words of the Prime Minister. You don't come in here as opposition, talk about energy prices and then stand up and vote against measures to curb them. Be honest with the community and tell them exactly what you do outside of this House. Talk about how what you vote against are measures that can actually help some of those families.

The member for Fairfax talked about protection rackets. I think that the biggest protection racket is how the opposition protected the member for Hume, who hid a certain policy and information from the community before the last election. You talk about protection rackets, and that is the biggest protection racket. They should be honest with their electorates and their constituents, but they are being dishonest on a number of fronts. One of them is their policy that they hid when they went to the last election. The reason so many families are doing it tough is that those opposite did not know how to do the hard yards. We know what good policy is all about. We are revitalising the national energy grid, we are investing in clean energy for the future and we are building a skilled workforce to go with it. But, for now, we will work to help Australians with energy costs and we will continue to ease the cost of living for people.

3:55 pm

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

I rise today to remind the Prime Minister of the broken promise to Australians. The Prime Minister promised a reduction of $275 to Australian power bills if Labor was elected into government. This was no accident, and it wasn't just a slip of the tongue. It was promised 97 times—not 10, not 20, not even 50, but 97 times. Like many Australian kids, it was instilled in me to always stick by my word. The people of Dawson were expecting the Prime Minister of Australia to stick to his word, and, in this cost-of-living crisis that we are experiencing, every dollar counts. When I was elected, I promised the people of Dawson that I would stand up for what was best for them, and I intend to honour that promise. Residents in Dawson are suffering from the rising cost-of-living crisis and are tired of the Albanese Labor government's growing list of broken promises.

As we face the cost-of-living crisis, it is important for those sitting opposite to understand, whatever is happening in the cities, the regions are doing it tougher. Let me give you just one real-life example of what it's like to live in the regions. Tashia has recently moved back to Mackay from Brisbane, where she has lived for over 18 years. Here is what she told me, and these are her words: 'I was shocked moving back to Mackay. In Mackay we are subject to extremely high insurance rates, 100 to 400 per cent higher than in southern cities, much higher council rates, higher electricity prices with zero energy retail competitors, lower feed-in solar tariffs and rising interest rates.' That's like the rest of the nation.

'At what point do we get a break? At what point is Mackay a place where families can settle for the long term? It is cheaper to rent in Brisbane than it is to buy here in Mackay for a lesser property. Something needs to be done. It should not be unrealistic to live in Mackay, but due to the exorbitant cost of living we now have a floundering social and community presence. People are struggling just to live, so they don't have an opportunity to spend money eating out at restaurants. The town can't thrive. If there was cost-of-living relief, residents would be investing back into the community, into local businesses, local hospitality, making the town a more attractive place to live. It's so sad to see a place I grew up in now as an adult. Mackay is a beautiful place. The community just needs to be given a chance.'

Tashia's email to me is just one example of thousands highlighting the struggle that people in regional electorates and in my regional electorate are facing. Yet the Albanese government are telling us that a 30 per cent increase in energy prices is an excellent outcome and there is nothing to worry about. On top of this, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Climate Change and Energy are spending their time pushing through another carbon tax. This is being done by stealth, via the changes to the safeguard mechanism, which will make the cost-of-living crisis even worse. Labor promised us lower power prices, promised us lower mortgages, promised us our mining jobs were safe, promised us a full-time nurse in all aged-care facilities. They promised our super would be safe: all of these promises—broken.

Labor also promised 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. On top of all these Labor broken promises, we've had cuts. Under Labor we've seen a cut of over $6 billion in dam funding—opportunities just taken away. We've seen mobile phone black spot funding and road infrastructure funding slashed. Multibillion-dollar regional programs have been scrapped under Labor, including the Energy Security and Regional Development Plan, the Regional Accelerator Program, community development grants and the Building Better Regions Fund. All gone! As we can see, history shows us that the Labor Party are very good at making promises, they're just no good at keeping them. Australians always pay more under Labor.

