Senate debates

Monday, 11 September 2023

Matters of Public Importance


5:19 pm

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to also speak this afternoon on this MPI. It was noted by one Labor senator that there's an economic revolution taking place in Australia, and I couldn't agree with her more. That economic revolution is turning the lives of Australian families upside-down. Like any revolution, it is causing chaos and heartache. People can't see in front of them. Of course, that economic revolution is a cost-of-living crisis that is sparing no-one in the Australian economy.

Just last week we saw the national accounts provided. As other senators have said, they identified a per capita recession. A per capita recession is occurring across this country, meaning that Australians are getting poorer. I think for the first time ever Australian parents and Australian grandparents cannot say to their grandchildren that the future will be better for them than it was for themselves, because on the current trajectory the only outcome that people can be confident of is one of falling living standards.

At the moment my home state of Western Australia has the largest number of mortgage borrowers in arrears of any Australian state. We also know that 21 per cent of Western Australian respondents to a recent Salvation Army report said that they can no longer meet their mortgage and rental payments. That was 21 per cent of Western Australians who responded to the Salvation Army survey. Guess what that statistic is nationally? Just seven per cent. And 41,000 low-income mortgage holders in Western Australia are facing very severe mortgage stress, with more than 30 per cent of the household budgets of those 41,000 families now being spent on mortgages. That is harm and hurt that is striking the hearts of many Western Australian households.

We have a situation where the government couldn't care enough. It's not interested enough in the priorities of Western Australian working families. It's all the more remarkable that the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, came to Western Australia in May last year and launched his federal campaign to become the Prime Minister of this country with a commitment and with a promise that he would make life cheaper for WA and Australian families. Nothing could seriously be further from the truth.

There is something else that is happening in our country at the moment, and it's happening quite subtly. That is the government is seeking to undermine one of the most important consensus arrangements we have in our country. That consensus is the high level of community support for our immigration program. Australia is a great multicultural country, and multiculturalism brings a lot of additional benefits. The decision to bring 715,000 people to Australia in just two years at a time when we have a housing affordability crisis, when rents are skyrocketing and when inflation is persistent in the rental market—that decision alone—will go a long way to undermine public confidence in our very important immigration program. The RBA has made that point. The RBA said in its recent statement of monetary policy released earlier this year:

A shortfall in housing supply, relative to strong demand from a rising population, is expected to result in continued upward pressure on rents, adding to the inflation forecast.

An immigration program must be planned and it must be prepared for. And this government has not planned and has not prepared for a 715,000 increase over two years. We know that that population burden falls disproportionately across our country. It falls in Sydney and Melbourne and less so in Perth and Brisbane. Maintaining high levels of public confidence in our migration program is so critical, and the government is on the verge of trashing that.


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