House debates

Monday, 22 May 2023

Private Members' Business


10:57 am

Photo of Stephen BatesStephen Bates (Brisbane, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that in the budget the Government chose to:

(a) spend half a trillion dollars on Stage 3 tax cuts for the wealthy, handouts for wealthy property investors, handouts for fossil fuel corporations, and nuclear submarines; and

(b) not adequately address the cost-of-living pressures people are facing; and

(2) calls on the Government to lift people out of poverty by raising JobSeeker above the poverty line, wiping student debt, and taking urgent action to address the housing and rental crisis.

We hear constantly from the government that this budget was about making hard choices and about showing restraint, but that narrative is not universal—it does not apply to everyone. This budget applies the rule and expectation of restraint and hard choices to working people but an entirely different set of rules and expectations to the mega wealthy and multinational corporations. When working- and middle-class Australians ask for the government to have their back, the government immediately employs the narrative of restraint, which is completely disconnected from the reality that people are facing.

This government tells us that it can't lift JobSeeker or youth allowance above the poverty line to $88 a day because it needs to tackle inflation and it has to be fiscally responsible, but the reality is that inflation is being driven by price gouging and corporate profiteering, and not by the incomes of workers and the lowest-paid people in our country. The reality is that 69 per cent of additional inflation in Australia has been caused by excess corporate profits, while labour costs account for just 18 per cent. The reality is that people across this country are struggling to put food on the table or a safe roof over the heads of their children.

This government acknowledges that, yes, there is a housing crisis and, yes, most people on income support are spending more than 80 per cent of their payments on rent, but the most this government can do is propose a measly $8 a week increase in Commonwealth rent assistance. The reality is that in my electorate of Brisbane 53.5 per cent of people rent their homes, and rents have increased by 23.5 per cent in the past 12 months alone. When the average rent has increased by $135 a week in my electorate, $8 per week won't even cover six per cent of that increase.

With this budget the government tells us that the student debt system works perfectly fine and that there are no issues with the fact that student debts will be indexed at 7.1 per cent this year, which equates to an increase of about $2,840 on a HECS debt of $40,000. The reality is that this government will reap more money from increasing the debt burden of thousands of students this year than it will from taxing the profits of oil and gas companies. In this budget, the government tells us that they must curb the growth of the NDIS. The reality is that too many disabled people are not able to get the support they need to live a good life. The reality is that this government is more willing to hand over $41 billion of subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and $9,000 in tax cuts for the wealthy this year than it is to support those in our country who most need it.

This government has made it clear with this budget that they are uninterested in standing up for the needs of the average Australian. I hear constantly from people out there in the community that our economic system is broken—that it is not functioning for the benefit of working people but rather is being rigged in favour of those with the wealth and power to buy favourable policy outcomes.

But there is a better way forward. Three hundred and sixty-six days ago, our campaign in Brisbane made history. We fought the election on a platform that offered transformative change to that broken system and to put power back in the hands of people. We can create a better future for all of us, and we should not just accept the crumbs that we are being offered. This starts with banning corporate donations and ending fossil fuel subsidies, and taxing the superprofits of banks, the mining sector and the energy giants that are rorting us, to pay for the things that benefit us all: getting dental and mental health into Medicare; raising JobSeeker, youth allowance and the age pension to $88 per day; directly investing in building public and genuinely affordable housing; and making all education truly free—no debts, no fears. All of these would make a meaningful difference to the lives and livelihoods of people across my electorate, but more so, as well, to the entire country. We will fight every day in this place for transformative change. When we win, we fight for you.

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

I thank the member for Brisbane. Is the motion seconded?

Photo of Elizabeth Watson-BrownElizabeth Watson-Brown (Ryan, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

11:01 am

Photo of Steve GeorganasSteve Georganas (Adelaide, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The cost of living certainly is a very serious issue. We, as a Labor government, hit the ground running, and we're committed to the promises that we made, to ensure that we lift that burden of the cost of living. You would have seen actions in this last Albanese Labor government budget by the Treasurer.

The government understands that the rising cost of living is having a serious impact on Australian lives. Australians elected us, as a government, to take responsibility, to listen to their voices and to deliver. And that's exactly what we're doing. That's why we delivered, in the budget that was announced a couple of weeks ago, $14.6 billion towards the cost of living—$14.6 billion to help people and to ease the burden of the cost of living. This package was in the 2023-24 budget two-and-a-bit weeks ago.

The largest area of government spending in the budget is social security and welfare, and the reason for that is to assist those people who are doing it toughest. More than one-third—that's 36.6 per cent—of the government's spending is support for the aged, families with children, people with disabilities, veterans, carers and the unemployed.

And, I'm pleased to say, it does not stop there. We're delivering cheaper child care. We're delivering cheaper medicines. We're expanding paid parental leave. And we're building more affordable homes—including through the National Housing Accord, which people in this place should support. We're increasing the minimum rate of Commonwealth rent assistance by 15 per cent; it's the biggest increase in over three decades—the biggest increase in 30 years. And we're increasing the base rate for eligible recipients of JobSeeker, Austudy, youth allowance and other working-age payments. These are all levers that have been put into the budget to assist people. We're also providing electricity bill rebates to more than five million households and one million small businesses, in partnership with state and territory governments. We're tripling the bulk-billing incentives to support 11.6 million eligible Australians, including children, pensioners and other concession card holders, to access a GP with no out-of-pocket cost.

