House debates

Tuesday, 27 February 2024

Matters of Public Importance

Cost of Living

3:30 pm

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

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

This Government's bad decisions and wrong priorities driving up the cost of living for Australians.

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

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

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

It's very clear—and if there was any doubt before question time there's no doubt now—that this government's terrible decisions are driving up the cost of living for Australians. There seems to be a parallel universe because the members of the government, from the Prime Minister down, seem to be telling Australians that they've never had it better. They come in here with smiles on their faces, and they're very self-satisfied, very pleased with themselves—the Prime Minister seems very pleased with himself—which just shows how disconnected the modern Labor Party is from Australians who are doing so terribly tough out there.

For many Australians, it wouldn't be a surprise that the Prime Minister is so disconnected from what is occurring out there because this is a man, quite frankly, who, between Taylor Swift concerts and Katy Perry concerts at billionaire's homes, we wouldn't expect to have the time or bandwidth to focus on what Australians are going through. We heard before the election that the Prime Minister would make life easier for Australians, and the truth, the sad truth, is that, 20 months after the election of the Albanese government, Australians are poorer. There's no simpler way to put it than that. Australians are now poorer because of the decisions of this government.

You'd think that members opposite, anyone connected to their electorate, would hang their head in shame rather than come in here looking very self-satisfied, as they do, talking about tax cuts that won't start until 1 July, while there are people now $8,000 a year on average worse off. That doesn't even account for the millions of Australians with a mortgage. If you're an Australian with a mortgage, you're not $8,000 a year worse off; you're $24,000 a year worse off. Under this government we've seen rents increase by 26 per cent. We see first homebuyers at their lowest levels for over a decade. We see new home starts at their lowest levels for over a decade. We see approvals at their lowest levels for over a decade. What that means is, if Australians thought Labor's housing crisis in 2023 was bad, Labor's housing crisis in 2024 and 2025 is going to be even worse.

I'll come back to housing, but, in the time that the Prime Minister has been jetting around feeling very satisfied—there's no celebrity that can come to Australia without the Prime Minister mobbing them in some way, shape or form. There's no celebrity that's safe in this country. There is no celebrity or international pop star that can fly into Australia and fly out without being mobbed by our Prime Minister. In that time, when the Prime Minister said he would reduce energy prices for the average Australian by $275, what's actually happened? Electricity is up by 20 per cent. Gas is up by 27 per cent. How on earth is every member opposite going to explain to their electorate when people quite rightly ask, 'Where on earth is my $275 reduction?' Not only have we not seen reductions, but we've seen increases.

I think the disconnect between the government and what Australians are facing is the most concerning thing here because Australians' faith in this place has got worse since this government has been in power. You can understand why, when they look at members opposite walking into question time every day and basically telling Australians, 'You've never had it better,' and 'That the government deserves a pat on the back,' that they would feel as though they're being gaslit. Most Australians would think, 'What parallel universe do these people live in?'

Then we see a policy from this government to smash the vast majority of Australians who purchase new cars in this country with their new tax on family cars. Who on earth would think in this economic environment that of all the priorities, 'What do Australians need desperately?' they need a new tax on family cars. And it's a new tax on the most popular family cars in this country. I'm sure the Prime Minister really wasn't planning on finishing question time talking about their new tax on family cars, but it's pretty clear that the Prime Minister needed to mop up after the member for McMahon. I'm sure he didn't want to be doing that, but what he didn't do in that answer was tell Australians and level with Australians on the costs that Labor's tax on family cars will impose.

Here we've got what I think are very conservative and very generous estimates to the government of what the impact of their tax on family cars will be. They include an additional $11,020 for a Toyota RAV4, a $12,180 increase for an MG ZS, a $25,000 increase for a Toyota LandCruiser, a $17,950 increase for one of the most popular new cars in this country—a Ford Ranger, a $14,490 increase for a Toyota HiLux and a $13,830 increase—a tax on Australian families—for an Isuzu D-Max. What does it say about the priorities of this government that at this time—when the average household is $8,000 a year worse off, when the average household with a mortgage is $24,000 a year worse off, when they've seen an increase in their rent of 26 per cent, an increase in their food of 10 per cent, an increase on their electricity of 20 per cent and an increases on their gas of 27 per cent—that the solution to those problems is yet another tax on the family car?

In the list of twisted priorities in my time in this place, I'm yet to see something as extraordinary as this. A housing crisis that is unprecedented in this country, a hapless housing minister with no idea and no plan, sitting in her office with absolutely no clue of what to do. So what pitiful thing does the government bring to this chamber? They bring their Help to Buy scheme or, as it's more colloquially known in the community, 'the forced to sell scheme'. A shared equity scheme from this government that I suspect many people would question at its face: who really wants to co-own a home with this Prime Minister and this housing minister?

