House debates

Wednesday, 3 July 2024

Matters of Public Importance

Albanese Government

3:20 pm

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

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

This government making life harder 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—

3:21 pm

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

Australians understand that Jim-flation is raging around this country right now. It's raging around this country because—

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

Order! No; just as we pulled up with the member for Wannon using correct titles, we're going to ensure that during this MPI correct titles are being used.

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

I understand, Mr Speaker. The Treasurer loves a good bit of branding for his slogans and I was just try to help—nothing more than that! But after two years and three failed budgets, inflation is raging in this country. Inflation is raging in this country, and we have seen four months in a row where it hasn't gone down but has gone up. We are the only one of the 10 major developed economies in the world where inflation has risen since December. This Treasurer has absolutely failed in the job he has, which is to deliver genuine underlying sustainable cost-of-living relief for Australians. That's because, after three attempts, he has failed, not once, not twice, but three times, to deliver a budget that can actually solve the underlying problem.

We're about to go off on a five-week winter break—it's about 5½ weeks of winter break. This is an opportunity for this Treasurer and this government to have another go. They've had three goes and failed three times in a row, but here's a chance for them to go away and have a think about how you actually beat inflation, not drive it up, as we have seen from this government and this Treasurer three times in a row. Traditionally, when the Treasurer has taken breaks, he has gone away and done things like writing 6,000-word essays on remaking capitalism.

Photo of Madeleine KingMadeleine King (Brand, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Northern Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

Talk about capitalism—

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

He's remaking capitalism right now, let me tell you! He is remaking capitalism right now, because inflation is going up in this country and it's going down in every other major advanced country in the world. During that time period we're also going to see the Reserve Bank meet again, and they'll be making an incredibly important decision. They will be deciding whether or not to raise rates—there's no sign that they're going to go down. They will also be deciding whether we're going to have higher rates for longer. And the one thing we can be confident of is that, under this Treasurer, under this government, we're going to have higher rates for longer.

Before the last budget we said there were three tests for the budget. That means there are three tests for the winter break, because they didn't pass any of those tests with their failed budget. The first is to restore Australians' standard of living back to where it was before they came to government—

Photo of Emma McBrideEmma McBride (Dobell, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention) Share this | | Hansard source

What did you do over 10 years?

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

I'm sorry to say that since Labor has been in power, we have seen an eight per cent reduction in the standard of living of Australians and we've seen a nine per cent cut in real wages—a nine per cent cut!

I see the member for Parramatta has gone—oh, he's back again! He didn't understand that you measure real wages against the employee living costs index, which means they've gone down by nine per cent.

I'm going to come to reshuffles in a moment, Member for Parramatta. I notice you're behaving today; you're behaving very well. Good on you. He's in the running!

The second test for the budget was to restore our way of life, because under those opposite we are seeing fewer young Australians holding out hope that they can own a home. The third test was to restore the budget discipline and transparency that was in place before they came into power.

We had a sneak preview in the newspapers over the last 24 hours about how the Prime Minister intends to spend his break. Phil Coorey, of the AFR, said that the Prime Minister 'has taken over the reins of policy development'. The Prime Minister's new edict:

… requires ministers to run all new proposals directly through the prime minister's office for approval …

If you want to get more gas into the network, the minister at the table, the Minister for Resources, is going to have to have a chat to the Prime Minister, who we know doesn't love gas. We know he doesn't like it. It is also clear from this that the Treasurer has lost control of his role, which is to get inflation down. He's failed.

We also know that during the break there's more homework being done by the Prime Minister. He's going to do a reshuffle. It is time to move out some of these ministers who have absolutely failed. We have seen immigration rise at a rate which is completely unsustainable for the housing supply in this country. We've seen population growth of over 1.2 million in two years, the vast majority of which is immigration. And housing supply in that time has been going down, not up—closer to a quarter of a million. That simply doesn't work out. When you have four or five or six or seven houses, as the member for Parramatta does, how do those numbers work?

There is a reshuffle coming up, and I think it's time to give the member for Parramatta a go—what do you think? We'll give him a go. We think he needs a bit of a go. He's been auditioning regularly. I'm sure he's going to give a riveting speech in a moment. But it is time to give him a go.

There is an alternative for how the Prime Minister and the Treasurer could spend this winter break, and that is to restore Australians' standard of living. As I said earlier, living standards have collapsed by eight per cent in the last two years under Labor. How can you achieve that in two years? Only a Treasurer who is completely inept, who wrote a thesis that was a love letter to Paul Keating could possibly deliver that kind of outcome. At the same time, Labor promised to get real wages moving. They're moving alright; they went down nine per cent! They also promised to address the cost of living. They're certainly adding to the cost of living: on average prices have gone up 10 per cent; substantially more for gas, for electricity, for insurance, for rentals—you name it. We have seen Australians suffering under serious pressure.

We hear economists giving their views on what's been going on and what needs to be done during the winter break. Chris Richardson, a highly respected economist, said:

Governments have abandoned the field in the inflation fight. We are fighting the inflation fight one-handed.