We saw a government for 10 years neglect all these areas. We're acting. We're acting fast and we're doing it methodically, in a way that will assist people and, at the same time, not hurt the economy. We're not wasting any more opportunities with confused priorities, as we've seen in the last decade through the former coalition government.

Addressing the cost of living is more than just putting money in people's pockets. It's about sustainability and responsibility. It's also about responsibly enforcing policies and mechanisms to strengthen and ease the pressure, not just for today but also for tomorrow. It's not just momentarily but well into the future. This budget was the foundation for exactly that. This is what we promised and this is what we have delivered. That is why this Albanese government will continue to work towards a better Australia for every Australian, to ensure that no-one is left behind, delivering on the promises that we made in the pre-election commitments and to ensure that we ease that burden of cost of living.

The energy price release plan, up to $3 billion of electricity bill relief through the Energy Bill Relief Fund, is to take pressure off households and small businesses. In partnership with the state and territory governments, this will benefit more than five million people across eligible households and one million eligible small businesses. Retail electricity price increases in 2023-24, because of the direct impact of the policies of the Albanese government, are expected to be around 25 percentage points lower, and retail gas price increases around 16 percentage points smaller than expected prior to the government's energy interventions. This government is also making it easier for households and small businesses to access energy saving and upgrades through financing options for households and new tax breaks for small and medium-sized businesses.

JobSeeker has been an issue for a long time. We know that people on JobStart find it hard to live on it. That's why there is $4.9 billion to increase the base rate of several working aged student incomes—

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

Order! I thank the member for Adelaide.

11:07 am

Photo of Elizabeth Watson-BrownElizabeth Watson-Brown (Ryan, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

WATSON-BROWN () (): We all know that the biggest pressure on the cost of living right now is housing. This requires urgent practical action. But how much direct funding has the Labor government committed to tackle this housing crisis? Precisely zero. They found plenty of direct money for the stage 3 tax cuts, for submarines—almost a trillion dollars—yet no direct funding for the housing crisis.

It's not a novel or radical idea for governments to directly fund and provide public housing. All over the world today there are housing commissions and housing bodies building significant numbers of quality, well-designed houses to meet the needs of their communities. We've had successful housing programs too, right here in Australia, in the past.

Here's a little history lesson. During and post-World War II, Australia was in the midst of a terrible housing crisis. Construction had slowed due to the diversion of materials and labour to the war effort. In that case, the Australian government, a Labor government at the time, wanted to tackle the scale of the housing crisis, so they established the Commonwealth Housing Commission in 1943 in the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement in 1945. That was an agreement with the states to establish and operate public housing funded by the Commonwealth through cheap loans.

The Housing Commission promoted housing as a right for all Australians and had a very clear directive—that it provide as many homes as possible for as many people as possible in the shortest time possible. And it worked. At the peak of this public housing bill, in the late sixties, around 80,000 homes were built over a five-year period. That's when the population was half of what it is right now. So, in today's terms, the Commonwealth contribution to these homes was $8 billion. That's almost four times what this government is proposing today, if the fund makes any money at all.

Central to the workability of the traditional model of public housing—in operation all over the world and still existing, to a degree, in some schemes here in Australia—is government ownership of those houses. They're public assets. They generate a return in the form of rent, set at 25 per cent of the tenant's income, and accrue value in and of themselves. They quite literally pay for themselves over time.

One of the many irrational elements of Labor's proposed Housing Australia Future Fund is the complex and contorted arrangement to subsidise the private market and private providers through the private for-profit system. The government has no equity in these homes, so not only does the bill not stack up in terms of the scale and the urgency of the housing crisis we are currently experiencing, it doesn't stack up in a financial sense for the government. What could possibly be the reason for this government's reluctance to simply build public homes and retain them as public assets for years to come? One explanation could be that it might stop house prices and rents from climbing at the absurd rate that they have been for so many years now. This slowing down of the housing market is exactly what we do need to tackle the crisis, but it could put a real dent in the bottom lines of the big banks and the property developers who fill the government's coffers come election time. When it comes to building publicly owned nuclear submarines Labor can easily find half a trillion dollars of direct investment. But, on the other hand, when it comes to building publicly owned, genuine, affordable homes for people who need them Labor cannot find a cent.

Call me old-fashioned, but when people are sleeping in cars and tents across the country, when we have a shortfall of 640,000 affordable homes, when thousands of people are at risk of eviction because their rent has spiked, I really feel that the government should just build houses, not gamble money on the market and possibly use the returns to subsidise private providers to maybe deliver some slightly less expensive housing for a small number of people. Just build houses. Just build beautifully designed, sustainable, affordable public homes for everyone who needs them. We've done it before in this country. The government should just build houses.

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

The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.