Putting that aside for one moment, which genius could come up with an idea to create 10,000 shared equity places when there are already schemes throughout the country that are not being used because nobody wants these products? In fact, in New South Wales you might ask, 'How many places are left out of their scheme?' For the New South Wales shared equity scheme, on which the government's Help to Buy scheme is based, how many places are left? Is it 10 per cent of places left? Is it 15 per cent or 20 per cent? No, that would be far too generous to this government. There are 94 per cent of places left. Si I imagine there are thousands of these products available. Australians do not want them, for a range of reasons, including that if your income goes above a certain level you can be forced to sell your home. So you come home really happy and excited to tell your partner and family you have had a pay rise, but, if that pay rise takes you above the income threshold, the government can sell the house from underneath you. No wonder there are 94 per cent of these places left in the New South Wales scheme and places left in the Victorian scheme, the South Australian scheme and the Western Australian scheme. Why on earth would that be a priority for this government? It just shows that they do not understand the pressures and cost-of-living crisis faced by Australians. (Time expired)

3:40 pm

Photo of Ged KearneyGed Kearney (Cooper, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you so much to the opposition for the opportunity to discuss the priorities of the government and what we are doing to provide real support for Australians on the cost of living. We just heard a whole lot of drivel from the opposite side. We know that the cost of living is biting into household budgets. That is in no small part due to 10 years of complete policy ineptitude and inaction by the previous government—10 years of keeping wages deliberately low, 10 years of policies that saw people with languishing wages, 10 years of a climate change policy debacle and 10 years of allowing energy costs to run out of control.

We are a government that listens. We have made every policymaking moment count. Relieving the cost of living without raising inflation has been our No. 1 priority. Those opposite's policies? Nothing. Nada. Zip. They are a policy void. They've voted against every good policy we have put forward to manage the cost of living. They have done absolutely nothing to support this government in helping households manage their budgets. What they have done is scaremonger and discredit good policy.

Today we saw an important report that showed how stark the gender pay gap is. The gender pay gap matters. It matters to women; it matters to families. We know the gender pay gap costs the Australian economy $51.8 billion a year. We know that 62 per cent of private employer gender pay gaps are over now over five per cent in favour of men earning more and 50 per cent of all employers have a gender pay gap of over 9.1 per cent. In the context of cost-of-living pressures, this means that women are essentially bringing home 80c to 90c for every dollar that a male worker brings to the supermarket or has in his bank account to pay the bills.

Let me be incredibly clear. The pay gap matters when it comes to cost-of-living pressures. It matters for single mothers looking after their kids. It matters for young women working in cafes and paying rent. It matters for families paying a mortgage and relying on dual incomes. So when a particular senator today has said that today's release of the national gender pay gap material is 'useless data that breeds resentment and division' I believe we need to pause and unpack what this means. This points to a person and an alternative government that do not care about the pay that 50 per cent of Australians bring home. It points to a mentality, an ideology, that would rather see women doing the ironing, like a well-known former prime minister said, than earning money and supporting their families. The senator seemed to say the silent bit, the bit that regressive misogynists think but never actually say. And the world shudders when they do say it. It's like when the previous prime minister said women were lucky not to get shot for protesting against that government's complete lack of empathy and effective policies for women. This gives us an insight into the dangerous and sexist agenda of the alternative government.

This is a shambolic group of people who, in the simplest terms, don't care about the financial pressure that Australians are feeling. They don't care about increasing the real wages of Australians. In fact, we know it was their policy to deliberately keep wages low. They don't care about looking after people. They don't care about bringing down the cost of living for Australians, and they vote against every single measure this government puts forward. They would rather run scare campaigns and not upset the apple cart that is gender inequality. They're a group of people disinterested in workers, in women and in the real worries and pressures on Australians.

Let me assure you Labor is a government that listens. And we don't just listen; we act on what we hear. That's why our No. 1 priority is addressing inflation and the cost-of-living challenges. It's why the Prime Minister has announced that, come 1 July, Labor will deliver a tax cut for every single Australian. That's 13.6 million people with more take-home pay in their pockets—from teachers to nurses, from truckies to cleaners, from hospo workers to childcare educators.

If you're a uni or TAFE student who has a part-time job and rents, you'll benefit. If you're a working parent who feels the pinch of rising costs, you'll be better off. If you're nearing retirement and working part time, you'll have more money in your pocket. If your name is Sue and you work in construction, you will benefit. If you went to Taylor Swift and you love your mum and you work three days a week as a receptionist, you will benefit. Every single Australian will be better off under Labor. That's more cost-of-living relief for lower income and middle-income Australians.

