House debates

Monday, 18 March 2024

Private Members' Business

Cost of Living

10:24 am

Photo of Susan TemplemanSusan Templeman (Macquarie, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The multiple inquiries into Australia's duopoly supermarket model have begun receiving submissions and taking evidence. It's the start of really putting a spotlight on why prices are so high at the checkout at the same time as farmers are being squeezed. Labor knows that cost-of-living pressures, especially the cost of groceries, are affecting people. The Albanese government has commissioned an ACCC review of supermarket pricing, an independent review of the food and grocery code and ongoing updates from Choice to help consumers make informed decisions about where they shop.

In its submission to the ACCC inquiry, Choice has argued the two main supermarket chains routinely manipulate prices to the detriment of customers. It says the 'complex pricing methodologies lack both transparency and accountability'. We know that Choice is firmly on the shopper's side, and we're providing Choice with a million dollars so they can give price transparency and comparison reports on a quarterly basis for the next three years. This will start from this current quarter and will provide shoppers with increased transparency, comparing a basket of goods at various retailers to help Australians be really informed about where they shop.

There's no question that you see higher profit levels for supermarkets in Australia than you do for supermarkets in many other countries. That market power is an issue for both suppliers and consumers. That's why we're talking about better prices. We want to make sure that if prices are dropping at the farm gate they're also dropping at the checkout and that there's a clear flow through for customers. If farmers aren't getting as much for their products, consumers shouldn't be paying as much for those very same products.

The ACCC inquiry will examine the competitiveness of retail prices for everyday groceries. The 12-month inquiry will look at the current structure of the supermarket industry at the supply, wholesale and retail levels. It'll consider competition in the industry and how it's changed since 2008, including the growth of online shopping, and the competitiveness of small and independent retailers, including in regional and remote areas. The pricing practices of supermarkets and factors impacting competition and influencing prices along the supply chain, including the difference between farm gate and supermarket prices, will be looked at as well. The ACCC released their issues paper last month, and submissions to the inquiry and a consumer survey are now open. I'd encourage people to have their say.

Dr Craig Emerson, former competition minister, is also reviewing the food and grocery code, which regulates business dealings between farmers, suppliers, wholesalers and supermarkets and addresses harmful practices in the grocery sector that stem from that imbalance of bargaining power—the big guys versus the little guys. The review will test whether the code is effectively contributing to the food and grocery industry as intended, including whether the code should be mandatory rather than voluntary and whether it should have appropriate penalties.

We also have the benefit of the inquiry into price gouging and unfair pricing practices the ACTU commissioned, which found that corporate profits have added significantly to inflation, that many businesses are resorting to dodgy price practices and that a range of sectors are insufficiently competitive or regulated, leading to poor consumer outcomes and higher prices. The report will be considered as part of the ACCC inquiry, and I congratulate the ACTU on shining a light on pricing practices that rip off customers.

In the meantime, I'd really urge shoppers in my community to look to local growers, either at the growers' market, where you know that the price you pay is going directly to the producer, or the longstanding businesses like Sciberras, Todarellos and IGAs, who are part of their local communities. And of course Aldi is accessible in some parts of the electorate. Depending on your commute, it might be easy to swing by Riverview Produce at Agnes Banks, Enniskillen Orchard or the Local Farm Shop in Windsor Mall, one of the newer entrants. I've always urged people to shop local in the mountains and at Hawkesbury, and new shops like Sangkap International Grocer in Springwood and Hartleys Fruit and Vegetable Specialty Grocer in Richmond are a great reminder to try your local shops first. That also means buying products that are made locally, whether it's our local wines, beers and gins or Kurrajong Kitchen Lavosh. Our region's a source of great local produce and goods, and you know what you're spending is going right back into your community.

10:29 am

Photo of Helen HainesHelen Haines (Indi, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

When I speak to people in my electorate of Indi, whether it is a small town like Jamieson or a hub like Wangaratta or Wodonga, overwhelmingly people talk about the high cost of living and the pressures on their budget that make it harder to keep their heads above water. As their voice in this place, it is my duty to tell the government that the people of Indi want no stone left unturned when it comes to measures that will assist with the cost of living. I know that many members of the government would answer that by saying, 'Well, we've changed the stage 3 tax cuts!' Yes, that is welcome, but it can't be the end of the story. Some 95 per cent of taxpayers in Indi will benefit from the new stage 3 tax cuts, and I'm impatiently waiting for 1 July for those people in my community to see that extra money in their pay cheques each week.