11:12 am

Photo of Bert Van ManenBert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this House:

(1) acknowledges that the budget handed down on 9 May 2023 must deliver:

(a) fiscal restraint to take pressure off families;

(b) simpler and fairer taxes, not higher ones;

(c) real action on productivity to make small businesses and families' lives easier;

(d) measured relief for small businesses and families that does not add to inflation; and

(e) no more broken promises; and

(2) recognises that:

(a) the Government's second budget is an opportunity to correct the mistakes of its first; and

(b) in its first budget, the Government increased spending by $115 billion, made the structural deficit worse, and abandoned all goals of balancing the budget.

Australians were hopeful that the 2023 budget would deliver much-needed support in difficult economic conditions. Following a year of rampant inflation, a record number of consecutive interest rate rises and an ever-increasing cost of living, Australian families, small-business owners and retirees were hoping that the government would address the day-to-day living pressures they faced. This was an opportunity to ease the burden that was exacerbated by Labor's first budget, in October last year, when they did nothing.

Unfortunately, on 9 May hardworking Australian families—our vital middle class—were left bitterly disappointed. This budget utterly failed on multiple fronts. If you're a first home buyer saving whatever you can to secure a home, this budget does nothing to help you reach that goal. If you're a renter, this budget does nothing to address the increasing cost pressures that are increasing your weekly rents. If you're a small-business owner, this budget does nothing to ease the rapidly rising cost of doing business, and equally, this budget does nothing to address the issue of finding staff for your business.

This budget is clearly not a budget that is fair to all Australians. Instead, it reinforces the mistakes made in Labor's first budget, making it clear they have no plan to help Australians with the cost-of-living crisis. They have shown little fiscal restraint, with spending to increase by $185 billion, which will just place further pressure on Australian families.

Following so much build-up and hope, unsurprisingly Australians received a typical big-spending, big-taxing Labor budget. It confirmed that, under Labor, there will be no growth in real wages this year. The cost of living will continue to rise. Gas and electricity bills will continue to rise. As to unemployment, in a time when businesses across my electorate are struggling to find staff, the budget papers say that unemployment is going to rise. That is extraordinary. Inflation will remain stubbornly high, and Australians will continue to face higher taxes.

The fiscal pressures will continue to pile on from there. Despite the Prime Minister promising Australians some 97 times during the election campaign that he would reduce your power bill by $275, even their Energy Price Relief Plan for your electricity bills shows that they will continue to rise, and not by a small margin either. Electricity bills will go up by almost $500 through the time frame of this budget, and I know that in Queensland they're going to rise by some 20 per cent from 1 July. It's a far cry from a reduction of $275. All of these costs will continue to rise, and the consequence for everyday Australians is that their money will buy less each and every day. This budget has no plan to bring down inflation, which is impacting all Australians. We see through this budget that the Labor government have removed their priority to fight inflation at a time when inflation has been above seven per cent for three consecutive quarters.

This was in stark contrast to the coalition's last budget, where we cut the fuel excise in half; delivered a one-off $250 cost-of-living payment to six million Australians; introduced the low- and middle-income tax offset; helped to make the dream of homeownership a reality through HomeBuilder, the First Home Super Saver scheme and the Home Guarantee Scheme; and removed the cap on the instant asset write-off for small business. It's a coalition government that has shown the way forward. Much as those opposite deride our time in government, I'm proud of our record and the support we have provided over successive years to make our economy one of the strongest in the world, a foundation which those opposite can now build on but an opportunity which they haven't taken advantage of. I commend this motion to the House.

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

Is the motion seconded?

Photo of Julian LeeserJulian Leeser (Berowra, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.

11:17 am

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

Deputy Speaker Freelander, it is fantastic to see you this beautiful Monday morning in our nation's capital. I know those opposite are in opposition and they haven't got much to crow about. We're trying to fix up the state in which they left our national economy, and I'm immensely proud of the budget that we handed down on 9 May, which is delivering responsible cost-of-living relief for Australians and in particular for Australian families, who are doing it tough. Taking pressure off those families is our top priority.

This budget provides cost-of-living relief that is affordable. It prioritises those who are most in need, including by providing energy bill relief to over five million households and one million small businesses. I'll be speaking upstairs later on on the small business support, but that's huge for small business. It also helps 170,000 households save on energy bills by financing energy-saving home upgrades. The budget cuts the cost of medicines by up to half for at least six million Australians. It supports 57,000 single parents around our nation by expanding eligibility for the single parenting payment. That's huge support for those who need that support from our government, and we're giving it to them. It responsibly increases the base rate for eligible recipients of JobSeeker and other payments—1.1 million Australians. It increases the Commonwealth rent assistance for 1.1 million households. It encourages investment in more housing, including tax breaks to boost investment in build-to-rent projects. It delivers a 15 per cent pay rise on award wages for aged-care workers. It's getting wages moving again across the board. That, again, helps families to balance their own budgets.