I think that's generous. He goes on to say, 'Mortgage relief is a very, very long way away.' Deutsche Bank economist Phil O'Donoghue says, 'Underlying inflation is intolerably high in Australia.'

A moment ago we got another sneak preview as to how the Prime Minister is going to spend this winter break. We know that he has always wanted to impose a tax on the family home. We know he has always wanted to get rid of negative gearing. In fact, it was the minister for energy who, many years ago, belled the cat on this and said, 'If you don't like it, don't vote for it.' It was on these exact policies. Their vision for housing is not a vision where Australians own their home. Their vision for housing is one where homes are owned by industry super funds and built by the CFMEU and where there are apartments for everybody. The standalone home is coming to an end; they're not being built anymore under this government. It's a dystopian vision that those opposite have always wanted for housing in this country.

I'll tell you what we believe in. We believe in Australians having the opportunity to own their home and of having the opportunity to own a home which is not necessarily an apartment. Some will want to, but many will want to own a standalone home—one that they buy by taking on a mortgage that they can repay over time. That means you have to get inflation down and you have to get interest rates down. The real job for those opposite over this break is to achieve exactly that outcome.

You don't achieve that by adding $315 billion of spending. But, over this break, if we believe Phillip Coorey's article from the last 24 hours—and he tends to get it right—what we will actually see is the Prime Minister taking a big pot of money that's been hidden in the budget and spending it and, in the process, adding fuel to the inflationary fire. We can hope this winter break is used for a better outcome for Australians, but the truth is that that has not been achieved by this government in the past and there is little hope that it will be achieved in the future.

3:31 pm

Photo of Emma McBrideEmma McBride (Dobell, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Hume for another enlightened contribution to economic policy debate in Australia. I was just reading that he did his master's at Oxford. He had an interest in game theory, and I think he was looking at applying game theory to English pubs and looking at how they should be protected from the big brewing companies. You just never know what's going to be said these days when coalition members stand up to speak on economic policy.

They now straddle the full spectrum, from being free market ideologues, who would privatise the health system and make free doctors visits a thing of the past, to hardcore interventionists, who would roll over the top of the energy market with a state owned nuclear power company, with no regard to cost, no regard to timing, no regard to communities and no regard to the fact that, under this Labor government, we're finally starting to see the true opportunities which come with renewable energy superpowers. There is no doubting that the National Party is in control at the moment. It's the National Party tail wagging the Liberal Party dog. On the key matter of the cost of living, I see every day in my community the financial pressures that people are under. People are doing it tough. They are under the pump.

Just last Friday, I joined the opening of Toukley Neighbourhood Centre at its new location in Summerside Street. I recognise the work they're doing alongside Orange Sky, OzHarvest, We Care Connect and others to support locals. We have a responsibility as a government to respond in these times. Our government has a clear plan for relief of cost-of-living pressure, in ways that don't add to inflation and repair our budget and supply chains, and reform which lays the foundations for future growth.

From Monday of this week we are rolling out cost-of-living relief in the most responsible way to thousands of Australians. This includes a tax cut for every Australian, including 69,000 people in my electorate of Dobell, on the New South Wales Central Coast. There will be new energy bill relief to every household and one million small businesses—tackling inflation through responsible economic management—and a second budget surplus in two years, not as an end in itself but to provide cost-of-living relief for Australians.

We know there's more to do, but why would you vote against these measures? Why would you get in the way of responsible cost-of-living relief for millions of Australians? Our policies in this year's budget will take three-quarters of a percentage point off inflation this year and half a percentage point next year, which Treasury are forecasting could now get back to the inflation target sooner. The ABS has also confirmed that inflation would be even higher if it weren't for our cost-of-living policies.

I now want to turn to my areas of responsibility in health. We're working to improve access to care while reducing the cost to households. As the health minister said today, what is good for your health is also good for your hip pocket. There are significant investments rolling out to ease the cost of health care and make it easier for Australians wherever they live to get the care that they need. At the same time, we are making permanent structural changes to the health system so that Australians can have confidence that this system will be there for them and their families in the future.

This is in sharp contrast to what we inherited from those opposite. After a decade of neglect, bulk-billing was in freefall. It was never harder or more expensive to visit a GP. But our record investment in tripling the bulk-billing incentive has begun to turn it around in just a few short months. Since we tripled the investment, which started to come into effect last November, we have seen strong data on bulk-billing—a national increase of 3.4 per cent. Across the country, there has been an increase of 3.4 per cent in bulk-billing, growing from 75.6 per cent of all GP visits bulk-billed last October to 79 per cent in May this year. That is a significant and steady growth in bulk-billing. This means around two million additional estimated free visits to see the doctor. I know what that means as a pharmacist, as a local MP and as assistant health minister: a really big change in access and affordability of care, increasing access to health while reducing the cost to households.

This investment has also strengthened general practice and made general practice much more viable for the future, particularly in rural and regional communities, whose outlook was bleak under those opposite. We should never have Australians delaying or avoiding visiting their doctor or filling a prescription because they simply can't afford to go.