But in communities like mine, where household incomes are well below the national average, there are many people for whom the tax cuts won't make any difference. In fact, there are 25,000 people in the electorate of Indi with incomes below the tax-free threshold who won't see a difference in their bank balances come 1 July. We know that the government is preparing the federal budget, and it is these people who must be top of mind when decisions are made on cost-of-living measures. The Treasurer told us last week not to expect a cash splash in the budget, which I think misses the point. There is plenty the government can be doing on cost of living that goes further than cash handouts.

As an independent member of parliament I make it my mission to come here not only bringing complaints and criticisms but also bringing solutions. So I hope the Treasurer is taking note, because I'm here with ideas to address the cost of living. First, pass my cheaper home batteries bill, which would address many of the challenges we face. Households with solar panels would be able to keep more of the energy they generate, spending less on their power bills. If we had as many home batteries as we have home solar systems, we could reduce the need for grid-scale energy across the country. This is a massive opportunity. Then, back the people's power plan from the member for Wentworth—measures that would help people who don't have access to household solar and batteries to reduce their own bills and emissions at the same time.

But energy bill savings can't be just for households. They need to be for businesses, too. The Energy Efficiency Grants for Small and Medium Enterprises program has benefited many businesses in my electorate of Indi, but there are so many more who want to take part. And when people talk to me about cost-of-living pressures they talk to me about the cost of housing. That's why I introduced the unlocking regional housing bill, to kickstart housing supply across regional Australia and make more housing available to stop people getting squeezed out of their homes by rising rents and mortgage repayments. And addressing price gouging at the major supermarkets is urgent. We need measures with real penalties for the big two that protect us as consumers and protect the farmers who grow our fresh produce, so many of whom are in the electorate of Indi.

Health care is another area where people in Indi are feeling rising costs, and in this area I will acknowledge some of the government's real positive work. Tripling the GP bulk-billing incentive has led to a 5.9 per cent increase in the rate of bulk billing in Indi, with an estimated 6,958 bulk-billed appointments. That's an estimated saving of $309,700 in gap fees in just two months. We know that making it easier and cheaper to see the doctor helps people with the cost of living, but this needs to go further than just doctors. We need better access to primary healthcare nurses, nurse practitioners, psychologists and allied health professionals like occupational therapists and speech therapists as well as to fund their full scope of practice. This must be a priority come budget time.

Reducing the cost of higher education would also assist my constituents with the cost of living through providing more fee-free TAFE, fixing HECS repayments and paying students to complete compulsory placements as part of their training and education. And for those on the lowest incomes who are relying on social welfare payments like JobSeeker, the age pension, student payment assistance and rent assistance, those payments need to go up—not just to meet inflation, but further.

There you go, Treasurer: measures that can help people with their energy bills, the cost of housing, the cost of groceries, the cost of education and the cost of health care. So, I say to you: get on and do these things. They won't increase inflation. They're not about a cash splash. They're about sensible, well-thought-through, evidence based solutions to the people who need them most. Thank you.

10:34 am

Photo of Libby CokerLibby Coker (Corangamite, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Many fruit and vegetable growers and primary producers are struggling to keep their businesses afloat because the two major supermarket chains are strangling them with inequitable contracts that disadvantage the farmer. The supermarkets demand perfect cherries, flawless zucchinis and completely unblemished apples, and if those ridiculous standards aren't met they won't pay the farmer a fair price. As one cherry producer said last week prior to his appearance before the Senate inquiry into supermarket prices, 'People don't understand how ruthless the supermarkets are.' This is why we've initiated a review into the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct, an important first step to rein in the power of major supermarkets. We've also commissioned an ACCC inquiry to examine the competitiveness of retail prices for everyday groceries. This 12-month inquiry will consider the pricing practices, the current structure of the supermarket industry and the role of small and independent retailers particularly in regional and remote areas.

The Albanese government have enacted these reviews because we know the status quo isn't sustainable. For example, in the Senate inquiry last week several farmers stated that despite their best efforts to remain competitive they are still only receiving the same price for their produce as they did in 2011. If this continues, it may mean Australia becomes more reliant on imported produce as our local fruit and vegetable growers and primary producers go out of business. This would be tragic. Our nation is known for quality fresh produce, and the agricultural industry employs many hundreds and thousands of people, many of those in my electorate.