4:00 pm

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It takes some serious front from those opposite to put forward an MPI about cutting energy bills. They must really have a low opinion of ordinary men and women across Australia who have been struggling with the cost of living for years under their watch. They governed for all those years—it was almost a decade—and I challenge any member opposite to identify the date at which people started feeling cost-of-living pressures. When did the cost of living become an issue for ordinary Australians? Was it a month ago? Six months ago? A year ago, perhaps?

I challenge any of you opposite to look any one of my constituents in the eye and tell them, 'Things were good for you more than a year ago.' I challenge any of you opposite to say that a year ago cost of living was low, that you never had to worry about your mortgage. That a year ago power bills were low and keeping the lights on was never a factor for household budgets. That a year ago going to the supermarket was a breeze. My constituents would surely give those opposite a reality check. It has actually been a decade of lost years under the watch of those opposite—a decade where power bills were high; a decade where cost of living meant you had to choose between one household item over another. Those opposite would have you believe that things have only just started to get difficult for my constituents, so they either have a low opinion of themselves to be able to put forward such a proposition, or a low opinion of the Australian people. I dare say it's both.

We didn't see any policy from the coalition governments that even began to address the real cost-of-living concerns. Cost of living is a huge concern to my constituents, and two of the most expensive but essential items on the family budget are power and petrol. The previous government's inaction did absolutely nothing to arrest the escalating costs of essential resources. That's why people in my electorate know and understand the importance of a functioning government. They know that it is critical for government to intervene and put forward policies that reverse negative trends.

The importance of providing secure and stable settings for energy is not lost on my electorate in terms of their household bills and for local jobs in established and emerging industries. So while the Albanese government prioritise households, businesses and industry, the Liberal-Nationals have voted against every dollar of price relief, choosing higher bills over protecting Australians. The only relief provided by those opposite was actually them moving across to the other side of this House because this country could not to afford another decade of a Liberal-National government.

Facts are important to any debate, so I'd like to run through some. Treasury projected a 20 per cent increase in 2023 and a 36 per cent increase in 2023-24. The draft default market offer is up to 29 points lower than the AER projected in late 2022—more than halving the increase that was expected before the government acted on skyrocketing coal and gas prices. This is up to $341 less for households in my electorate than the increase that would otherwise have occurred. This shows that urgent government action to shield Australians from the worst energy price rises is working, and I support this government's commitment to further action that will be critical to help households and businesses, including energy bill rebates.

Calwell has a history of being a hub of manufacturing industry. And while our economic base has evolved enormously, we still have innovative industries, particularly in food production. The government is delivering coherent policies to accelerate investment in renewable energy transmission and storage. And after a decade of neglect from those opposite, it is this government that is sending a message to the private sector who have wanted to invest in renewable energy but have been held back because of a lack of clear signals when those opposite were in government.

All this puts downward pressure on power bills, and the only way to ensure equitable and affordable access to power now and into the future is through urgent action and policy settings that take the sting out of energy price rises, including gas and coal price caps. The reduction in price expectations shows that our plan is working, a plan that is putting downward pressure on power prices and a plan that is making a material difference in the lives of ordinary Australians.

4:05 pm

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

I agree. Facts are important. So let's look at some of the facts of the last 10 months. Energy prices: up. Inflation: up. Mortgage rates: up. The member for Calwell is correct: life has been and is tough for Australians. Yet we have an out-of-touch prime minister who stands at that dispatch box in question time and says, 'It has been a good 10 months.' It's been a great 10 months for the Prime Minister! We clearly know it hasn't been a great 10 months for the member for Calwell's constituents. I wonder if she's taken those concerns to this Prime Minister.

It's definitely been a tough 10 months for the constituents of Casey, who have energy prices rising, inflation rising and mortgage rates rising. It's amazing to hear those opposite stand in the MPI and talk about how tough it is on the cost of living, yet yesterday and today there was not one question from government backbenchers to the Prime Minister or Treasurer about the cost of living. You need to remember, with this government and the ALP it's not about providing solutions.