We promised the Australian people that, after a wasted decade by those opposite, we would get on with the job of taking pressure off household budgets, and I'm proud to say that this is exactly what this budget does. I note that the honourable member opposite's motion lectures the government about the need to balance the budget. That's exactly what it did, strengthening our fiscal position, with a budget surplus now forecast in 2022-23; and delivering lower deficits and debt compared to recent budgets. Labor is on track to deliver the first surplus in 15 years. Those opposite had nine years in office to achieve this. Those opposite talk a big game when it comes to fiscal management, which is supposed to be one of their supposed strengths, but not once did they achieve in nine long years what this government has already achieved in its first year in office.

I'm also proud that in this budget we're strengthening Medicare, which is the foundation of Australia's primary healthcare system. The budget invests an historic $5.7 billion to strengthen Medicare. It makes it cheaper and easier to see a doctor, by tripling bulk-billing incentives, with immediate benefits for more than 11 million Australians. That is huge. It funds more medical urgent care clinics, including in my electorate up in Darwin and Palmerston, and after-hours primary care. This will see immediate benefits for many Territorians. When we improve primary health care for Australians we'll see fewer Australians getting into acute care and needing to be hospitalised. The budget also invests $17.3 million in the current financial year and $17.7 million in 2023-24 to maintain the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre, at the Royal Darwin Hospital and the Darwin International Airport, to make sure it's in a state of readiness to respond to major health incidents in Australia and the region. The NCCTRC is something that we can all be incredibly proud of. I'm proud that our government continues to back its important work. We're also providing $9.8 million for increased quarantine capacity at the Centre for National Resilience in Howard Springs, which kept the nation safe during the pandemic. This is a great budget.

11:22 am

Photo of Keith PittKeith Pitt (Hinkler, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We've heard it all before: no changes to superannuation, no changes to franking credits, no changes to unrealised gains, no changes to capital gains, no changes to negative gearing—no changes to tax. That is not what happened. We saw now Prime Minister Anthony Albanese make commitments like this in the election campaign, and the people of Australia have been misled. Why is it so? Because this government wants to spend $185 billion in additional expenditure over the forwards in the most recent budget. That $185 billion has to be paid for.

As much as I'm reluctant to quote Campbell Newman, the former Premier of Queensland, I will on this one. He said just last week, 'We see the RBA have their foot on the brake when it comes to the economy and inflation.' They want inflation down, as we all do. We want interest rates under control, as we all do. But this government, this Treasurer and this Prime Minister have their foot on the accelerator, and you can't have both. You cannot have both. With inflation running at seven per cent, the cost of living is completely out of control. We saw reports in the media just this morning. The humble loaf of bread—not the executive loaf; not the fancy loaf, Deputy Speaker Freelander, and I'm sure you're a humble-loaf-of-bread individual—

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


Photo of Keith PittKeith Pitt (Hinkler, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's up between 50 and 70 per cent. The humble loaf of bread is the basis of what many Australians feed their kids with. The price has gone up because inflation is out of control, and this government is adding fuel to the fire.

What we want to see is simpler and fairer taxes, not higher ones. We want to see the government control their expenditure, and we want to see that monetary and fiscal policy actually lines up. But what have we seen? We see two new board members for the RBA, and what's their background? ACTU. I'm not sure what that adds in terms of monetary policy, but I don't know that it's all that strong. We will continue to see these types of changes from this government because they simply cannot help themselves. They are not interested in what those hardworking taxpayers are doing out there. They are the ones that are getting it in the neck. I don't care whether you call them middle Australia or anyone else; it is every individual that is out there working hard, paying taxes that has to pay for the largesse of this federal government. In my electorate alone the loss of the low-income tax offset has impacted 51,000 people. That is an enormous number of individuals.

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Why did you cut it?

Photo of Keith PittKeith Pitt (Hinkler, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I hear the interjections. We actually kept paying it because they needed the money, and they need the money right now. They need it right now because their power bills are up, their gas bills are up, their mortgages are up, their interest rates are up. They simply can't pay the fundamentals of what it costs to live in this country, because they don't have enough disposable income. Yet this government wants to take more. They want to take more.

If we go back to what happens with me locally, we put out a survey, Hinkler's biggest survey. Eighty-six per cent of respondents were worried about changes on their superannuation savings and the taxation that might affect them. As I have said, 51,000 have lost up to $1,500 in the low-income tax offset. Guess what? The 2021 census says the median weekly income in my electorate is $576. If a loaf of bread is up by 70 per cent, that's a big chunk of your $576. Eighty-eight per cent of respondents to the survey are under pressure on their budget. Eighty-five per cent want affordable and reliable electricity, and 73 per cent, would you believe, are supportive of new nuclear energy, just as an aside. But we have so many people right now who can't pay their rent, can't pay their bills and can't buy the basics, just food.

But what do we see from this Labor government? We see an acceleration of expenditure, $185 billion in the most recent budget. We will look to see what the RBA does at the next interest rate change. They are struggling with their mortgages, those who have them, if they can find a home. What is the proposed solution from those opposite? They're going to bring in another 1.5 million people to this country, 400,000 in just one year. Where will they live? Right now the average construction rate in this country is around 200,000 homes a year. Sometimes it's lower; sometimes it's higher. But they are all struggling. They can't find enough tradies. They are struggling with supply; they simply can't build for demand. It is supply that will fix these challenges, and I urge those opposite to help them.