But this builds on an additional $23 billion in targeted relief—targeted relief that the opposition has opposed every step of the way. This includes making medicines cheaper by allowing people to buy two scripts for the cost of one, making it easier and cheaper to see a doctor by making the biggest investment in bulk-billing in Medicare's history, providing energy bill relief through rebates and capping the prices of coal and gas, making child care cheaper and expanding paid parental leave, building more social and affordable homes, and making the biggest increase in rent assistance in 30 years. We've done all this while delivering the first budget surplus in 15 years and taking stronger action on climate change and creating a record number of jobs, not to mention overseeing significant wage rises.

I want to be clear. We know the pressure that households are under when it comes to rising rent and mortgage repayments. I know in my electorate of Cooper there are share houses that are selling their couches on Marketplace, as people have to move back into their parents' houses when they get a rental increase of $1,000 a month. A whole generation of young people feel like homeownership is out of reach for them for the rest of their lives.

It's clear that only Labor can be trusted to help more Australians into homes that they own. We've helped more than 100,000 people across the country into homeownership since the election. Help to Buy will bring homeownership back into reach for tens of thousands of Australians, but the Greens and Liberals are now standing in the way of this vital new assistance—again. And why? Because—it's no great surprise—they're more interested in painting the picture of a crisis than being part of a solution. They're willing to make political sport of the financial misery of people doing it tough.

We're doing everything we can to boost the supply of affordable homes, through the Housing Australia Future Fund. We know people want to live close by to the jobs and opportunities we're creating in communities right across the country. Through the National Housing Accord Facility we have an ambitious target to partner with the states and territories to build 1.2 million homes over five years.

I feel like a mum teaching kids to share and play nicely when I say we need everyone to work together and put their petty political agendas to the side. We need to work across all levels of government, across all parties, to reach across the corridor and engage with the private sector in order to fast-track development and get more Australians into more homes.

We know Australians feel under pressure from the cost of running their cars and crippled by the lack of meaningful choices we have in Australia. That's why we're giving Australians more choice of cars that are both cleaner and cheaper to run, through our new vehicle efficiency standard. This is good for household budgets, and it's good for the environment.

Right now, 85 per cent of the global car market operates under a standard, and Australia is in poor company. We join Russia as one of the only developed countries that don't have efficiency standards. The United States has had a policy in place for 50 years. Historically Australians have only been able to choose from a limited range of cars and a limited range of manufacturers. Under Labor, this list will grow and expand to have new options: new hybrid cars, more electric vehicles and more zero-emission cars.

I'd like to wrap up by returning to my first point: we are hearing the difficulties people are feeling right now. We know that Australians deserve roofs over their heads and food on the table and that they need these to be affordable. This is our priority, this is what Labor governments care about and this is what Labor governments deliver.

3:50 pm

Photo of Anne WebsterAnne Webster (Mallee, National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Regional Health) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Albanese Labor government's misguided priorities for Australia. Mallee voters don't buy Labor's song-and-dance routine that they are the party of tax cuts. Stages one, two and three income tax cuts were under the coalition's policy. On stage three, Labor told us 100 times they would back them in. Then we are told to believe the Prime Minster had some 'road to Damascus' insight—an epiphany to shift the narrative on tax cuts. Voters remember governments that break their promises, and these governments are consequently found to be untrustworthy. We on this side will be reminding voters.

Another area of massive destruction of this Albanese Labor government is on the reckless rush to renewables: 82 per cent by 2030. Mallee is ground zero for this rollout, with wind-turbine cowboys stirring bad blood in my regional communities, pitting mate against mate and farmer against farmer with secret deals that never come to fruition. But the bad blood will remain.

The Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner, Andrew Dyer, has called out this deplorable behaviour in his report on energy; the energy proponents botched community consultation. From local experience in Mallee, I can tell you: that report is the tip of the iceberg. This cowboy energy sector needs regulation, and the Nationals are working closely on ensuring regional communities have a voice and on ensuring that social licence is secured fair and square, not through proponents' underhanded behaviour, with handouts here and there, but through genuine approval from communities.

The energy minister, Chris Bowen, doesn't care, just like he doesn't care whether the residents of Mallee and their fellow Australians will ever see their $275 energy bill relief. Energy bill relief will be another broken promise, because only the mother of all subsidy programs could see, in net terms, that $275 reduction be delivered under energy bill hikes on Labor's watch.

But Labor aren't done hiking the cost of living for regional Australians; their family car tax, dressed up as a fuel emissions standard, is a cruel initiative that will rob regional Peter to pay inner-city Paul. Paul will be there, showing off his new electric vehicle on Lygon Street subsidised by the government, but Mallee residents like Peter will have no choice but to pay up to $25,000 more for their family car just so Paul can feel pious that he's supposedly saving the planet.