Let's go back to the quote from the ALP national secretary, Paul Erickson. He said, 'You must look like you are responding, first and foremost.' That's an interesting quote. So you don't have to provide a solution; you just have to look like you're providing a solution. And that's what we're seeing from this government. We also see many opposite get a little bit frustrated and angry when we hold them to account for their promises. Guess what? That's our responsibility: to hold you to account. You were all happy during the election to go to your constituents and talk about $275 reductions in pricing, but let's go through the facts—because the member for Calwell is correct: facts matter.

That promise was made in December 2021, based on modelling that the ALP commissioned. And well done on them for getting modelling. But then something pretty important happened in March last year. What was that? We're now hearing the Prime Minister talk about what happened in March. He didn't talk about it in the campaign. Russia invaded Ukraine, absolutely. Did that happen? Yes. Did that impact energy prices? Absolutely. So what happened from March to the May election? These are the facts that those opposite don't like to talk about. The Prime Minister, members of the ALP and candidates continue to repeat the $275 price reduction. The Prime Minister himself—30 times—made that promise after the invasion of Ukraine. So facts do matter.

We will continue to hold this Prime Minister and government to account because it is a broken promise. If he hadn't issued it afterwards or if he'd gone to the campaign talking about Ukraine, it may be a bit different, but he didn't. After the election, he has not said it once. And there is no doubt Australians are doing it tough. We have a prime minister who continues to fail to take responsibility for the cost-of-living crisis that Australians are facing.

He made a good point, and I was shocked when he made it. I don't think he meant it. It must have been an accident. He talked about how increased energy prices increase supply chain pressures, drive inflation and make it harder for all Australians. That is absolutely correct. That is why this Prime Minister does not have a plan for energy. He talks about his gas cap, which is a bad policy. In his own words today, in question time, he talked about how business wants certainty, and business needs certainty to invest. AEMO were talking about a warning on a shortage of gas, because business knows if they invest capital in the gas market there is a risk that this government will intervene and change the rules, because business knows if you change the rules once as a government you're prepared to do it again. By driving uncertainty, they are reducing investment in gas, which reduces supply. And guess what? When you reduce supply, prices of energy go up in the long term. I know they don't like to talk about it, but this is a prime minister that won't take responsibility and that doesn't have a plan. Australian people are struggling because of this Prime Minister.

4:10 pm

Photo of Matt BurnellMatt Burnell (Spence, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's been a while since I put myself in the trenches for a matter of public importance. I have missed it; I really have! It looks like we're doing another one on energy; it's almost as if I never left! I'm a sucker for nostalgia, and I know those opposite are too. This is the extent of the bipartisanship we can learn to expect from those opposite. I've always wondered whether these topics were generated by those opposite sitting in front of a computer with ChatGPT open, but I think this topic was brought to us by their chief parliamentarian tactician—a Konica Minolta beta printer. There will be carbon copies under an opposition they lead!

To use a turn of phrase often used by the member for Cook: how good would it have been if his government had an energy policy, or if he allowed the leader he was ambitious for to have one. Maybe we would have had a fighting chance on the supply side. All we were asking for was an energy policy. In nine whole years, a big fat 'no' does not count as a policy.

Every MPI, whether it be interest rates, cost of living or energy prices, is totally devoid of responsibility—and, frankly, it's only Tuesday. You'd think those opposite would have a bit of energy in them for a debate on energy! I can only imagine how uninspired their talking points must be. If they don't believe in them, I hope they at least believe in themselves. It must be hard, and it's not going to get too much better with the status quo but I'll keep checking in with them at MPI time just to make sure.

Those opposite appear coyly naive to any actions they took in government—or, as was often the case, their emissions instead. Those opposite persist on blaming our government for nine years for Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government failures, when they should instead be taking advice from Taylor Swift and coming into this place exclaiming loudly, 'It's me, hi, I'm the problem, it's me!' Those opposite will stare into the sun but never in the mirror. Why didn't the Prime Minister stop their government fast enough? You saw them breaking it; now you've bought it.

