Senate debates

Wednesday, 24 November 2021



7:56 pm

Photo of Karen GroganKaren Grogan (SA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

After eight long years of Liberal-National government, Australians are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet. We're in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis. Eight years of wage stagnation, skyrocketing private and public debt, and job insecurity have left people struggling to pay for the necessities like food, rent, petrol and utility bills. Last week I was speaking to Amy, a Flinders uni student who had just been advised by her landlord that her rent was going up by $35 a week. She can't afford it. I also spoke to Liam, who is an admin trainee and who lives on the opposite side of town to his workplace. He doesn't know how he's going to fill his car with petrol next week, because he can't afford it.

Our community deserves so much more from this government. Since the coalition came to office it costs 22 per cent more to see a doctor and 35 per cent more for child care. I hear from parents who are weighing up whether they can afford to return to work after the birth of a baby. People who are struggling to pay the rent and put food on the table have to watch the daily spectacle of waste and rorting on a scale never before seen in this country. Whether it's sports rorts, water rorts, regional rorts or car park rorts, Australians struggling under the crippling cost-of-living pressures must just shake their heads and wonder what on earth is going on in this country under this government.

I met with Ross Womersley from SACOSS a few weeks ago to discuss digital inclusion, which is a key pressure in the cost of living. We imagine that everybody in this day and age has access to the internet and that everybody has some form of device on which to access it, but that's not the case. Eleven per cent of Australians are highly excluded from and 28.9 per cent are struggling to access digital platforms, according to the 2021 Australian Digital Inclusion Index. According to the index's digital affordability measure, 14 per cent of Australians would need to pay more than 10 per cent of their household income to gain quality, reliable connectivity. For Australians in the lowest income quintile, 67 per cent of them would need to pay 10 per cent of their household income to gain this very same connection. Let's be clear: this isn't about gaming or streaming. This is about accessing jobs, accessing work and accessing government services. It's about accessing utility services, banking and education. It's about what one would call the essentials.

As we head into an election the Morrison government will undoubtedly roll out all the usual lines about being sound economic managers, but they're doing nothing for these people who are struggling with cost-of-living pressures. But we will; Labor will make it easier for families to get ahead and stay ahead. We'll do it by removing the financial barriers that discourage women from working longer hours or pursuing their careers. We'll do it by expanding the NBN and we'll do it through the inclusion of the $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund, which will develop social and affordable housing into the future, creating jobs, building homes and changing lives.

Senate adjourned at 20 : 00