Labor's family car tax is designed to halt inner-city Labor seats from falling into Greens hands; make no mistake. Those are the seats with the highest EV take-up, and I won't let Labor pretend regional Australians will catch up with their city cousins on EV ownership.

Take Toorak, for instance, in Melbourne, where they have 24 times the EV take-up than either of the largest centres in my electorate, Mildura and Horsham. One Mallee car dealer told me that the push for electric vehicles was impractical in regional areas, saying, 'We lack the infrastructure of public charging stations.' This dealer told me there are issues with EV longevity and resale value, with some American dealers reducing sale prices by more than $5,000 as EV prices nosedive when they need new batteries. Battery replacement costs are so high that replacing an EV makes better sense than replacing a battery. Perversely, Mallee residents will pay extra when buying their SUV or family farm vehicle under Minister Bowen's plans to pay for EV subsidies. I spoke confidentially to one dealer last week who faces laying off a quarter of his 40-strong workforce due to the impact of Labor's family car tax.

Photo of Andrew CharltonAndrew Charlton (Parramatta, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Absolute garbage!

Photo of Anne WebsterAnne Webster (Mallee, National Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Regional Health) Share this | | Hansard source

You can say 'garbage' all you like, sir. The reality is these are the dealerships—through you, Deputy Speaker Claydon. Manufacturers are being monstered by the minister, and I hope that all comes out in the wash very soon. We all want to see lower emissions and more efficient cars, but Labor's city-centric spots are on full display. Yet again Labor robs the regions to secure votes in the cities.

3:55 pm

Photo of Kate ThwaitesKate Thwaites (Jagajaga, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I must say that the irony of standing up to talk on an MPI about bad decisions while made in government brought on by those opposite is certainly not lost on me today. So much of what our government is dealing with is a result of nearly a decade of bad decisions by those opposite. In the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments, we had times of drift, denial and delay from those opposite, yet they come in here today and bring on this MPI! Those people over there spent nearly a decade in chaos, focused on each other and their own internal leadership problems. There was nearly a decade of climate denial and inaction on one of the most pressing problems our country and, indeed, the world is facing. There was nearly a decade where they did nothing to reduce cost-of-living pressures. Certainly, reducing cost-of-living pressures for Australians was not at all the focus of those over there when they were in government.

In fact, we can look at their record. Under the Turnbull government, they made the decision to support cuts to penalty rates to reduce the take-home pay of workers. From those opposite we had the thought bubble around wanting to increase the pension age to 70. If that had of happened, that would have taken the Australian pension age to one of the highest in the developed world. We had, of course, the admission from those opposite when they were in government that low wages were in fact a deliberate design feature of the economy they ran. That's right! Under a Liberal and National government, it was a design feature for Australians to own less. Yet they come in here and talk about bad decisions from this government. This government is doing all it can to put a laser-like focus on addressing the very real cost-of-living pressures that Australians are facing.

Today we have had highlighted another topical area of neglect that we saw from those opposite: their lack of support for women and their lack of efforts to close the gender pay gap in this country. As a result of the actions of our government, today we've seen, for the first time, the publication of gender pay gaps for nearly 5,000 private-sector employers in this country. This is a pivotal step in transparency and accountability in addressing gender inequality. It wasn't done by those opposite. They were not interested in doing this work of helping Australian women to earn more, helping Australian families to be supported because women in those families are earning more. Those opposite did not care about that challenge when they were in government, and it seems they do not care about it now that they are in opposition.

Today we have Senator Canavan saying the gender pay gap report is 'useless data' because it doesn't even correct for basic differences like hours worked. The gender pay gap report is now the 'annual Andrew Tate recruitment drive'; it just breeds recruitment and division. That's the view of those opposite on the efforts to close the gender pay gap in the country. I have not yet heard the Leader of the Opposition say that he does not agree with Senator Canavan on that. That is incredibly disappointing because, as I said, what helps Australian families with the cost of living is Australian women earning more, Australian women having more in their pay cheques, and that is exactly what this government is trying to do.

Under this government Australian women are earning more. Wages are going up. Under this government Australian women will get a tax cut. Every single Australian taxpayer is getting a tax cut under this government. Again, look at the industries that women work in—nurses, teachers. People earning $75,000 a year are getting a tax cut that's more than double what they would have got under those opposite. Those opposite didn't want people earning $45,000 or less to get a tax cut—people like sales assistants and receptionists. Our government is delivering them a tax cut. We are doing the work that those opposite failed to do, with their bad decisions over nearly a decade in government. We know that Australians need cost-of-living relief and we continue to focus on that through our tax cuts, through our support for health and, importantly, through our work to close the gender pay gap, ensuring that Australian women get to earn what they should and keep more of what they earn.