I'm sure those opposite think reality is a bit broken. Their friends are abandoning them. On the NRF bill we had scores of business leaders and business groups supporting the government. Even on energy we had the Business Council of Australia president publicly expressing disappointment with the opposition's stances. There is a very broad adult table on public policy now, and it looks down on the opposition choosing every single hill to die on along the way. They have zero credibility on this issue. I do not blame the opposition for Russia invading Ukraine—not one bit; even I'm not that critical of them! But it would have been nice had they possessed a cogent energy policy in the years or even months in the lead-up to Russia commencing their illegal invasion.

We knew there would be one big mess to clean up when those opposite moved out of their old home on the treasury benches, but nobody could have expected it to be this bad. We all know the member for Hume was so embarrassed that he decided to kick the mess underneath the couch on his way out. But the Albanese Labor government saw the domestic settings going against us due to the policy void left by those opposite, intersecting with pressures from abroad, and the government acted on it. We had an energy policy through the parliament within months. It didn't take us nine years, only not to have a policy at all. Those opposite can see the same numbers we can showing the default market offsets, showing that, as a direct result of government intervention, they are substantially lower than what the Australian Energy Regulator advised. I'm sure this was by accident. They'll use figures to distort the picture, but everyone has woken up to the game that those opposite are playing: the smoke and mirrors and political immaturity. With the way they are going, forget their best day in opposition; they're still to experience their worst.

4:14 pm

Photo of Garth HamiltonGarth Hamilton (Groom, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's a great joy to have the member for Spence back on the rotation. I always make an effort to try and find one point I can agree with the last speaker on. I'm wholeheartedly all-in on the line, 'It's not going to get too much better.' I think that's very much the situation Australia faces right now. It's not going to get too much better.

I'm sure that, if we reach across the parliament and we speak honestly, we'd all be of the same view as we go out and meet our constituents, be it doorknocking, by phone or out and about at the shops: cost of living is the No. 1 pressure. It's the No. 1 thing impacting families and small businesses. It's forcing some very difficult decisions to be made, and we're seeing the impact of that right across the economy.

But in the midst of that, I'm so pleased to hear from the Prime Minister not to worry, because, to quote him, 'It's been a good 10 months.' That leads to two questions, the first of which is: for whom? For whom has it been a good 10 months? I'll tell you what: if you were happy to see the ABCC abolished; that was probably pretty good. If you're happy to see the IR legislation that forces people from individual agreements onto enterprise agreements; that was probably pretty good. It might give you a very clear view of who it's been a good 10 months for. It certainly hasn't been a very good 10 months for the Australian people, who've been struggling through this cost-of-living crisis. In fact, it's been some of the hardest times in memory.

I will just turn to a few of the headlines that have been talking about how much this is the case. A CourierMail headline from 7 March is 'House of pain: rate rises, soaring prices add $1150 a month to bills'. That's year on year. That is talking about how this is hurting. Protea Place was named in that article This is a charity that looks after homeless women in my region. This year, for the first time ever, they've been unable to sell enough tickets to their fundraiser. This is the main vehicle they have to keep their organisation going. It has not been a good 10 months for them.

Here is a Channel 9 headline: 'Here's what Aussies are buying less of as cost-of-living crisis bites'. John, in my electorate, owns a spa in Southtown. He tells me the story of his regular customers coming in. They're older, vulnerable women coming up and quietly, almost whispering, saying to him: 'Do you sell this product in a smaller size?' I can't afford this one.' It has not been a good 10 months for them.

Another Nine news headline is 'Credit card spending reaches record high levels amid cost-of-living crisis'. I spoke to Tristan in my electorate, from Wantima. He has done a fantastic survey amongst Aboriginal youth in my area and just a bit to the north, and No. 3 on the list of issues affecting them was mental health as a result of debt levels that they were carrying. Across this last year, as costs rose, these debt levels were rising, adding to the difficulties of these people living through it. It has not been a good 10 months for them. I can go on, and I will. The previous speakers are very right: this is an issue you've heard about before and it's an issue you'll hear about again and again and again. This is the No. 1 issue facing the Australian people right now.