The same applies to the cost of medicines. I've been a pharmacist now for more than 25 years. I've worked in community pharmacy; I've worked in regional hospitals. I remember working in an after-hours pharmacy on the main road of Wyong, just opposite the train station. We'd have many people come in late at night. I remember a mother coming in to speak to me. I think she had four children, and three of them had asthma. She came in with their asthma treatment plans and a bundle of prescriptions and asked me which medicines she could avoid or delay filling.

I also remember another occasion of a mother coming to me. She had a shopping trolley full of groceries for her family. She'd been in to see the GP and then come across to the pharmacy. Both of her two children were unwell at the time, and she had prescriptions for antibiotic mixtures for both of them. She said, 'Can I just get one filled and share it between the two and see if after a couple of days they're doing better and I don't need to get the other prescription filled?'

No person should be in a situation where they're forced to make that decision about their children's health and wellbeing. No parent should be forced to decide to fill or not fill a prescription for one of their children. This is what I saw when I was working in pharmacy under the former coalition government. We can't accept that in communities like mine. We can't accept that across the country.

The most recent budget froze the price of PBS medicines. This is really significant. We know that most PBS medicines filled are filled by people who are on healthcare cards, but what this will do is freeze the price of PBS medicines at $31.60 for general patients until the end of 2025 and at $7.70 for concession patients until the end of 2029—for five years. This is significant cost-of-living relief. This will make such a difference to so many people and families coming into community pharmacies right around the country. They will know with confidence that they can afford to pay for their medicine and get the care that they need.

This builds on the government's other measures for cheaper medicines since being elected in May 2022. In July 2022, we lowered the PBS safety net threshold. In October 2022, we reduced the price of 2,000 medicines. In January 2023, we delivered the largest price reduction in the history of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. In September 2023, we introduced 60-day prescriptions for 100 medicines. In March 2024, we expanded 60-day prescriptions to a total of 184 medicines. The third tranche will come into effect in September this year and take the total to some 300 medicines. As a pharmacist, I know what a significant difference this is already making. Around five million Australians have saved more than $414 million on cheaper prescriptions since January 2023. This is good for people's health and it's good, as the health minister says, for their hip pocket.

In addition to bulk billed GP appointments, Australians are also benefiting from quality free health care at a national network of Medicare Urgent Care Clinics. I visited many of the 58 open around the country—and now that number is on its way up to 87. There have been over 494,000 visits to Medicare Urgent Care Clinics around Australia for free, quality, timely care. Medicare Urgent Care Clinics are supporting children and families with over one in four visits from someone aged under 15, making it a trusted place for families to go as an alternative to an emergency department. Over one in three visits have been outside of regular working hours. Half of all patients who presented to Medicare Urgent Care Clinics say they would have otherwise gone to a hospital emergency department. So we're also helping to ease the pressure on those stretched emergency departments of our state hospitals. These are everyday Australians putting their trust in Medicare and using services which make their lives just that little bit easier. Once again, we're easing cost pressures now and making sure the system stronger into the future.

We know there is more to do. My Labor colleagues and I come to work every day, sharply focused on reducing the cost of living for every Australian, making sure that the cost-of-living relief flows in a way that is carefully designed and calibrated for the conditions and the times that the country faces. Those opposite could play a constructive role; I invite them to do so.

3:41 pm

Simon Kennedy (Cook, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Dobell is right: they're trying. But they're not trying hard enough. The Governor of the Reserve Bank was taking the energy subsidies, for example, and saying they're going to look straight through them. They're a one-off subsidy and will have no effect on recurring inflation. So the government are trying, but they're not trying hard enough.

Let me give you a story that brings the true cost-of-living crisis and failure of the Albanese Labor government to life. Last week a woman contacted my office. She lives in Gymea. She's struggling to make ends meet. She looks after her severely disabled autistic son. Her rent has been dramatically increased, just a bit above the 14 per cent we're getting a year. She can't afford to pay her bills. She's trying to choose between rent, food and energy bills, and St Vincent de Paul in Gymea are trying to help her. They came as well to my office. This woman and her son are now facing homelessness. They're trying to get help from the state government. They can't find it, and they've come to my office as a last resort. When I speak to St Vincent de Paul in Gymea, this is one of many stories they're facing in my community.

Make no mistake: Australian households are in a recession, and they have been for over a year, and Australian households feel it. Australians feel it when they're paying their energy bills. They're up over 20 per cent. Australians feel it when they're paying their rent. It's up over 14 per cent. Australians feel it when they're paying their mortgage. They're paying more than $35,000 than they were two years ago. Australians feel it when they're buying their groceries. Cereal is up over 25 per cent in the last two years. Australians feeling when they pay their income tax. They're paying 20 per cent more in personal income tax because of bracket creep than they were two years ago. And Australian first home owners feel it because they can't save for a home. Australians' savings are down 10 per cent.