4:00 pm

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

The MPI is always a nice occasion to sit and listen to those opposite. I like to make sure I'm here for the whole debate, because you get some interesting insights. The member for Jagajaga just summed up quite nicely the challenges this government faces. With five minutes to talk about being in government for 20 months and outline the amazing achievements of the Albanese government, the member for Jagajaga spent four minutes talking about the opposition, talking about our side of this chamber. They're in government; they've got the ability to make decisions. The one minute she did talk about what they've achieved—we're talking about $15 a week in five months for the Australian people. That really sums up this Albanese government.

The Australian public know and we know that, for all of last year and all of 2022, those opposite were distracted. The terms 'cost of living' and 'Middle Australia' were not used by the Prime Minister or the Treasurer. They've used the terms a lot in the last six weeks, since Christmas, but just using a word does not mean you're actually delivering for the Australian people. The Australian people know that. We get a little bit of frustration on the other side when we're talking about a car tax that's going to add up to $25,000 to the cost of a ute. There are a lot of tradies in Casey that are worried about this tax, and what do we get from the minister? The minister references the United States fuel efficiency system, but he leaves out a bit of the detail about some important differences. I'm going to quote from one industry figure: 'I don't think anybody would be opposed to us copying what they have in the USA, but what they've proposed looks like nothing like what they have in the USA.' What is this industry source talking about? In the US model, there is an exemption for certain vehicles. If a vehicle is over 3.86 metric tonnes, it is exempt from the fuel efficiency standard. Perversely, in the real world, that's one of the reasons that you see so many large vehicles in the United States. Manufacturers are making sure that they get above that 3.86 metric tonnes.

So what's the proposal from this government in Australia? They are looking at a 4.5 metric tonne exemption. I'll let the Australian people in on a little secret about why they put it up to 4.5 metric tonnes. It's to get all the utes that the tradies of Casey need for towing their work trailers, and it's to get the family SUVs that you need in my electorate to make sure you can fit the pram in to take your children to school and to sport, because public transport isn't readily available in an electorate like mine. That is a core and fundamental difference.

Every time the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Climate Change and Energy stand up and reference the United States fuel efficiency system, they are either willingly misleading the Australian people or they're not across the detail of what's involved in their own policy. It's one or the other, because that significant change is in their policy. And that sums up the Albanese Labor government. It's all about the headline; it's not about the detail. But the detail matters. That's why this will drive costs up. That's why it's not relevant to compare the US model.

We know that this Prime Minister does not understand the challenges of the Australian people. The biggest question he has to work out is: what is he going to wear to Taylor Swift, and how does he make sure it doesn't double up when he goes to see Katy Perry at Raheen? That's the toughest decision this Prime Minister made on the weekend—the change in outfit from Taylor Swift to Katy Perry—because that's what he thinks about. He has been in this place since 1996. It revolves around the actions of parliament, and he is making sure he enjoys the trappings of the role for as long as he can. But that does not solve the cost-of-living crisis that the people of Casey and the people of Australia are facing today.

4:05 pm

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

Since the election of the Albanese government, there has been a single focus of this government: how to support working families and those worse off. As a representative of the people of Holt, it is my duty to advocate for policies that alleviate the burdens faced by families struggling to make ends meet, particularly in the outer south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, where my electorate is located and where the challenges are keenly felt.

In my electorate of Holt, like many electorates in the outer suburbs, families are grappling with the relentless rise in essential expenses, such as housing, child care, health care and utilities. These pressures weigh heavily on the shoulders of everyday Australians, straining their budgets and limiting their opportunities for financial security and prosperity. This is why I am proud to be a part of a government with a plan—a plan to tackle this cost-of-living crisis. At the heart of this plan lies the implementation of cost-of-living tax cuts aimed at providing immediate relief to hardworking Australians, especially in those electorates like Holt and Dunkley.

Under our plan every single Australian taxpayer will receive a tax cut, regardless of their income—11.5 million Australians will receive a bigger tax cut than under the Liberals' plan. This tax cut, one that the coalition had to be dragged to support, will provide more relief to 90 per cent of Australians, especially those earning under $45,000 a year. How can the Liberals lecture us on priorities while the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is running around on national TV stating that her party will unwind tax cuts for every taxpayer? I guess the people who stack the shelves at Woolies, like my former colleagues, or those who cook our Friday night takeaway are not a priority for the Liberal Party.