It was a very good promise to have made to reduce energy bills by $275. It was a terrible promise to break. We will go on. A headline reads '"To the wall": iconic city restaurant falls victim to cost of living crisis'. This is Caruso's, which had been operating for 17 years. The No. 1 issue they raised as to why they had to shut their doors was rising electricity prices. The member for Hughes raised this issue in question time, and when she raised it the Prime Minister's response was, 'Why don't you go back and tell him that you didn't vote for our legislation?' I think this gives you an insight into how out of touch this Prime Minister is. Why didn't we vote for legislation that has failed? Yes, it has not been a great 10 months.

I said that the statement, 'It's been a good 10 months,' raises two questions. The first one was: for whom? The second one is: if this is what a good 10 months looks like, what does a good three years look like? That's the question for the Australian people: what does a good three years look like? More of this. More rising prices and higher inflation keeping that pressure on families and small businesses. Every time we raise with the Prime Minister an example of someone from our constituency and the pressures that they're under and he turns a blind eye and a deaf ear to the challenges that are being faced, it shows how out of touch this Prime Minister is.

4:20 pm

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

The member for Fairfax gets a prize in my book. He should be the shadow minister for confected outrage. They had a government—his party—for 10 years that did nothing about climate change policy, that did nothing about energy policy. In fact, when I first came into parliament, the minister for energy—the member for Hume, my neighbouring electorate—struggled to even admits that climate change was happening. I live and work in Western Sydney. We know what climate change is about. Frequently we have summer temperatures over 40 degrees. We know about the cost-of-living crisis. We know what happened in the 10 years of policy stagnation in energy policy that occurred under the Liberal-National government. We know that, and they did nothing. They didn't even admit there was a problem.

Energy has been a focus for the Labor Party over the last 10 years. We have been faced with a lack of acknowledgement of climate change and a lack of commitment to effective emission controls by the previous governments, and yet now in opposition they still vote against policies that would help our energy costs and that would help our emissions policy. Just as an example, they criticised us heavily for imposing a cap on coal and gas prices. In the face of energy companies such as Woodside—which were paying a return of 12 per cent when I last looked, increasing to over 16 per cent with franking credits—the Liberal-National coalition did not want us to put a cap on a coal gas prices. That's absolutely shameful. They are a joke, and the member for Fairfax, the shadow energy minister, can come in here with his confected outrage and yet continue to vote against policies that would help the Australian people deal with energy prices and the cost-of-living difficulties that they're facing.

The fact is that Treasury predicted an over 50 per cent increase in energy prices over the next couple of years without our intervention to cap coal and gas prices. It now looks like those prices will not increase by 50 per cent. There's a 29 per cent reduction in projected increases, and that is what energy policy is really about. Yet those opposite did nothing. We recognise, and have done so for years, that energy prices are very high for businesses, individuals and families. We acknowledge that power price increases have added to the cost-of-living pressures throughout our entire economy. In my electorate of Macarthur we now have very large manufacturing companies, and their energy prices have been increasing exponentially over the last 10 or 12 years. Those opposite did nothing, yet they come in here today with their confected outrage—and I must admit the member for Fairfax has many apprentices in the confected outrage stakes. It's hard to keep a straight face. The Colonel Blimps opposite going on about—

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


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

It's just been suggested they are Shakespearean in their ability to act like this, and it's hard to keep a straight face. All we get is the lack of policy and confected outrage. It's almost like we're in another universe when they talk about energy policy. The shadow Treasurer, who was previously the Minister for Energy, continues on his laissez faire, 'I don't really understand what's happening but I can jump up and abuse the government anytime I want,' attitude. It is not appropriate. They need to develop proper policies before people can take them seriously. Labor is committed to dealing with the energy crisis. We are committed to policies that will reduce cost-of-living pressures. We're committed to the Australian people.

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

The discussion has now concluded.