House debates

Tuesday, 13 February 2024


Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2023-2024, Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2023-2024, Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 2) 2023-2024; Second Reading

1:16 pm

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

I rise to speak on the Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2023-2024, the Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2023-2024 and the Appropriation (Parliamentary Departments) Bill (No. 2) 2023-2024, otherwise known as the additional appropriation bills for 2023-24. These bills provide appropriations for the continued services of the government and decisions taken since the 2023-24 budget, as announced in May 2023. In total, these bills appropriate approximately $11 billion for the remainder of 2023-24, the majority of which, approximately $8.7 billion, is for the ordinary annual services of government. There is also provision of $2.5 billion for the Defence portfolio, $1.8 billion for the Social Services portfolio and $1.3 billion for the Health and Aged Care portfolio.

I'll say from the outset that the opposition will support this legislation of the government. We will ensure that the services of government continue to operate by facilitating the passage of these bills through parliament. However, these additional appropriation bills and the proceeding appropriation bills that were handed down with the 2023-24 budget and, more recently, MYEFO demonstrate yet again that the government has no effective plan to deal with the cost-of-living crisis that is bearing down on Australian households right across this great country and has eventuated in the 18 months that this government has been in office. It is very simple. When you ask Australians whether they are worse off than 18 months ago, you hear a nearly universal chant of 'Yes, we are worse off.'

The truth is that Labor can't manage the economy. We have seen the evidence plain and clear in the streets of suburbs right across this nation and the regional towns right across this country. We see the evidence of it every day. I make a point of going into Foodbanks right across the country—indeed, I've been to a Foodbank in the electorate of the member here at the table, the member for Fairfax—and I see, coming into those Foodbanks, people who only 18 months ago would never have dreamed that it would be necessary. After just 18 months we've seen a collapse in Australians' standard of living—their 'real disposable income' economists call it. Their standard of living has been nearly irreparably damaged by 18 months of Labor. Heaven help us, there's more to go, and no doubt there'll be more pain as a result.

I'll put this in perspective, Mr Deputy Speaker. An 8.6 per cent reduction in the real disposable income of the average Australian is far, far worse for those with a mortgage—$20,000 or more. In the outer suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne we are seeing very big mortgages, because that's what it takes to buy a home, and the impacts there are astronomical. We are seeing it in my own electorate. That pain is like nothing anybody expected. For the average Australian, it is $8,000 less purchasing power in their income. One way or another, after tax, they have to go and find another $8,000 just to stay still, to not go backwards. These are extraordinary circumstances they are facing. Ultimately, there are three different parts to what's caused this. We have seen 9.6 per cent increase in prices in that 18 months. We've gone for a long period with low inflation in this country, but it's taken a Labor government to achieve that kind of extraordinary outcome. We are back to the levels we saw in the seventies and eighties—9.6 per cent in just 18 months. At the same time, we have seen 12 increases in interest rates. That's been devastating for those with a mortgage. As I say, they have been the hardest hit group of any Australians and they are the ones who we see really suffering in our electorates right across Australia.

There is a third piece to this which was not expected but is now very, very clear, which is a dramatic increase in personal income taxes being paid; indeed, a 27 per cent increase in personal income taxes being paid, and those opposite have been trying to say that's because of rapid population growth. It's true there has been rapid population growth but that accounts for little over three per cent of the total, so it's not that. Then they say it's extra hours, that Australians are working extra hours. But they are not working 27 per cent extra hours, so it's not that. It turns out that their tax rates have just gone up. Why have their tax rates gone up?

The great thief in the night that every Labor government loves is this thing called bracket creep. We can call a lot of things 'creeps', but the bracket creep we have seen over the last 18 months has been very real. This is the thief in the night. It works its ugly magic where inflation rages under a Labor government who can't get under control, inflation that is as bad or worse than any other major advanced country in the world. The Economist has described it as the most persistent inflation of any major advanced country in the world. As our Reserve Bank governor has told us, it's homegrown. That inflation works on tax rates. It pushes people up without increasing their purchasing power; indeed, often they will see a reduction in their purchasing power. We've seen real wages growth go backwards in the last 18 months by a substantial margin. But still, they see more of the nominal income going up into higher tax brackets and the result of that is their average tax rate goes up.

For a Treasurer who believes that you fund the government budget by taking more from the household budget, this is a matter from heaven; he absolutely loves it. But I've got to tell you, the Australian public don't, and that 27 per cent increase in income taxes, you only have to ask people—and I often ask this question—'Did you have a look at your tax return in the last six months of last year? Have a talk to your accountant about it.' Time and time again, people say, 'Yes, in past years under the Liberal government, I got money back but not this time.' That 27 per cent increase in personal income taxes is a very real pain being felt by Australians, but someone has to fund this Treasurer's and this Labor government's spending habit, and a spending habit it is.

Coming back the core substance of the bill, this bill helps Labor to spend an extra $209 billion since they came into government—that is, over $20,000 for every Australian household. They can't help themselves. They will always do it and it is simply making it harder for the Reserve Bank, which wants to get inflation under control. It's why the Reserve Bank believes inflation will be above band until the end of 2025, meaning interest rates and mortgage repayments will be higher for longer. As the chief economist of CEDA said just recently, the government and the RBA are not on the same page. Well, they're sure not! The Reserve Bank want to get interest rates and inflation down, but this government is somewhere else. It's way after the 2023-24 budget. Economists call the government's fiscal strategy 'stimulatory'—that was the UBS chief economist—and 'unambiguously expansionary'. That was the Betashares chief economist, David Bassanese. I think that's indicative of the sorts of comments we heard about the $209 billion from taxpayers that this Labor Treasurer has chosen to spend, funded heavily by the household budgets of every single Australian household.

Under this Labor government's failed economic management, households have suffered, as I've said. Food has gone up more than nine per cent, housing 12 per cent, electricity 23 per cent and gas 29 per cent. And, of course, there have been 12 interest rate increases, as I mentioned. Sadly, we're seeing rents experience the highest increases since 2009. We have a housing crisis on our hands, and we heard a wonderful speech just a moment ago from my colleague the member for Deakin about the huge challenges faced in our housing market. This is what happens when you prioritise delivering for your union mates, and you have no idea about growing the economy or what drives productivity, prosperity, wealth and competitiveness. Whilst of course the opposition will be supporting this bill, we will continue to hold this government to account for its failure to manage the budget, manage the economy and curb the cost-of-living crisis that this government has overseen.

Debate adjourned.