Senate debates

Tuesday, 9 May 2023

Matters of Public Importance


6:15 pm

Photo of Slade BrockmanSlade Brockman (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

It remains very secret, Senator McDonald. In fact, it remains so secret that, until this day, we see no plan to fight inflation.

As Senator Dean Smith said in speaking to this motion, inflation is a scourge. Anyone who has lived through periods of high inflation—whilst I was young, I do remember the high inflation of the 1970s and the effect it had on my family and their farming business—knows just how corrosive, how destructive and how damaging it is. Why is it so corrosive? Because it erodes everyone's buying power. It erodes the value of the money in your pocket, the value of the money in your bank account and the value of the money in your pay packet. It leads to massive declines in real wages. That's what we're seeing.

This government—particularly when it was in opposition, admittedly—used to talk a lot about real wage increases. We don't hear them talk about real wage increases anymore, because they have overseen in their first period in government the largest declines in real wages we've seen in decades. The last coalition government actually delivered real wage increases. You might not know that if you just listened to this government, because this government tells big porky pies. They've actually delivered massive declines in real wages, and that is through their inaction on inflation. They have left all the heavy lifting to the Reserve Bank. They have done nothing in terms of the economic levers they control to put downward pressure on inflation. I'm a great believer in the 'bootlegger and Baptist' theory of economics, and I say: why? Why would they have done that when they know how corrosive and damaging inflation is? It is because inflation does have an upside to governments. Inflation means that the real value of government debt is over time eroded, and this comes at the direct expense of taxpayers.

So, whilst this government may talk about dealing with inflation through targeted cost-of-living relief, I ask everyone out there who's listening to this whether they feel they have received anything from this government to help them with the cost of living. I suspect the vast, vast majority of those listening to me today would say the government has done absolutely nothing. Things have just got harder, harder and harder, as they've seen their mortgage interest rates skyrocket, the costs of food—groceries, fresh fruit and vegetables, meat and dairy products—skyrocket, the cost of housing go up and the cost of recreation increase.

All of these factors are even more highly magnified in rural and regional Australia. I was lucky enough in the last few weeks to spend a few days in Geraldton, to the north of Perth, and a few days in Albany, about 4½ hours south of Perth. In both those places, you see the corrosive and damaging effects of skyrocketing inflation. You see the pressure on people in supermarkets, where suddenly they are having to pay so much more for their bread, so much more for their meat, so much more for their dairy. The added cost of transportation to regional areas piles on top of the already high cost of living in the bush. You didn't see the price of petrol much under $2 a litre in and around Geraldton, particularly in the regional areas an hour or two outside of Geraldton. This is the cost of inflation. This is the cost of this corrosive, hidden tax on the mums and dads, the small businesses and the farming families of this country, who face these cost-of-living pressures every day, and, tonight, the pressure is on this government.


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