We are at a crossroads when it comes to supporting local producers and protecting consumers. This is reflected in the view of my constituents in Corangamite—people who are doing it tough like single mums, pensioners, students and those on low wages. When I'm at the markets or outdoor knocking, these people tell me their grocery bills are rising significantly and they're pointing the finger at Coles and Woolworths. Meg, from Torquay, is an occupational therapist, and she told me that despite this profession she is increasingly shocked and challenged by the prices at the checkout. She said: 'It's insane. Over the last five years the prices of my grocery basket have gone up and up.' Our government shares Meg's concerns, and we are acting. We've appointed Dr Craig Emerson to lead the review into the grocery code of conduct. The Emerson review will test the effectiveness of the code to police the food and grocery industry to ensure farmers are not unfairly treated.

This is about making sure families and our farmers get a fair go, because when farmers are selling their produce for less supermarkets should charge Australians less. Having a diverse market, we avoid a duopoly that forces farmers to sell their products for less than their real value, at times leaving the farmer without a profit margin. Before you buy, consider shopping at your local greengrocer or butcher, and encourage diversity, local employment and investment in regional economies. Get served by a local business owner and connect with your local community. Have your groceries packed by a young student rather than packing them yourself.

The ACCC will provide their findings and recommendations to government in early 2025, and we will work with the ACCC to ensure shoppers are given a fair deal. The government is also providing CHOICE with $1.1 million to provide price transparency and comparison reports on a quarterly basis for three years. Moreover, these inquiries and initiatives are all about taking action on cost-of-living challenges and ensuring Australians have an economy that works for them. That's why, along with these inquiries, we're delivering a tax cut for every Australian taxpayer. This means more dollars in the pockets of all Australians across my electorate and the nation—more than $1,500 for a local worker on an average wage.

In closing, we know that more competition is better for consumers, farmers and our nation. More importantly, we want more competition that means better prices at the checkout and more dollars in the pockets of Australians.

10:39 am

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

This motion acknowledges the cost-of-living pressures, including the cost of groceries putting Australians under the pump. This is exactly what those of us on this side of the House have been talking about for a long time. We have been pleading with those opposite to do something about the cost-of-living pressures for well over 12 months. The unfortunate reality is that we are living in a Labor created cost-of-living crisis, and those opposite have failed to provide any real help or any real assurance to the people of Australia that they're going to do something—absolutely anything—about this.

I want to highlight the disappointing section of the motion where the member for Spence states:

… these measures are further examples of the Government ensuring everyone is doing their bit when it comes to easing the cost of living …

What a joke! When I think of the Albanese Labor government, I don't think that they have ensured anything other than a pack of broken promises and ill-advised policymaking, inflating or stroking their own political agendas and egos.

What does come to mind when I think of the Albanese Labor government is the following: burying their heads in the sand about the cost-of-living pressures facing Australians, while choosing to spend millions of dollars on a divisive and failed referendum; 12 interest rate rises, forcing mortgages and rents up; housing costs rising by 12 per cent; promising 97 times that we would see $275 reductions in our power bills, when in reality, our electricity prices are now up by 20 per cent; fuel prices increasing; insurance costs up by 22 per cent; and food costs up by nine per cent.

Those opposite have implemented tax after tax on our major industries, penalising the hardworking Australians who greatly contribute to our economy. This is making our cost of living worse. Now, they're trying to push a turbocharged vehicle emissions policy on the people of Australia which will force car prices to increase by up to $25,000—and that's not even taking into account the fact that these price increases could push some vehicle costs up so high that they will now incur the luxury car sales tax on top of that.

For a long time now, the coalition has been calling on the Prime Minister and his government to direct the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to conduct an inquiry into the competitiveness of retail prices and allegations of price gouging in the supermarket sector. We have been calling for this for a very long time, while the Labor government seems to have finally started to realise how bad the situation is and is doing the absolute bare minimum by announcing the ACCC inquiry into supermarket prices. The fact that they've only just announced this, in February, and we won't see the final report until the end of February next year, is shameful.

I always like to look at the positive side of things, and I would love to be able to say, 'better late than never', but unfortunately, for the people of Australia, this is far too late.

Under this Albanese Labor government, we have seen families struggle to decide whether to either pay their rent or mortgage, buy their medication or feed their families—because at the moment they can't do all three.