Make no mistake: this is the fault of the Labor government. Australia has higher inflation than comparable economies. Australia's inflation is going up while in the rest of the world it is going down. The UK, the United States, across the ditch in New Zealand, Canada and the euro area all have lower inflation than Australia. Unlike Australia, their inflation is dropping. So why is Australia's inflation continuing to rise? Well, it's not the fault of the average Australian, and it's certainly not the fault of my constituent in Gymea. The Labor Party's spending addiction is driving up the cost of living for average Australians. Since coming to government, the Labor government has passed expansionary budgets—$315 billion in extra government spending. That's almost $30,000 per household. To all the Australian households out there, would you rather the Albanese government spent this extra $315 billion, $30,000 for each household, or would you rather have it in the bank? Not only did you not get the $30,000; you are being hit with higher prices, higher interest rates and more pain. The average Australian is literally paying higher prices for the Labor Party's bad decisions.

From the last budget, we can see what Anthony Albanese believes will solve this cost-of-living crisis. What's his answer? More government. What is his answer to the higher energy costs? A $300 subsidy. What is his answer to the higher childcare costs? More subsidies. What is his answer to low homeownership? The government will take equity in your home.

In the Liberal Party we have different answers. While the Labor Party believes the answer to higher energy prices is a $300 subsidy, the Liberals believe in actually lowering prices. While the Labor Party believes the answer to higher childcare costs is greater childcare subsidies, the Liberal Party believes in actually lowering prices. The Labor Party believes the answer to low homeownership is the government owning part of your house. The Liberal Party believes it's lowering housing prices.

So how do we actually lower energy prices, child care or housing? We increase the supply. We want to increase the supply of clean and reliable energy, and not by closing power plants and not by writing off an entire technology before properly investigating it. We lower childcare prices by creating incentives for the private sector to build more childcare centres, not just subsidising demand.

Instead of addressing the underlying problem, Labor believes in giving out subsidy after subsidy, but what will the Labor government do when the money runs out? When the subsidies run out, the underlying issues will still remain and average Australians will be left to pay the price.

3:46 pm

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

It was a very impassioned speech by the shadow Treasurer. We all know that the shadow Treasurer has had a bit of trouble with his speeches over the last couple of years, the small problem being that he hasn't got any policies up in shadow cabinet. He hasn't got any tax policies up, any productivity policies, any economic reforms—absolute doughnut. In the absence of policies, he speaks in airy generalisations about things that he calls 'principles', and he has a name for these principles. He calls them his 'back to basics' principles. This is his back-to-basics economic approach, and, every chance he gets, he tells us about the contents of his back-to-basics economic approach. Now, I don't think he knows how the kids are using the term 'basic' these days. Nobody has had the heart to fill him in, but that's okay; for the shadow Treasurer, it's hip to be square.

The question is: what is in this back-to-basics approach? What are the principles that he holds so dear? Principle No. 1 for him is smaller government; principle No. 2, which he talks about a lot, is competitive neutrality; and principle No. 3 is reducing regulation. So, after a big week of coalition policy, I thought I'd just do a quick welfare check on how the back-to-basics approach was going. Let's go through them one by one.

Back-to-basics principle No. 1 is smaller government. That has not had a good week. Unfortunately, that one really hit the rocks when his leader announced the biggest government funded program in Australian history. The shadow Treasurer has spent two years talking about spending less. He's been complaining about the housing fund and he's been complaining about the NRF, all $10 billion of it—all these off-balance-sheet funds that he says are a big waste of Australian taxpayers' money. It turns out the problem wasn't that they were off balance sheet; the problem was that they weren't big enough! Now he's got a $600 billion off-balance-sheet proposal. It's a beauty to behold! It's 60 times bigger than the housing fund. It's 10 times bigger than the NBN. It's four times bigger than the biggest policy in Australian history, JobKeeper. That used to be the most expensive policy. It pales into comparison to the $600 billion they want to spend on nuclear energy. So Peter Dutton has completely junked the pretence of smaller government. He's taken back-to-basics principle No. 1 outside and shot it in the back of the head.

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

Member for Parramatta, I'm just going to remind you that you need to use correct titles when referring to members of parliament.

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

Thank you very much, Deputy Speaker. His economic policy is less 'back to basics' now. It's more 'back to bolsheviks'! The Soviets would be proud of this; they'd really love it. Stalin had a five-year plan; the shadow Treasurer now has a 15-year plan. Brezhnev built three nuclear power plants in 20 years; the Liberals want to build seven in 10 years. This is about national ambition. The Soviets weren't ambitious enough! They didn't have the vision that the Liberals have.

Let's do a quick check on principle No. 2: energy policy must be competitively neutral. That's what we heard from the shadow Treasurer. It was all about back to basics, not picking winners. Well, again, this principle really hit the fence last week. It hit the fence when it was jumped by the mother of all captain's picks in energy policy: nuclear power for all. The shadow Treasurer, the week before, was saying that energy infrastructure has to be commercial—'We don't want to subsidise the private sector.' His leader says, 'No. Let's put it on the government credit card.' Rolled again, unfortunately, and back-to-basics principle No. 2 disappears.