11:27 am

Photo of Tracey RobertsTracey Roberts (Pearce, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise in response to the ill-founded criticism of the 2023 federal budget by those opposite, who clearly are having a difficult time accepting the fact that the Albanese Labor government has achieved, in merely a year, more positive and productive legislation to support all Australians than the opposition could manage in a decade of power. We have passed more than 80 pieces of legislation, including bills that are effective and absolutely help ease cost-of-living pressures. We have spent the first 12 months since the Australian people voted for a positive change working hard to deliver stronger foundations for a better future for all Australians.

Families in my electorate of Pearce in Western Australia welcome the many measures that provide cost-of-living relief. Without doubt we are governing in challenging times, facing many global pressures, as are many other governments right around the world. Domestically, growth is expected to slow as inflation and interest rates affect consumer spending. However, the federal budget 2023 is carefully calibrated to alleviate inflationary pressures. We have delivered a responsible and practical budget in response to the local and global financial conditions that we find ourselves in.

We have committed a $2.2 billion package of measures to strengthen Medicare to make health care more accessible and affordable. We are making medicines cheaper and easier to access, a welcome move for all Australians who rely on medications. That means a family with three scripts a month can now save around $300 to $400 a year, cutting the cost of medicine by up to half for at least six million Australians. We are also making it easier for Australians to see a doctor when they need to by improving after hours access to primary care, something which is a priority, as my community of Pearce can attest. Out-of-pocket health costs are being further reduced by tripling bulk billing incentives for GPs, enabling easier and cheaper access to health care for millions of Australians. We have committed $11.3 billion over four years to fund the outcome of the Fair Work Commission's record 15 per cent pay rise for 250,000 aged-care workers across the country from 1 July 2023. Aged-care workers deserve this action just as those they care for deserve dignity.

We are also extending the financial safety net for thousands of single parents by expanding access to financial support. The COVID pandemic was not an easy time for our economy. It drove a fall of output of close to seven per cent in a single quarter. That is equivalent to the closure of an entire construction, manufacturing or finance sector overnight. We are continuing our fiscally responsible governance as we work to recover from the pandemic and the effects of global instability. In response we have delivered a sensible and practical budget.

We experienced the largest energy shock since the oil crisis of the 1970s; as a direct result of Russia's invasion of Ukraine we saw increases in global energy prices of over 55 per cent. As a government we have had to respond appropriately. We are providing relief to over five million households and one million small businesses, and we are powering tomorrow with investments in renewables, industry and skills and technology. Under the Albanese Labor government's energy price relief plan, every household in Western Australia will receive a $400 electricity credit with targeted electricity support totalling $826 for those households in most need.

The 2023 budget supports pensioners and parents. We are responsibly increasing the base rate for JobSeeker and other payments for 1.1 million people. We have handed down a budget that delivers responsible cost-of-living relief and invests in the drivers of economic growth without adding to inflation. We will continue to work incredibly hard to support our local communities and all Australians.

11:32 am

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

When Labor handed down its budget two weeks ago, Australians were hopeful. They were hopeful that it would ease the cost-of-living crisis that leaves them with very little at the end of each week, with rising mortgages, energy bills and grocery bills. They were hopeful it would rein in spending to bring down inflation and ease the cost of living. Instead they got a typical Labor high-taxing, high-spending budget. This budget confirms the cost of living will continue to rise, gas and electricity prices will continue to skyrocket, unemployment will rise and inflation will remain stubbornly high. Real wages are also going backwards. It also confirmed that 10 million Australians will face a tax hike this year and around 175,000 are projected to lose their jobs.

Small businesses are doing it tough. I have been out in my electorate, like many members of parliament, talking to small businesses. They are struggling. Revenues are down, costs are up and it is putting pressure on them. Unfortunately—they don't want to do this, but one of the key variable costs they can control is wages; they can't control fixed costs like rent and energy—they are having to reduce people's hours and let people go. That's a devastating impact of the economic challenges that we face at the moment. Australians are doing it tough. The number of businesses that have gone into insolvency has almost doubled in the past year. The typical Australian family is $25,000 worse off compared to a year ago. Lifeline reports 80 per cent of its calls now relate to cost-of-living pressures. That's why the coalition is committed to restoring the number of Medicare subsidised psychological sessions from 10 to 20.

It's simple. The only way to ease the cost-of-living crisis and bring down inflation is to rein in government spending, but this budget failed to do so. It fails hardworking Australians, when they need a plan to address inflation and the cost-of-living crisis. This government has made inflation worse. Since coming to power, they've increased government discretionary spending by $44 billion—and that's just the on-budget spending, not to mention the off-budget spending of over $45 billion. We know through Chris Richardson, a well-respected economist, that every $6 billion in net government spending requires at least a 0.25 per cent increase in interest rates to balance out that inflationary pressure. So we know that this government's decisions are driving inflation and are forcing the RBA to continue to increase interest rates, punishing all Australians.