In Holt, where families are feeling the pinch of skyrocketing living expenses, these tax cuts will make a tangible difference. For instance, a minimum wage worker on $45,000 a year will be $800 better off under Labor's plan. These tax cuts will extend to truck drivers, IT workers, nurses and teachers, like my sister-in-law Christine. With the average tax cut for residents of Holt being a substantial $1,321, these changes will bring significant relief to families.

Our priorities go beyond just tax cuts. Labor's 10-point plan includes a range of initiatives aimed at tackling the root causes of the cost-of-living crisis. This is a $23 billion package to support working families. This package includes our priority for energy relief, a priority the Liberals have voted against. This includes our priority for cheaper medicines, again a priority the Liberals voted against. This includes our priority to get wages moving again, a priority the Liberal Party consistently votes against. When it comes to the cost of living, the Liberals always say no.

We understand that true prosperity requires a holistic plan that addresses the cost-of-living pressures. This is why our plan encompasses measures to create jobs and boost wages. Getting people into work and giving them a pay rise is the No. 1 way to tackle the cost of living for families. Over 650,000 new jobs have been created since Labor came into government and, last year, Labor delivered the highest annual wage growth since 2009. We have got wages moving again for the first time since 2018. After a decade of Liberal policies that suppressed wages and wanted people to work longer for less, Labor's priority is very clear. We are committed to fighting tirelessly for policies that put the interests of working families in electorates like Holt and Dunkley first.

4:10 pm

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

It's wonderful to see schoolchildren above us watching this debate. We have just heard from the member for Holt, and can I say something nice about the member? The member migrated to Australia when she was 11. She got a job at Woolworths and worked there for 15 years. I think the sense of perspective that she brings to a debate like this is one that means her contribution comes from a well-meaning place even if I don't agree with everything she says. I too arrived in Australia when I was 10, and I am grateful for my work experience at McDonald's.

I want to say something about aspiration. We have heard a lot this week and in this debate about quotes from pop stars, and Taylor Swift is No. 1. The outgoing member for Cook did a very good job of quoting Taylor Swift. But I want to say something about another pop star, a country music star. His name is Jason DeFord, also known as 'Jelly Roll'. In November last year at Nashville, Jelly Roll won new artist of the year at 39 years of age. He gave a great speech. He said there was something poetic about him winning new artist of the year at that age. He said he wanted to say something to people who were struggling. He said, 'I don't know where you're at in life or what you're going through, but I want to tell you to keep going.' He said: 'I want to tell you success is on the other side of it. I want to tell you it's going to be okay. I want to tell you that the windshield is bigger than the rear-view mirror for a reason.' He said, 'It's because what's in front of you is so much more important than what's behind you.'

In debates like this, we hear again and again the Labor members stand up and go straight to the rear-view mirror and not look through the windshield that Australians are looking through right now. What is through that windshield? This is what they see. Food is up nine per cent, housing is up 12 per cent, electricity is up 20 per cent, insurance is up 22 per cent and gas is up 27 per cent. In my home city of Melbourne, many young families are giving up on the aspiration of homeownership. If you take the medium household income and look at medium houses, that family can afford none of the 354 houses available in the suburbs of Melbourne. None. If you lower their expectations to look at what a medium-earning household can afford, for units it's 15 out of 354 suburbs.

If we take the windshield metaphor, Australians are looking through a cracked windshield, the wipers aren't working and it's raining. While the Labor Party focuses on this side and the previous government, the Labor Party needs to turn its mind to the fact that it is now in government and it can do something about what Australians are seeing in front of them right now.

We have seen lots of press releases about the great gift that is coming from the stage 3 tax cuts amendment. Of course we support that because it supports families across the board. But when you give the average family $800 with one hand and they are losing 8.6 per cent or $8,000 from the average wage with the other you are looking through the rear-view mirror and not through the windshield.

We have a problem with government spending in this place. When you look through the Intergenerational report, which I've got here in front of me, on real 2022-23 incomes the executive in this place, Canberra, spends $25,000 per Australian. Not adjusted for inflation, that was $15,000 in 2002-03. And it's projected, in the Intergenerational reportagain, not adjusted for inflation—to be $40,000.

I urge the government to take a leaf out of Jelly Roll's speeches. He recently appeared before the US Congress. There was a hearing on fentanyl in January, and he's someone who has spent time in jail for dealing drugs. He said:

I was part of the problem … I am here now, standing as a man who wants to be part of the solution.

That is good advice for this government.