We've seen the housing crisis worsen. More and more families and individuals in Dawson are being displaced, living in their cars or in tents or even on the street. Which demographic is hurting most? It's those that can't afford to cut their budget any further. It's the single parents trying to feed, clothe and house their children. These single parents are skipping meals just so their children can eat. It's the younger generations trying to put themselves through uni or work through an apprenticeship on the minimum wage. It's the older generations trying to live off their pensions. Over 50 per cent of people in Australia are only just making ends meet—or actually failing to do so.

While the announcement of the ACCC inquiry into supermarket price gouging is a step in the right direction, the cost-of-living crisis has already taken so many victims hostage. This announcement has come far too late and should have come a long time ago. This announcement is what the people of Australia and the people of my electorate deserved months ago. The Albanese Labor government is failing Australians, and they need to do better.

10:44 am

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

I rise to speak on this most important of policy areas for our government. As we all know, cost-of-living pressures are putting Aussies under incredible pressure—some more than others. I wasn't going to mention the incredible contribution by the previous speaker, the member for Dawson—and when I say 'incredible' I mean 'unbelievable'—but then he brought in the member for Spence. Because the member for Spence is not here, I think it's worth pointing out that under that mob opposite, if you were earning under 40 grand, you got nothing under the stage 3 tax cuts. That's how much they were committed to helping people on low wages with the cost of living. The honourable member said that they'd been working on it for a year—

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

You had it right the first time: 'incredible'.

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

We've been in government for two years, so we're doing alright—for the first year, was it? I don't quite understand the point there.

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

Order! Member for Solomon, address your comments through the Speaker.

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

I understand why the honourable member is leaving. Whether it's shopping with the big two, Coles and Woolies, filling up the car or paying energy bills, Australians are doing it tough. That's why we have directed the ACCC to conduct this pricing inquiry. I think it's been welcomed by all Australians, because we do need to look at the lack of competitiveness in this sector. There are lots of cons going on and there's lots of gouging going on. Whenever you see market concentration you see airlines colluding or petrol stations colluding or supermarkets perhaps not doing the best that they can, not being ethical in the work that they do as a provider of food security in our nation. It is disappointing when we see these corporate behaviours, but we're committed to doing everything that we can to make sure that Australians get a fair go, because that's what Labor does. Greater transparency around pricing, which is going to be great for the farmers as well, is going to help everyone—and the big two will still make good profits.

But this is only one of our measures to help Aussies that are doing it tough at the moment. We have been delivering some power bill relief, particularly for those who are less able to pay those power bills. I'm thinking of the concession card holders in our electorate who are paying aircon bills. It's difficult, and that assistance is very welcome and needed. Our tax legislation was all about relief and reform, so that all Australians got some tax relief and had a bit more of the money that they earned in their pockets to look after themselves and their families. To be honest, after almost 10 years those opposite had put us in a position where we've had to take actions like this, and we will continue to take actions like this, to fix a number of elements of our economy. We will continue to do that, through consultation, to make sure that Australian consumers are getting fairer prices.

We also looked at a range of ways in which we could pump-prime the NT economy, if I can concentrate on the beautiful place where I live. It was great to have the cabinet up in Darwin last week.

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

And the health committee.

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

Indeed they were, Deputy Speaker, looking, I think, at the important issue of diabetes, which is a very important issue. Whether it be health or education, where we have put funding—fee-free TAFE, more university places. We want every Territorian to have a job and to be able to get a job, and then we will be able to grow our economy, and that will help families throughout the Territory with the cost of living. It's more than just our fantastic tax cuts; it's everything else as well.

10:49 am

Photo of Monique RyanMonique Ryan (Kooyong, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

Australian are living through a once-in-a-generation cost-of-living crisis. Most of us have never experienced anything like this before. It's a really tough time for many people, and it's a time when we can decide either to pull together or to swim alone. Throughout 2023, the living cost indexes—the wage price index and CPI—rose between 5.3 and nine per cent. Households dependent on income from wages and salaries recorded the highest annual rise in living costs of all household types, at nine per cent—this at a time when our mortgage interest rates were increasing by 68 per cent. The cost of living in Australia is now greater than in 87 per cent of countries around the world. Families are feeling the strain, and it's time that we had an open conversation about the impact of these rising costs and how best to alleviate them for older and younger Australians.