In fact, the only area where Labor has reined in spending seems to be my community of Casey, where almost all of our road infrastructure projects have been axed or are considered for cuts, including $100 million for community programs for sealing the roads—which this government agreed to when in opposition—and the Wellington Road duplication. And now the Canterbury Road and Killara Road upgrades are under review. Despite this, the government has still found $2.2 billion to redirect to Daniel Andrews's Suburban Rail Loop. Residents in my community deserve to get home safer and sooner, and they want to see these projects delivered.

The question for all Australians really is: are you better off today than you were a year ago? Think of how hard Labor has made things after just one year. The Prime Minister may have promised to reduce your power bills by $275—including 30 times after the Russian invasion of Ukraine—but he's yet to deliver on that promise. Our power bills have only gone up, and they will continue to go up.

Those opposite benefited from the nine years of strong economic management by the coalition. The books they inherited had the lowest unemployment rate in almost 50 years, with almost two million jobs created over nine years. When we left office, interest rates were at historic lows and unemployment was 3.9 per cent. This low level of unemployment was one of the key drivers of the budget improvement announced earlier this month. I urge this government to start to make decisions to reduce inflation and take pressure off, allowing the RBA to get inflation back to the two to three per cent target. That's the way all Australians can benefit.

11:37 am

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

Another sitting week begins in earnest. On a Monday, out of the gates, we have private members' business. I've got to say I'm just a little bit more chipper than usual, and that is for two reasons in particular. The first reason is, after all, it has now been a year and a day since last year's election, which was when the good people of Spence elected me to this place for the first time.

The second reason is that a week ago from tomorrow the Treasurer got up in this place and delivered his second budget address. It was a budget that works towards easing many of the pressures faced by Australians and that does so in a responsible way, one that addresses many shortcomings of nine years of a Liberal-National government. It is a budget that benefits many people in Spence, across the state of South Australia and, for that matter, across the entirety of Australia. It does so in a measured and targeted way.

I'd scarcely think that the member for Forde's intention behind moving his motion today was to provide a platform for members on our side of the chamber, like the member for Solomon and the member for Pearce, to spend our time giving him an informative recap of the budget address. I'm sure he was alert and taking notes on the night, but I am certainly happy to oblige the member for Forde, and I'm sure more of my colleagues are just as eager to do so.

Going by the wording of the motion, it is clear to see that the member for Forde wants a budget that shows fiscal restraint, has simpler and fairer taxes, makes the lives of small businesses and families easier and, at the same time, does not add to inflation. The member for Forde certainly drives a hard bargain. If the budget does all of these things save for one, it turns into a pumpkin and is forever an abject failure in his eyes. It's much like the bus in the movie Speedif the bus goes above 50 miles an hour it will explode; if it goes below 50 miles an hour it will also explode. This is coupled with a few more elements which I cannot wait to touch on later, but I was raised to eat my vegetables before I could tuck in to my dessert.

The member for Forde's motion also alludes to the first budget delivered by the Albanese Labor government. The member for Forde even goes so far as to say our government 'abandoned all goals of balancing the budget'. He's been a member of this place since the 43rd Parliament. It was almost as if he'd sleepwalked through the budgets delivered under the Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison governments. In this context, it is even more fitting to refer to it as the ATM government!

The member for Forde's motion also notes that government spending increased in Labor's first budget. Let's examine the ATM government's record in contrast and see whether the member's motion demonstrates naivety or whether he is just cravenly partisan. The economic record the member champions is one that saw expenditure continue to rise with each successive Liberal-National budget—a record that saw debt balloon out prior to the first pandemic budget. I'm isolating that period for my comparison just to be as fair as I possibly can, because unless you're Senator Antic—and perhaps a few others, too—I doubt those opposite believe there were any plans or policies in place regarding the COVID-19 pandemic between the 2014-15 and 2018-19 budgets. I think we can all remember a time when net debt sitting at around 10 per cent of GDP was a core aspect of a debt and deficit disaster, according to those opposite and sections of the media. I must say: as the years drag on, those opposite have gone a bit quiet. I wonder why that might be!

In fact, this budget has forecast a modest surplus in the 2022-23 fiscal year, with an underlying cash balance of 4.2 billion. As the Treasurer noted, we aren't to call it a surplus until it has materialised—not just been forecasted. The Albanese government is one that shows not just fiscal restraint but also the restraint to not sell 'back in black' coffee mugs either; I wonder if they'll put them back up for sale after July!

As many of us know, those opposite have, for a very long time, propagated a myth. It's their oldest myth—blue man, good economic managers; red man, bad. Sometimes they drink their own Kool-Aid! Cognitive dissonance can be a scary thing—truly frightening, indeed. I pray the member for Forde has not fallen victim to it. If so, I hope he listens to our side of the chamber in this debate and puts himself on the road to recovery. Get better soon!

11:42 am

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

Interestingly, the member for Spence quotes the 1994 movie Speed. He's no Keanu Reeves but we'll give him his due! It's a good thing Labor's not driving the bus on the road. The only road that Labor is paving at the moment is the road to failure, because it has put a hold on all infrastructure programs and projects for 90 days while it reviews them. Indeed, on Saturday I drove to Sydney and for four hours I drove at the speed limit, of course—100 kilometres an hour. It took me four hours to get to Sydney, and then I turned on the intersection through Newtown, through Grayndler. Then it took me, would you believe, an hour and 20 minutes to travel just 7.1 kilometres.