Back-to-basics principle No. 3 is deregulation. This one is my favourite. The shadow Treasurer is very passionate about this. He doesn't want the dead hand of government getting involved in business. He doesn't want government telling businesses what to do. They should be out there employing people, driving economic growth. That's what he needs businesses to do. That's why important back-to-basics principle No. 3 is deregulation. Unfortunately, his leader had other ideas, again. When it comes to grocery prices, his leader has put forward the most statist, socialist, big-government, interventionist policy you could imagine! This policy made the Greens blush. It was so socialist the Greens had second thoughts. He doesn't just want to regulate; he wants to split them up. (Time expired)

3:51 pm

Photo of David GillespieDavid Gillespie (Lyne, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This government is making life harder for Australians. Everywhere you look, mums and dads are facing higher bills. Since this government came to power, the average mortgage in Australia has gone up thousands and thousands of after-tax dollars in every family budget. If you haven't got a mortgage, you're worse off, too: rents are up 14.2 per cent. There's a housing shortage, yet this government is overseeing the biggest immigration program, in the middle of a housing availability crisis. It's not just housing affordability; we're running out of houses and apartments, and we have record numbers of temporary migrants coming in.

People don't realise that a lot of these temporary migrants aren't just on tourist visas; they are also here on student visas. They might end up studying here for four to five years. Some are in real causes, but many of them sign up for mickey mouse courses, get their student visa and go into the job market. They're not the high-skilled migrants we want. They stay here so long as temporary migrants that they qualify and are able to apply for the permanent migration system. Really, the permanent migration system, which is based on skills, is being filled in large part by those who have hung around long enough to apply for it. It is counterproductive when you're in the middle of a housing shortage.

Education costs are up. Everywhere that mums and dads in my electorate turn, prices are up. Education costs are up 11 per cent. Health costs are up 11.9 per cent. We've had some unsustainable wage rises. I know everyone wants a wage rise, but it has to be done gradually, without making inflation worse. Across-the-board wage rises of 25 per cent are not sustainable, but there are some professions in the health industry that have managed to wrangle that.

We have an inflationary budget, with $315 billion in extra spending in the last budget. That is a mind-boggling amount of money when you don't have a national emergency like the COVID crisis or World War II. That increase is unbelievable when we're trying to get inflation down. Inflation eats away at the value of people's savings. The value of everything is reduced when inflation increases, and it's now up to 4.4 per cent. Our economic growth per head of population is not growing. Our gross GDP is growing but that is only because we have record rates of inflation. We need genuine economic growth.

At the core of every industrial economy is the electricity system and the cost of liquid energy. Those two things drive everything in the post-industrial economies. What have we got? We've got a shortage of our own liquid fuel. We are having an absolute shortage of electricity. Many days there are warnings from AEMO that we don't have enough energy and we're going to be short on gas, yet this government is tying the gas industry up by not approving gas development and gas is important for everything, not just energy—heating, industrial processes.

Everywhere you go, things aren't working because of core problems. We are destroying our competitiveness and our economy by making our power generation expensive. Little do people realise that every year approximately $3.7 billion in green electricity subsidies get into their electricity bill. That is for the large generation certificates and for the small-scale technology certificates and some other state subsidies. When you add all those up every year, that is almost getting to $4 billion a year. They are subsidies, and these renewable projects are going off the Richter scale. They are being waved through without any environmental checking and that means there will be more large generating subsidies. A lot of these green energy projects are subsidy generating projects that are only viable because of subsidies and that is one of the root causes of inflation. (Time expired)

3:56 pm

Photo of Sally SitouSally Sitou (Reid, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My son, when he was three, really liked helping me bake cakes. When I say 'help' I use that term very loosely because, when cracking an egg, there was often more eggshell than egg; measuring out milk, the quantities were all over the shop; and when he was helping to stir the batter, most of the batter ended up outside of the bowl. So when I think about the coalition's policies to help Australians, I often think about my son helping me bake a cake, because maybe the helping was more hindrance than help.

But let's go through some of the things those opposite thought were going to be helpful. On the matter of wages, those opposite had as a deliberate design feature—so they chose to do this; it was deliberate—to keep wages low. When asked to back an increase in the minimum wage for our lowest-paid workers, what did those opposite say? 'No thank you'. We on this side of the House have backed our lowest-paid workers by advocating for increases in the minimum wage not once, not twice but three times now. So a full-time worker, say a cleaner, on minimum wage has now seen their wage go up by $143 a week. Over a year, that is more than $7,000 in pay rises in just over two years for that worker. And that worker who is on a minimum wage earning about $45,000 a year is also going to get a tax cut thanks to the Albanese Labor government.

Under those opposite—remember, they were trying to help here—that cleaner on a minimum wage would have got nothing. So if you are in Australian on the minimum wage, who would you think is helping? Would it be those opposite who tried to suppress your wages, wouldn't back an increase in minimum wage, didn't want to give you a tax cut, or those on this side of the House, who have backed an increase in the minimum wage, and we have already delivered you a tax cut as of 1 July?