Firstly, housing affordability: the dream of owning a home, the great Australian dream, is becoming increasingly elusive for many Australians. Property prices have skyrocketed, especially in major cities like my own, Melbourne, and Sydney. Young families are burdened with increasingly hefty mortgages, or they're being forced into an incredibly tight rental market in which rents are also on the rise. Young people in my electorate are looking at 30 or 40 rental apartments before they can secure one. We're also seeing increasing numbers of retirees who are in significant rental stress and increasing numbers of homeless people, particularly women aged over 50.

At the same time, we're dealing with increasing energy costs. In a part of the world where we have the world's cheapest renewable energy, one side of the polity in this country is pushing for options which are both blinkered and retrograde. At the same time as that, we're sending 70 per cent of our oil and gas overseas while we're paying world-high prices for electricity. We need the government to take action on this. We need more energy efficiency measures. We need to work on distributed energy networks and making measures like home electrification—with rooftop solar, batteries and electric vehicle rollouts—more affordable and more accessible for all Australians. We will all benefit if we have less sovereign dependency on overseas fossil fuels.

Our healthcare system is world class, but it comes at a significant cost and it needs a once-in-a-generation review. Medicare is no longer fit for purpose. At the same time, rising health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for medical treatments, as well as increasing costs for prescription medicines, are impacting all of us. We have to have a quality healthcare system. We've always benefited from it during most of our lifetimes, but it's becoming unaffordable, and many people are experiencing increasing out-of-pocket costs at a time when they can least cope with that sort of thing.

We come to HECS. Young Australians are dreading the increase in their HECS debts with the indexation that will occur on 1 July. I and my crossbench colleagues have spoken to the education minister on a number of occasions regarding the need to change this.

As to consumer protections, I note that groceries, aviation, transport and insurance—all of these industries—have been left to the market forces in the last nine years, and we've seen what market forces have done. The lack of competition and the lack of consumer protections are costing us all. When you go to the supermarket, you see people picking things up and putting them back on the shelf. You see people sidling in at five o'clock, hoping that the chooks are half price and the meat trays have been reduced. This is not something that any of us have seen in our previous lifetimes. This is not a country that we recognise.

Our national anthem tells us that we have wealth for all, but we only have wealth for all if we govern responsibly and with wisdom. Housing, health, disability, education, energy and climate change remediation are all things that this country can address effectively, well and constructively if we do it together and we govern well.

10:54 am

Photo of Daniel MulinoDaniel Mulino (Fraser, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Clearly, cost of living is an issue affecting people in communities right across this country. It affects people in communities represented by every member of this chamber. I hear about it day in, day out when I talk to people. It's the government's No. 1 priority.

Before talking about supermarkets in particular, I do want to note that this government is dealing with the cost of living with a very wide range of measures, including material, significant and fair changes to the stage 3 tax cuts, which those opposite complained about but reluctantly voted for. A whole range of measures in our first two budgets are dealing with issues such as rent relief, energy bill relief, cheaper medicines and a whole raft of other measures. So the cost of living is the government's No. 1 priority, and we are dealing with it through a range of targeted measures that also represent responsible overall fiscal economic management.

When it comes to supermarkets, this is an area that warrants particular attention. That's why it's so important that the government has initiated an ACCC inquiry and that Dr Craig Emerson is looking at the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct and why CHOICE has been given money for monitoring and greater transparency. I do want to note that actions have already been undertaken. For example, the assistant minister for Treasury, Dr Andrew Leigh, has strengthened a range of measures and sanctions in relation to anticompetitive behaviour—that, of course, following a decade of complete inaction. These are important measures.

I should also say that the committee which I chair, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, was provided with a reference by the Treasurer 15 months ago to look at competition, and that was a very important reference which not only included a raft of economywide issues, such as mergers, but also required the committee to look at a series of important sectors which included retail and supermarkets. We are hoping to table a report in the House on that inquiry soon.

But what I can say is that the evidence that we received from public policy experts, previous chairs of the ACCC and government agencies all pointed to the fact that there are a range of measures across the economy that give an indication of competition and overall economic dynamism. Market share, the degree of firm entry and exit, and margins are three of the key measures that are used. In relation to all of those three measures, there are concerns when it comes to supermarkets and the retail sector. That's why it's so important that the government has initiated a series of reviews. The inquiry that the House of Representatives committee has undertaken received evidence not only from key players in the retail sector and from key players in the supermarket sector but also from a range of other experts, as I indicated—from ex-chairs of the ACCC, from academic experts and from a range of other public policy experts. So we will be feeding in to the public policy discussion as well.