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

I don't believe it!

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

You can believe it, because that's exactly what happened. I was there to go and watch the Inner West Magpies—the club that you're patron of, Member for Watson! They didn't quite win, just like the people of Australia didn't quite win when the budget was handed down a fortnight ago—not a week ago but a fortnight ago. It was the softest sell of a budget that I've experienced in the time I've been here—that's more than 12 years, more than 12 budgets. Why would that be? Because they had nothing to sell—only more despair and more misery. We're putting a hold on local roads and community infrastructure; there's no new money for that in the budget. The money for the Stronger Communities Program—slashed, gone.

Photo of Rob MitchellRob Mitchell (McEwen, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

No, it's not!

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

Yes, it is gone, Member for McEwen. If you want to go and sell it, you'll be misleading the public. This was a typical Labor budget—all airy-fairy and fluffy but no actual infrastructure.

The member for Spence talked about small business: 'The $20,000 instant asset write-off is fantastic.' It was unlimited under the coalition. When times got tough we didn't put a restriction on the amount that small businesses could go and fund. Indeed, for the tradie who wanted to get a ute for his business we enabled them to buy that complete ute, not a spare tyre. That's all you get under this mob, and that's a fact.

Real wages are stagnant at the moment. The cost of living is one thing that's gone up under Labor. On power prices, what did we hear 97 times? Ninety-seven times we heard the Prime Minister utter the words, 'Well, there's going to be a $275 power cut.' Where is that power cut? Don't worry about the little asterisk, the little disclaimer: 'Oh, it'll be in five years from now.' I call rubbish, because people out there aren't saying, 'My power bills are going down.' They are saying that they are going up, because they indeed are. You look at the interest rates—up, up, up, up. They're just increasing. Unemployment has gone up. Indeed, when we were—

Government members interjecting

I hear those opposite say, 'Oh, what did we get for all the debt?' Well, I'll tell you what we got. We actually saved 60,000 people's lives during the pandemic.

Don't rock your head back and go, 'Oh,' Member for McEwen. That's the prospect that we were faced with. That's the premise that we were given: 60,000 lives were going to be lost within weeks or months, and we put the action in place to ensure that we protected not only people's lives but their livelihoods. That's what we did. At the same time, through JobKeeper, we protected hundreds of thousands of jobs and hundreds of thousands of small businesses. We kept their doors open because of the policies that we put in place. What did we hear that those opposite wanted to do? They wanted to pay people to get jabs. They go on about the debt and mislead the parliament about a trillion dollars worth of debt. They would have made the debt even higher, and it's already gone up. The debt has gone in the one year and one day that those opposite have been in power. That is a fact. That is an absolute truth.

In the budget, even on the infrastructure projects that have been put on hold, in the future they are not even going to give local communities the input. They're going to have Canberra decisions made for local projects made around the regions, and that is a disgrace. National Emergency Management Agency staff have already been cut from the regions. That's an absolute fact. There's no localism. There's hardly any money. The veterans wellness centres have all been taken out of coalition seats—such as in Wagga Wagga, where we have all three arms of the military—and gone to Labor seats. Under the Mobile Black Spot Program, all the grants made in New South Wales have been to Labor seats. They talk about colour coded spreadsheets. The only colour on Labor spreadsheets is red—red for Labor and red for debt. This is the true Labor that we get. What a miserable 12 months! What a miserable lot you are!

11:47 am

Photo of Zaneta MascarenhasZaneta Mascarenhas (Swan, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

One year and one day ago, Australians voted to change the country, and they did that by changing the government. I thank the member for Riverina for talking about the pandemic and bringing that up, because Western Australians know who held up the bargain of looking after the public, and the truth is that was Premier Mark McGowan. Australia knows what leadership looks like in a crisis, and they saw that, often, from state premiers. The truth is that we brought up the pandemic and there was this question: 'Well, who was responsible for the saving of lives?' I'll say that there is some work that the federal government did, but there were also some decisions that were made by the federal government that absolutely made that harder, which included not ordering enough vaccinations or getting the vaccination rollout right. I'll highlight some of the things that were said: 'I don't hold a hose.' 'It's not my job.' But there were two things that were his job, which related to ordering enough vaccinations and getting the rollout right, and I'm going to say that those opposite didn't get it right.

I'll also take this opportunity to highlight that the former Prime Minister sided with Clive Palmer and was prepared to open up Western Australia, which was at the forefront of making sure that our economy was ticking. Some of the surplus that was handed down in this budget related to royalties from the resource sector, and that happened because what the Labor Party understands is that, when you get health outcomes right, you get economic benefits, so, if you get the health of your citizens right, you get good economic outcomes.

I feel so privileged to stand here before the House and talk to this motion, one year and one day after the Albanese Labor government and I were elected. The people of Swan put their faith and trust in me, and that's why I was elected as the first woman to be the member for Swan in its 101-year history. We're getting on with delivering what we promised to Australians. I've had multiple conversations with constituents in my community, and they were relieved to see the adults back in charge.

