Senate debates

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Interest Rates

3:31 pm

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Finance (Senator Gallagher) to a question without notice he asked today relating to interest rate increases.

The question focused on interest rates, and, as we've just heard, the Reserve Bank lifted rates again by 50 basis points. Interestingly, last month we heard the Governor of the Reserve Bank basically jawboning down wages, saying that he didn't want to see wages over a particular level. But, no matter how hard I listened and many other Australians listened, we didn't hear the Governor of the Reserve Bank jawboning down corporate profits. That's something that we didn't hear, but we did hear him jawboning down wages.

The problem that we have is that we haven't heard anything of that nature from the Governor of the Reserve Bank, but we also haven't heard anything of that nature from this government. In his statement to the House last week, the Treasurer, Dr Chalmers, neglected to mention the role that corporate profiteering is having on putting upward pressure on inflation in this country. And, despite being asked repeatedly by me in this place, the finance minister, the minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Gallagher, has also not acknowledged the role that corporate profiteering is playing on putting upward pressure on interest rates.

I want to be clear that the Greens do acknowledge some of the supply-side issues that are contributing to inflation, which include things like supply chains, a pandemic, war and climate change—although we won't give this government a free pass on climate change, because, let us not forget, it is one of the most fossil fuel addicted governments in the world. But we do acknowledge those supply-side shocks, but we want to hear the government start to acknowledge the role that corporate profiteering is playing.

There's been a class war underway in this country for 40 years, since Hawke and Keating turbocharged neoliberalism in the mid-1980s. And it is absolutely unarguable that the rich, the billionaire class, are winning that war. You only have to look at what happened during the first two years of the pandemic: billionaires stupendously and obscenely increased their wealth as corporate profits went through the roof. It's this corporate profiteering that is helping to push the price of things up. It's the perfect but terrible storm for working people, because wages are going backwards in real terms. Workers' pay packets are shrinking in real terms, just as everything else is getting more expensive. Now we've got the RBA coming in over the top, jacking up rates. And who's going to feel the pain? It's not the billionaires; it's not the super wealthy; it's not the corporations, or most of their shareholders—not on your life! It's not those people.

It's not the politicians, all of us in here earning hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, because, remember, Labor's promised we're all going to get a big fat tax cut with the stage 3 income tax cuts. We're going to get looked after. That's $240 billion of expenditure that Labor is committed to that will deliver nothing—literally nothing—to someone on the minimum wage, but we'll all get a big fat, real pay rise.

The people that are going to get hurt are the people who can't afford to buy political outcomes. It's recent homebuyers, who paid the highest price in history for their new homes, lulled by a Reserve Bank who told them there would be no interest rate rises for another two years. It's renters, many of whom are already stretched to or beyond breaking point, who will have to suck up, again, another rent rise to pay off their landlord's mortgage.

There is a better way. Introduce a corporate superprofits tax, address some of that corporate profiteering, help tackle inflation, but use the revenue to help tackle the cost-of-living crisis. Put dental into Medicare. Put mental health into Medicare. Provide free child care. Start looking after the environment that ultimately sustains us all. By treating housing as a human right and not as an investment class, we can ensure that no-one has to worry about the basic right of shelter in this country, and we can help people who are so terribly feeling the pain at the moment.

Question agreed to.