Wednesday, 10 May 2023
Productivity Commission Amendment (Electricity Reporting) Bill 2023; Second Reading
Thank you for your advice, Deputy President, and, no doubt, Senator Hughes's advice. In addition to its fiscal importance, it sends a message about discipline—that is, that every dollar counts; that it's the public's money, not the Liberal and National parties' money; that it's not for rorting for partisan political purposes; that it's for working through, carefully, in the public interest; and, finally, that it's about putting downward pressure on interest rates. It's the largest investment ever made in bulk-billing incentives. It reduces the cost of medicines by up to half for at least six million people. It provides $3 billion of electricity price relief—and I will come back to that question in a moment—by taking up to $500 off their bills. It's going to have a big impact on retail electricity prices. There's an increase in payments for JobSeeker and Youth Allowance by $40 a fortnight. There's $2.7 billion to increase the maximum rates of Commonwealth rent assistance, and, of course, there's a big investment in the single-parent payment. The maximum rate of Commonwealth rent assistance will increase by 15 per cent. People talk about the cost of housing, and they're right to raise it and to advocate for it, but, in terms of actual action, this is the biggest rise.
This is a budget that delivers for people who need it. It delivers for the Australian community at large. It delivers targeted relief for low-income households, and some of that relief puts direct downward pressure on inflation because of what the government is doing in energy price relief. There are two components of that. The first one was in November last year. The AER predicted that energy price rises were going to be in the order of 51 per cent, and the government acted. Price caps, coal and gas, and working with the states and territories delivered downward pressure, particularly on gas prices, for east-coast households and businesses. The second component, announced by the Treasurer last night, is up to $500 for eligible households—$500.
All we hear from this lot during question time is heckling about the government's commitments in 2021 on energy price relief. This is $500 delivered through the budget for eligible households. Of course, the policy delivery mechanism for the states and the Commonwealth is complicated, because the jurisdictions have different energy markets in them. But the outcome for eligible households will be very simple: your bill will be up to $500 less than it would have been. What is the position of Mr Dutton and Mr Taylor and the Liberal and National parties on both of these measures? They're against them. They're all for the slogans, but they're against policy substance. These are policies that work. These are policies that put downward pressure on energy prices. And where are those opposite? They're opposed to them. Then there's this newfound enthusiasm for transparency.
What is their position here? We have delivered price caps on gas. We have delivered downward pressure on coal. We have delivered $500 for eligible households, downward pressure on electricity, and what are the Liberal and National parties' offering? More reports. Perhaps for Senator Duniam the hope is that Tasmanian households, cold this winter, can collect the Productivity Commission reports and set fire to them. Maybe that is the only way that Mr Dutton and Mr Taylor will contribute to downward pressure on household electricity and gas prices—with more reports. And maybe people can set fire to them to get a short-term, temporary warm glow, because that is all you get from the other side.
What is their record? A decade of policy failure in energy—22 policies, and they never landed one—and dishonesty. When push came to shove, when the result of a decade of policy failure should have been there for all Australians to see, what did they do? They covered it up. It was a sordid, sleazy, political, partisan cover-up from the cover-up artists themselves. The Australian people have never seen a shonkier period of government. Mr Morrison made poor old Billy McMahon look good. So patently dishonest and partisan was that government that nobody on the other side ever says Mr Morrison's name again. They don't want to be seen with him.
You talk, Senator Hughes, about $275. The figure you should use is $500, because that's what this government has delivered.
We go out there, we say what we're going to do and then we deliver more. Perhaps the other side would like us to lower our ambitions. Perhaps the other side would like more cynicism, but, after a decade of policy failure, we have a government here that is determined to deliver for the Australian people. In the big opportunities for lower energy prices, investing in the cheapest form of energy—renewables and storage—what do we hear from the backbench over there? It's more nonsense about nuclear to push prices up, more slogans, no substance, more meaningless rhetoric and more press releases, but the Australian government and people have made a choice.