When we talk about promises in politics, we should think back to the choice that Australians had at the 2022 election. I and Labor presented a series of policies to build the foundation for a better future. They included strengthening Medicare. Labor built Medicare and we will always protect it. They also included cheaper child care. The Labor Party understands the importance of access to work, and child care is a part of this—and a part of that's because of the number of women that we have in our caucus. The policies included cheaper medicines because, again, we understand the importance of the health of our communities. They included action on climate change. On our side, we accept the science of climate change, and it makes it so much easier to act when we're all on the same page. They included the National Reconstruction Fund. We want to see more things made here in Australia, and we saw, during the pandemic, what happened with broken-down supply chains. We're also in the process of implementing the aged care royal commission recommendations, because we want to restore dignity for our most experienced Australians. We've introduced domestic violence leave, because we want to lower the hurdles for people escaping those relationships. We've expanded paid parental leave and made it more flexible. We also put in a submission to raise the minimum wage, because our lowest-paid workers deserved a decent pay increase. And of course there is the First Nations Voice to Parliament and the future referendum.

In comparison, what was the choice that the Liberals presented to my community? 'I don't hold a hose,' and, 'It's not my job'—no plan; no vision; just disunity, delay and division.

So I say to the member for Forde that the budget we delivered on 9 May lives up to what Australians voted for a year ago. I will say that I know that families are doing it tough, and that, for families in my electorate, we're delivering responsible and targeted cost-of-living measures. It's a delicate calibration and we don't want to feed the inflation dragon. There's so much more work that we need to do, but the thing I'd say is that the federal Labor government does not want to waste a day.

11:52 am

Photo of Melissa McIntoshMelissa McIntosh (Lindsay, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention) Share this | | Hansard source

Along with the member for Riverina, I, too, call 'Rubbish!' Labor's recent budget is typical: big spending, big taxing, with no substance at all—nothing to address inflation, nothing to address the cost-of-living crisis impacting Australians and nothing to address the infrastructure pressures that are faced by communities like mine right across Australia and, in particular, in Western Sydney.

Prime Minister John Howard, a great Prime Minister, calls my community of Lindsay in Western Sydney 'a microcosm of Australia', because it's got families, it's got retired people, it's got lots and lots of small businesses and it's got a very strong community spirit. It is for these reasons and the aspiration driving my community that we are at the epicentre of the cost-of-living crisis, and it's why we should all be worried that, if the Howard battler of the past becomes the new Albanese abandoned of today, our whole country is in deep trouble.

Australians listened intently to the budget in the hope that it promised cost-of-living relief and that that would be delivered. It wasn't. As the Leader of the Opposition made clear, many millions of Australians had every right to be disappointed with this government.

In the coalition's budget reply, the opposition leader identified five key omissions by Labor. Ten million Australians face a tax hike this year, and around 175,000 are projected to lose their jobs. This Labor government is spending an additional $185 billion, but millions of middle-income Australians will not receive a cent.

Amidst the housing and rental crisis, migration will increase by 1.5 million people over five years, and we know that 60 per cent of new migrants go into places like Western Sydney. It is extraordinary, when this is the case, that the Labor government has cut infrastructure spending.

And, of course, power bills are going to go up, not down as promised. The government's policies will cause inflation to stay higher for longer, putting pressure on interest rates. It's the working poor of Western Sydney, working families—they're struggling on two incomes; they're just trying to get ahead for their families—that are hurting most right now.

A local homelessness and housing organisation has told me that food insecurity is on the rise, and that most of the people coming through the doors to collect food hampers of groceries aren't people sleeping rough; they are pensioners, retirees and families with parents, both on incomes. They are small-business owners. The decision about whether to pay the rent or mortgage or use electricity against putting food on the table is, in fact, very real.

Local cafe owners who have been struggling to find staff are now struggling to make ends meet. Speaking to local businesses, there are a number at threat of closing right now. They tell me they can't absorb all the increased costs of supply chain shortages and they are now left wondering how much people will pay for a coffee when the cafe needs to pass on the costs to keep their doors open.

As the shadow assistant minister for mental health and suicide prevention, it was clear to me that there was one glaring omission from the recent budget—that is, a plan to address the mental health crisis. In last week's budget in reply speech, the opposition leader, the Hon. Peter Dutton, prioritised the mental health of Australians by announcing that a returned coalition government would reinstate the full 20 Medicare subsidised psychology sessions, which Labor had cut to 10, on a permanent basis. It is extraordinary that the Labor government will not join us in reinstating these mental health sessions when Australians need them most.

Thank you to the Leader of the Opposition for acting on the calls of the millions of people who suffer from mental health issues and the mental health sector who have been calling upon the Albanese government to return the 20 sessions in full that the previous coalition government first introduced. We need these sessions now more than ever. The pandemic, multiple disasters, now a cost-of-living crisis: the Albanese government needs to listen to Australians, particularly those suffering mental health issues. Australians need and deserve a government that has a plan to address the mental health and cost-of-living crisis facing Australians right now.

Photo of Ross VastaRoss Vasta (Bonner, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Lindsay. There being no further speakers, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for a later hour.