I want to also note that, when it comes to the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct, Dr Emerson is undertaking an important review but there has already been a review when it comes to the dispute resolution provisions of that code. That report, which was provided in September 2023 and which the government has favourably responded to, involves a number of measures which will strengthen dispute resolution measures within that code of conduct. That is critically important because it is the dispute resolution aspects of that code which are often the pointy end of the way in which primary producers, agricultural producers, deal with supermarkets with significant market share. That's already a significant stage, and now, of course, Dr Emerson is going to be reviewing aspects of the code other than the dispute resolution processes.

Of course, there's the ACCC review. It is absolutely critical that the ACCC look at the supermarket sector in detail—to look at the degree of competition, to look at supply chain issues and to look at pricing practices. These are all of the key terms of reference that the ACCC has, with its very extensive and powerful data-gathering powers and with its very extensive analytical powers. This review will be absolutely critical. As I said, the committee that I was on received a lot of evidence on this issue and the findings and recommendations that we put to this House in the coming sitting weeks will then be complemented and built upon materially, I'm sure, by the ACCC in its major review. So this government sees the cost of living as critical, including when it comes to supermarket prices.

10:59 am

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

A few months ago, I wrote to my constituents across Mallee to ask them how they were going in this cost-of-living crisis. Their stories were harrowing, with many going without meals—if you can call toast a meal. The Albanese Labor government have been distracted with pet projects, and rewarding the union movement and others that got them into government, rather than focusing on the cost of living. They claim that their broken promise on the stage 3 tax cuts, adjusting the rates, now passed in this place, will help with the cost of living. But that relief will not arrive in voters' pay packets until 1 July and, even then, they will be receiving around a 10th of what they're losing currently.

The member for Corangamite spoke about the struggles primary producers are facing under the major supermarkets—perfectly correct. The latest behaviour by the supermarkets has happened on Labor's watch. The Albanese Labor government were embarrassed into having the ACCC inquiry she spoke of, after sustained advocacy from the Leader of the Nationals and the National Party.

Let me reflect on energy bills. The upcoming draft default market offer released by the Australian Energy Regulator will announce the reference price for electricity bills in coming weeks for the 2024-25 period. Labor's election pledge to reduce household electricity bills by $275 is set to be another broken promise, unless the upcoming regulated price actually decreases by more than $1,200. The Prime Minister must apologise to everyday Australians hit by skyrocketing power bills if there is less than $1,238 in reductions in their power bills.

Mallee families are paying more and more under Labor, whether it be at the supermarket checkout or the petrol bowser or simply to keep their lights on. The Albanese Labor government is making a habit of failing to deliver on its promises, from 24/7 registered nurses in aged care to not changing the stage 3 tax cuts and is now failing to deliver on cost-of-living relief through reduced power prices.

The impact of high energy prices continues to be felt by industry as well as by families. Mallee's manufacturers and small businesses are being driven to the wall. Mildura Fruit Juices Australia, for example, previously anticipated its energy costs would increase to $1 million, forcing the company to reduce their grape intake as energy price hikes made it unviable to evaporate grapes into concentrate.

Labor simply does not care about the rising cost of living. Instead, they're railroading costly and unwanted renewable and transmission-line projects in regional areas and compromising productivity, while simultaneously saddling families with higher prices to pay for this new infrastructure.

Inflation is running at 4.1 per cent persistently, well above the two to three per cent target. Our core inflation in Australia is 4.2 per cent—higher than in the US, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Singapore, France, Italy, South Korea, Canada, Japan and the entire Euro area. This sits squarely at the feet of the Albanese Labor government. As a result, during the Albanese government's term, the Reserve Bank has met on 19 occasions, increasing rates 12 times and keeping them on hold seven times. But also, last week, the Treasurer was talking about spending because he was worried about the cost-of-living crisis which Labor has created. So he's going to deliver a surplus, but spend more and tax less. It's the usual economic magic pudding of Labor governments.

Just on Saturday, we saw the consequences for Labor of neglecting the cost-of-living crisis in Queensland. This was a cost-of-living election, and the two leaders actually debated only in the final days of the campaign on cost of living. My voters in Mallee are feeling that cost-of-living pain that's been made in Canberra and in red states across the nation. From Prime Minister Albanese to the Labor premiers, they should be very concerned about making sure that they are attacking the real issue, which is cost-of-living pressures here across Australia. The coalition warned it would not be easy under Albanese, and now, more than ever, this prediction is coming to pass.

Debate adjourned.