On energy prices: let's have a look at how those opposite were trying to help Australians who use energy. They made it near impossible for industry to invest in cheaper renewable energy by having 22 different energy policies, none of which they could land. They gave it a good red-hot go to try to help but could not land one. And now the one energy policy they have finally landed is the most expensive form of energy—nuclear. The other thing they did was vote against energy bill relief for Australian households. What are we on this side of the House doing? We are providing investors certainty by having good, quality policies on addressing climate change but encouraging investment in renewable energy. We have also voted for energy bill relief for households, and this week Australians will start to see some of that energy bill relief. If you are one of the 10 million Australian households who use energy, who do you think is helping here?

Let's move on to Australians that take medication. Those on the other side of the House voted against 60-day prescriptions—reform that would have made medicines cheaper. We on this side of the House have voted for 60-day prescription reform, and we have also implemented the largest cut in the maximum patient co-payment in the 75-year history of the PBS. If you are one of the five million Australians who has saved more than $400 million on your medicines, who would you say is helping?

Let's summarise here. If you are an Australian on minimum wage or an Australian who pays taxes or an Australian who takes medication or uses energy, who do you think is helping? I think the answer would be, resoundingly: those on this side of the House.

4:01 pm

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

The member for Parramatta had a bit of pep in his step when he delivered his speech today. He seemed very happy today; I'm not sure why, but he was extremely happy. What was interesting was the subtlety of what he spoke about. In his five minutes, the member for Parramatta had a choice—to spend that five minutes defending the Treasurer, defending the Treasurer's decisions or attacking the opposition. Interestingly he didn't use that five minutes to defend the Treasurer; he spent it talking about the opposition, and it's not surprising. One thing that was interesting about the member for Parramatta's contribution is that he mentioned nuclear. If the reports are true, he could be in the cabinet soon and able to really shape policy. If not, he has the option, as we now know, to cross the floor because in a past life the member for Parramatta was a strong advocate for nuclear energy.

I'm going to quote the member for Parramatta from a previous role—Quarterly Essay 44, Man-Made World: 'A single thousand-megawatt reactor produces the same power as 770 square kilometres of wind turbines. Nuclear power can also be scaled up. France added 48 gigawatts of nuclear capacity roughly equivalent to the entire capacity of Australia's electricity system in just over a decade. France now produces nearly 80 per cent of its power through nuclear reactors and has among the lowest emissions in the industrialised world'. I continue to quote: 'Nuclear power is, on many criteria, also better for the environment than currently available renewable technology. Massive volumes of concrete, steel, glass and rare elements will need to be mined and manufactured to produce solar panels and wind turbines if renewable energy facilities are rolled out at scale. Vast natural areas also need to be used as locations for solar facilities and wind farms. For this reason, some members of the green movement are starting to question the environmental costs of such projects.' Well, I look forward to the member Parramatta arguing for nuclear in the caucus, or, if he doesn't get that promotion over the break, he might cross the floor; he can join us. Let's see if he continues to hold that position. He said that many years ago; we know that's what he really thinks. Now he's got to follow the party line.

To what we saw today: no wonder the Treasurer was quite angry in question time; he got rolled by the Prime Minister, as Phil Coorey reported today. He's got the member for Parramatta breathing down his neck, so it's no wonder he was a little bit angry and had to get warned a few times by the Speaker.

We also saw today a prime minister that does not understand how the real world works. He does not understand anything about how it works in the real world. He was talking about the grocery code, and he made the statement—it was incredulous, and I have spent over a decade working in the grocery code—that 'If you sell a Woolworths, it will have to be replaced by Coles.' Guess what, Prime Minister? Maybe if you left the inner-city and you and went to a regional or rural area, you would hear about these amazing things called IGAs or Foodlands—independent supermarkets run by a great organisation called Metcash. They're small and family owned businesses. They would love the opportunity to buy a site that has been landbanked by Woolworths and Coles. There's also a another great company called Aldi. CHOICE recently showed that they're providing cheaper groceries—a different model to Woolworths and Coles, but I'm sure they would love some of those locations as well. We had the example about five or six years ago where a German company called Lidl was looking to launch in the Australian market. They spent a significant amount of time investigating launching and had staff on the ground, and they decided not to. One of the reasons why was they couldn't get appropriate locations.

The Prime Minister saying that Woolworths and Coles are the only grocery channels of supermarkets that exist shows how out of touch he is with the Australian people. When he criticises this policy, it's because of ideology. He doesn't understand the pressure that Australian food manufacturers are under. I understand it because I've seen it and I've lived it. He doesn't understand the pressure that farmers are under. I understand it because my family have been in farming since the 50s. He has taken an ideological position. He has taken a position that will not reduce food and grocery prices. He is supporting big business at the expense of small business and Australian farmers, and every time he stands at that despatch box and talks about the economy, he shows how out of touch he is. He shows that he really just does not get it.