4:15 pm

Photo of Sam RaeSam Rae (Hawke, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is an undeniable reality that people across our communities are doing it tough—all across our economy, all across our country and in every state. The reality of that is not the government of the last 18 months. There have been a range of structural failings throughout the last decade when it comes to economic leadership in our country. To give you some flavour of that in terms of headline realities, we saw the worst productivity growth for half a century, under the last government. We saw a decade of real wage decline, and the worst part about that is that we of course know that that was, as the Liberals themselves say, a deliberate design feature of the economy over which they presided. We've seen our country saddled with a trillion dollars of Liberal debt. These are the preconditions that set up our economy and indeed set up our communities to suffer over this last period of time.

We know that the inflation problem, which has been such a key driver of the cost-of-living challenge facing our communities, was created and incubated under that former government. They failed utterly to invest in sovereign capability across our economy. They left us open to the international pressures that have ultimately thrust our economy into the high-inflation circumstances that it finds itself. To be fair, there are some international events that no government could necessarily have foreseen or necessarily managed the risks of—wars in both Europe and the Middle East chief amongst them. Nevertheless, what the former Liberal government did was design an economy and execute the policy settings for that economy that left our community so vulnerable and so exposed to those international pressures.

We know that inflation peaked under that former Liberal government. And, yes, our government has been very upfront, as has the Reserve Bank, in its independent role, about the need to drive that inflation down and the fact that it would take time and it would be challenging, and that there would be both monetary and fiscal policy elements to that effect. At the end of the day, our government has approached this challenge with our values at the centre of our policy treatment. What we want to do is build an economy that works for our people. We want Australian workers to earn more and keep more of what they earn. We know that that is the best way to alleviate that cost-of-living pressure on Australian households and to aid Australian families and workers in recovering from this difficult period.

Labor's tax cut plan, which we've been moving through the parliament with the very lukewarm support, I have to acknowledge, of the Liberals—they say publicly that they support our tax cuts, but they have frustrated at every opportunity the process of legislating them, and we know that they have spent a significant amount of time and energy undermining them within the broader community. Most notably, the deputy leader of the Liberal Party came out immediately to state that they would repeal tax cuts for Australian workers—roll them back.

In my community, these tax cuts are worth $1,428 to each average worker. In a household with two full-time workers on an average wage that's over $2,800 a year. That means that 73,000 taxpayers across my community, and the families and households that they support, will all get a tax cut. Every single taxpayer will get a tax cut, just as every single taxpayer across Australia will get a tax cut—that's 13.6 million Australians getting a tax cut and 73,000 just in my electorate alone.

When the Liberals stand up and make ridiculous, outrageous comments about the cost of living, Australians know that they don't truly understand or believe in addressing those matters and that they, ultimately, are accountable for the circumstances that created those conditions in the first place. Our government is the one making the necessary changes in order to address them.

4:20 pm

Photo of Nola MarinoNola Marino (Forrest, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

I do want to talk on this MPI, as a member of parliament from a rural and regional electorate, to the young people who are here today. I come from a very small community. There is no doubt that that community, and the others that I represent, are very affected by cost-of-living issues. There is no question in rural and regional Australia that that's exactly how it is, and why the increases in interest rates, which have put up their mortgages throughout this time of this government, have had so much impact. There's also an issue with the inflationary impact on the food that people are buying. There have also been the increasing costs of insurance that we in the regions really have no option but to invest in. Then there are increases in the cost of electricity and, as we know, increases in the cost of housing. When I hear the members opposite talking about child care, in my part of the world—as in so many other parts of Australia, particularly in rural and regional areas—we have childcare deserts, where there isn't any child care is available. That makes it exceptionally difficult for people who need to go to work and can't.

We've seen, as I said, increases in interest rates, inflation, mortgage costs and rents, as we know. Rents have increased by at least 26 per cent over the time that Labor has been in government and we've seen housing starts and approvals at their lowest levels in decades. I looked at rentals on good luck trying to find a rental in my part of the world. The vacancy rate in my Bunbury region is 0.45 per cent: the nation's lowest vacancy rate for the seventh consecutive month. If you're coming into my electorate, you'll find it very difficult; but it has been made more difficult by Labor's increases, with the over 500,000 people it has allowed into this country when there are only 162,000 new dwellings being built at the same time. There is a real imbalance there, which is why, in part, those rental prices are what they are: it's scarcity.

I walk down the main street in my communities, and I talk to the local people and the local businesses, and I listen to them. When you do that, you find that the cost of living is really impacting on my people. It's also impacting on small businesses, who are the heart and soul of my electorate. Recently, in this last week, I talked to the car dealers, because they are certainly very concerned about what Labor is proposing with their huge tax on not only the family car but also on our work vehicles. We depend on those vehicles; we need them in rural and regional Australia. We need them for the job they do for us; that's what we need on our properties and in our businesses. It's the same as our tradies. They need these vehicles; they're not just an option, they're something we need to get the job done. But Labor wants to make this so much more expensive. I went to one dealer who employs 70 people. He is seriously concerned about the types of vehicles that will be allowed to come in with the whole-fleet requirement that the government will impose. There's another one who employs 20 staff—that may not be a lot to those on that side, but, by gee, in the small community where I am, employing 20 people is a lot of people in work in a small community, and each one of those matters to us.