4:07 pm

Photo of Tony ZappiaTony Zappia (Makin, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I welcome the opportunity to speak to this motion because no government has done more to help with cost-of-living pressures than the Albanese Labor government. When the Albanese Labor government came to office two years ago, inflation, energy costs and interest rates—which are really the precursor to the cost-of-living pressures that we all face today—were all on the way up, so much so that the member for Hume, who put this motion forward, was the person who tried to cover or mask the energy price increases at that election. But the reality is that this government is conscious that cost-of-living pressures are hurting families and has implemented a whole suite of measures which, hopefully, time will allow me to go through.

With respect to the member for Hume, after 10 minutes of ranting, he did not propose one solution to the problem that claims he is so concerned about. All we heard was criticism of what we are doing on this side of the House. Let me tell anyone listening what we are doing. From 1 July, every taxpayer—that is, 13.6 million Australians—will get a tax cut. That means a tax cut, on average, of $1,500 a year. People earning under $45,000—who, under the coalition would have received nothing—will actually get a tax cut. These are people who need the tax cut the most. From 1 July every Australian household will receive $300 off their energy bills, and about a million small businesses will receive $325 off. We capped coal and gas prices to keep energy prices down, but those opposite opposed that legislation. We're getting wages moving. After a decade of Liberals and Nationals in government deliberately keeping wages low, this Labor government is getting wages moving again. We have supported three consecutive pay increases for the minimum wage, and we have delivered a historic 15 per cent pay rise for aged-care workers. We've taken the gender pay gap to a record low, we've banned pay secrecy clauses, we've made deliberate wage theft a crime and we've legislated on the 'same job, same pay' protections for casual workers.

Then we've got cheaper medicines, which were mentioned earlier on in this debate. In this budget we're providing $3 billion to support pharmacies and to keep the cost of medicines down. We're freezing the maximum cost of PBS prescriptions for a year, and that means that no-one will pay more than $31.60 for a PBS script. For Australians with pension or concession cards—again, some of the people that are struggling the most—we're freezing the price for five years so that those Australians won't have to pay more than $7.70 for the medicines they need. Then we've tripled the bulk-billing incentive. Today, more GP visits are being bulk-billed. That means that people that are struggling don't have to put their hand in their pocket whenever they go to see their GP.

We're also providing relief for students by wiping $3 billion in student debt and changing the way that HELP loans are indexed to make it fairer and cheaper over the life of a loan. By backdating this change to mid-2023, we are able to provide debt relief in the form of HELP loan credits to over three million Australians. We're also reducing financial barriers for the next generation of nurses, midwives, teachers and social workers by providing prac payments to support them whilst they are undertaking their compulsory placements. As we heard again in question time today, we've provided some 400,000 fee-free TAFE places. We also go into the issue of consumers at the checkouts, which, again, has been talked about today. We're making sure that Australians get a fair deal at the checkout by holding supermarkets to account with a strong competition watchdog and making the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct mandatory. We're moving towards six months of paid parental leave with the flexibility to choose how to split it between parents, and we're introducing paid super on government paid parental leave.

Lastly, we're providing the first back-to-back increases to Commonwealth Rent Assistance in more than 30 years. On top of the 15 per cent increase in our last budget, this year we are delivering a further 10 per cent increase as well as the $32 billion housing plan, which will ensure there are more houses in Australia. That is the best way we can reduce the cost of housing and renting. What do we hear from those opposite? We hear about divestiture powers, expensive nuclear energy and things that they talk about but they never did anything about in the almost 10 years that they were in office.

4:11 pm

Cameron Caldwell (Fadden, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Unfortunately, quite sadly, this government is letting down everyday Australians. Right across this country, particularly in my electorate, Fadden, people are doing it tough. You only have to walk down the main street of Labrador, Coombabah, Pacific Pines or Pimpama to see that people are hurting. When you talk to them, when you walk with those people, when you listen to what they say, they are hurting under a terrible Labor government. I notice that there are quite a few people in the gallery here today, which is wonderful—for them to observe our democracy. I just wonder what's going through their mind, whether they think they're better off now than they were two years ago under a competent coalition government.

As we enter the new financial year, everyone on the Labor side of the House has been promising that life will be easier because they're delivering their stage 3 tax cuts. That's what we heard on 1 July—magically, everything is going to get better. The problem is this: these tax cuts are a drop in the ocean compared to the damage that has been done to the Australian household. The cost of living is, quite frankly, completely out of control. And it's because of the failed Labor government's budget that the household budget is hurting so badly—reckless spending, Jimflation continuing to rise, making everyone's lives more expensive.

I understand that governing is new to those opposite. They've only been there for a short period of time. So let me help you out with a quick lesson in economics.

Photo of Stephen JonesStephen Jones (Whitlam, Australian Labor Party, Assistant Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

How long have you been here?

Cameron Caldwell (Fadden, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I've been here five minutes, and I can see already how incompetent you all are. So here's the lesson. When you spend an extra $315 billion over two years, the economy can overheat. This causes Jimflation to spike. So, when inflation goes up, what that means is that the cost of everything is going up for every Australian. On the other hand, if you use some self-control, inflation tends to stay lower. On this side of the House, what we know is that high inflation is very, very bad for the everyday Australian. This Labor government isn't fooling anyone when it tries to spin inflation as being a worldwide phenomenon. It's not. Other major economies are seeing relief in inflation while ours, here in Australia, is homegrown and continues to skyrocket.

Australians deserve better than this. Families and small businesses shouldn't be struggling this hard. What those opposite fail to understand is that inflation hits people hard at home. It's an amount of money that is continuing to grow. The costs are going up exponentially. This is what happens—four per cent on four per cent on four per cent. It's really not that hard to understand why people can't afford groceries and why they can't afford their power bills.

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

'Compounding' is the word you're looking for.

Cameron Caldwell (Fadden, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My friend opposite has made a very good use of the word 'compounding'. Let's use that. Four per cent plus four per cent plus four per cent—what's happening? Prices are going up. Australians, quite frankly, cannot afford this Labor government. They deserve better. They were promised that power prices were going down.

Here's another little bit of maths, and perhaps those opposite can help out: you promised that power bills would go down by $275, and instead they have gone up by $1,000. Should we work this out? If in fact they have gone up by $1,000 a year in the last two years, is that anything relevant to a $275 promise for them to go down? No. It's going in completely the wrong direction.

Australians are paying 20 per cent more in personal tax, and this is the part where it really hurts Australian families. Homeowners with a typical mortgage of about $750,000 are nearly $35,000 worse off after tax. The levels of damage achieved by this Albanese Labor government over the past two years are astonishing, but it's heartbreaking for Australians, because they can't afford the incompetence of this government. They look forward to the next election to return a coalition government who will be responsible economic managers.

4:17 pm

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the matter of public importance raised by the member for Hume. Due to an indiscretion, I wasn't here in person to see the member for Hume's speech, so I got to watch it from up in my office. When you're sitting watching someone speak, you're invariably drawn to the people behind the speaker in the frame. The member for Hume had 10 minutes to talk about cost-of-living issues. He spent a lot of time talking about Labor reshuffles. It was quite bizarre. He chose the topic of public importance and then spoke about Labor reshuffles like that was the most important thing.

As I was sitting there, watching the member for Hume and then being drawn to the people in the frame behind him, it was a great lesson in body language. If you're ever unfortunate enough to be thrown out under 94(a)—it does happen to some of us. I was watching the body language of the backbenchers behind the member for Hume, and it was like a lesson in the phrase: 'Oh my God. What have we done?' They were sitting there on the backbench saying, 'This guy is in front of me.'

In terms of reshuffles, the member for Hume is calling for a Labor reshuffle, offering commentary on a Labor reshuffle. Obviously, the member for Dickson, the Leader of the Opposition, needs to do some serious reshuffling. My 15-year-old has more economic credibility than the member for Hume. I hope you're not listening to this, Leo. But, seriously, we saw it in question time today—issue after issue after issue where the member for Hume has been rolled.

We know that the way to assist Australians is to help them out during a cost-of-living crisis. We do know that. We know that people are doing it tough, and we don't just stand around and say: 'Oh, gee! Times are tough.' We are actually doing those practical things so that, from the next pay packet that the people in my electorate receive, they'll get some assistance. We know, when it comes to their power bills, whether they're an individual household or a small business, that they'll receive some benefit from us. And I do note that the Labor government in Queensland has given an extra $1,000. The previous speaker is a Queensland MP. He forgot to mention that the Queensland Labor government's giving people a $1,000 cut on their power bills.

The member for Casey's speech was a little bit bizarre in that he just read out an essay that Andrew Charlton, the member for Parramatta, wrote years ago. But the previous speaker was talking about inflation as if it magically occurred. I remember the last coalition budget. Inflation was running hot, so they just got a big bucket of lighter fluid, squirted it down the bottom and said, 'Look at that fire go!' A change of government happens, and then they're saying, 'Geez, there's a lot of smoke and flames; the economy is in trouble when it comes to inflation,' as if we could put it out overnight just by electing a Labor government. That's not how inflation works. It takes a long time to get inflation under control. Labor understand that, because Labor people are the ones who suffer most when it comes to inflation.

It is heading in the right direction. We know that people have less money to spend, effectively, if they're a pay-as-you-go person, and many of them are the people that we have targeted our tax packages to. They're the people that we're trying to give energy relief. These are all things that we're doing to make sure that we get inflation under control. The last budget of the coalition was a disaster when it came to getting the economy under control and left us with a trillion dollars in debt, effectively, throughout any lingering soupcon of economic credibility leftover from the Howard years. It was all gone.

An honourable member: 'None' soupcons left! Zero soupcons!

I defer to my French-speaking colleague in the chamber in terms of pronunciation! But what did they have in terms of economic credibility? All they had was a bunch of mugs! A bunch of mugs—that was it.

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

That's very unparliamentary!

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It was a bunch of mugs. Some are prepared to self-identify, but others recognise that we're actually talking about their prop—that's all that we're talking about.