That's why this extra tax on family vehicles, tradies and our working people is such a major issue. We'll see that some vehicles will no longer be imported, which is what the government is intending here: by default—it's very clever—to restrict the sorts of vehicles that will be imported. The manufacturers who are based internationally will decide what they will export here and what they can actually put on the list for Australia. Of course, what concerns me is that this will push us into buying more vehicles made in China. Well, that is something that Australia cannot afford to do.

I also note that the government is trying to dictate to Australians not only what car you drive, whether it's the family car or it's a ute; they want to control the food you eat. There's the NHMRC's war on meat. There are the clothes you wear—and the minister for environment wanting to tax our clothes and tell us what clothes we can wear. We've got carbon accounting on scope 3 emissions. We've got the increase— (Time expired)

4:26 pm

Photo of Carina GarlandCarina Garland (Chisholm, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

On a topic around priorities and governance, I'm actually really proud to be part of a government who has the right priorities and is delivering good government—good government that we were voted in by the voters of Australia to deliver. But, before I address some of the things that our government has been taking action on, I do just want to pause and say I'm really disgusted at the way migrants have been weaponised by those opposite. Particularly when I see, like through question time this week, people sitting opposite who regularly attend citizenship ceremonies with me in my electorate and who speak in glowing terms about migrants, and I then hear some of those members opposite undermine migration in this country—

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

Just a moment—are you rising on a point of order?

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

I am. It's standing order 90: reflections on members. That is an allegation or imputation of improper motive on the debate of all members on this side and on an area that we all take very seriously on a bipartisan basis.

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

I ask you to resume your seat. I've listened to the debate, and all kinds of suggestions have been made. I note there's been no naming mentioned here. I ask the member to always be cautious in her approach, and let's try and have a respectful debate all around.

Photo of Carina GarlandCarina Garland (Chisholm, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Indeed, my intention in raising this issue was really to heighten the level of debate in this chamber. But I'll move on.

Since the election our No. 1 priority has been to address inflation and cost-of-living pressures. We know a lot of people in our communities are doing it tough. That's why our recently announced tax cuts will deliver a bigger tax cut for Middle Australia to help with the cost of living. This builds on our targeted relief while not adding to inflation. Let's talk about priorities. We've already delivered electricity bill relief. We've made medicines cheaper and we've made it easier and cheaper to see a doctor. We've invested in cheaper child care and in expanding parental leave. We are building more social and affordable homes and increasing rent assistance. We've also provided fee-free TAFE, and wages are rising at the fastest rate for a decade, including for some of our lowest-paid workers on the minimum wage and aged-care workers. We've done all of this at the same time as we've delivered the first budget surplus in 15 years and created a record number of jobs.

We know we have a big job to do. Good governments do have a big job to do, because they take their commitment to Australians really seriously. We're making vital investments in the capacity of our economy, laying the foundations for future growth, and our efforts to repair the budget are taking pressure off inflation when it is most acute. Right throughout our term, we have maintained a primary focus on the cost of living, wages, jobs and building a stronger economy for all Australians. Real wages growth is back and ahead of schedule, and we want Australians to earn more and keep more of what they earn.

This week, we saw the latest wage figures are showing a 4.2 per cent increase throughout the year, the equal fastest annual growth since 2009. This is a real wage increase for people. The gender pay gap is the lowest it has been on record. It's down by 2.1 per cent since the government came to office. And of course, on 1 July, every single Australian taxpayer will be getting a tax cut because of Labor tax plan.

We want Australians to earn more and to keep more of what they earn. Those opposite want Australians to work longer for less. Those opposite have no plan to ease the cost of living. All those opposite offer Australians is negativity and division. Over the last 18 months the opposition has consistently stood against action to help ease the cost of living. They've opposed more Australian jobs, they've opposed higher wages and better working conditions, they've opposed electricity bill relief, they've opposed cheaper medicines, they've opposed fee-free TAFE and now they don't even really know what they want to do about our Labor cost-of-living tax cuts. They're all negativity and no plan.

I urge those opposite to do the right thing, stop the delays and back our economic reform in the Senate to ease the cost of living for all Australian taxpayers. On this side of House, we offer aspiration, ideas and action. Those opposite offer negativity and division. I'm proud to be part of a government that prioritises people over politics and is getting on with the job of good government that we were voted in to do.

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

The discussion is now concluded.