Tuesday, 8 August 2023
Questions without Notice
Cost of Living
My question is to the Minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Gallagher. One Australian told the cost-of-living committee that their mortgage is going up month after month while at the same time no extra income is coming in. In addition, the rising costs of electricity and gas are harder to budget for because of price fluctuations, and food is making the weekly budget have to stretch further than it did in the past. 'The inaction by government, particularly in areas where they could make a difference, is so frustrating.' Another said, 'Interest rates impact our mortgage, inflated food prices in supermarkets, massive energy costs—these are our three biggest, and as part-time workers we are impacted terribly.' The Prime Minister said that he had a plan for cheaper electricity and cheaper mortgages. Minister, will your government admit to these Australians and those like them that you have failed to deliver cheaper energy and cheaper mortgages?
I thank Senator Hume for her question. The government understands that many families and households across Australia are doing it tough in this high-inflation environment. It is an environment that is affecting countries around the globe, and it's certainly making it harder for Australians to make ends meet here, which is why our biggest priority since coming to government has been trying to take the pressure off the cost of living where we can without adding to the inflation problem. You would have seen from the budget, and indeed you would have seen from the measures we took—Senator Hume asked about energy prices—our energy bill relief, which those opposite voted against. Those opposite are hypocrites. They come in here and vote against a $3 billion energy bill relief and other sensible interventions to deal with the energy crisis we inherited. They voted against it and then come in here and say that people are struggling with their energy bills. I mean, you can't vote against something and then complain that the government isn't doing anything on energy bills, when that is exactly what we did.
We recalled the parliament, we brought everybody back here, and thankfully we were able to win the support of the parliament to get that measure through. That relief will flow through to people's winter energy bills.
Minister, please resume your seat. Senator Henderson and Senator Hughes, I have called you to order a number of times. I should not have to repeat myself. Your constant interjections are disorderly. I'm requesting that you cease. Please continue, Minister.
We've made decisions on cheaper medicines, for example, and we've got the opportunity for those opposite to endorse the policy that we are implementing through community pharmacies for cheaper medicines so that people can save hundreds of dollars a year on what they're currently spending on medicines. We have cheaper child care and our investments in Medicare—these are all investments where we can take the pressure off people's budgets without adding to the inflation problem in our economy.
The Prime Minister said that his 2023 new year's resolution was to deal with the cost of living. Since the new year, the RBA has hiked interest rates four times, including directly after Labor's budget, by a total of 100 basis points, which has added thousands to the annual cost of average mortgage repayments. Minister, do you think the Prime Minister is succeeding in this resolution?
The Prime Minister's priority is the cost of living and taking the pressure off the cost of living for Australians. That has been his No. 1 priority since becoming Prime Minister, and it is something that he is focused on every single day—I know because I work very closely with him. As we put the budget together, we put together other sensible measures where we could to take that pressure of households. We understand that people are doing it tough; we understand that, which is why we've been so surprised by those opposite in the positions that they've taken when we have brought those measures to the parliament, including on energy bill relief, including on cheaper medicines—in those areas where we can make a difference.
I would note, because those opposite keep trying to allege something that didn't happen, that the Reserve Bank actually acknowledged that our budget took pressure off inflation.
The Prime Minister before the election said, 'I'll say this very clearly: Australians will be better off under a Labor government.' Families today are paying around $22,000 a year more in mortgage repayments.
Government senators interjecting—
The Prime Minister said, before the election, 'I'll say this very clearly: Australians will be better off under a Labor government.' Families today are paying around $22,000 a year more in mortgage repayments. Energy bills are up by 22 per cent, and inflation will continue to run rampant for years according to the RBA. Minister, isn't it true that most families today are worse off since Labor came to government?
No, that's not correct. Those opposite will understand—and I think Australians will understand—that the Albanese government governs in the national interest, not in the secular interests of the Liberal Party, which was what the arrangement was under the former government. We have got wages moving. We are implementing cheaper medicines, strengthening Medicare, energy price relief plans, support for vulnerable Australians, cheaper child care, extending paid parental leave, more affordable housing, fee-free TAFE. And we've been doing that despite the best efforts of those opposite to say 'no' to everything. They say 'no to absolutely everything. Any policy which addresses cost-of-living pressures, those opposite say nothing and then they come in here and whinge about it. You're so irrelevant.
Opposition senators interjecting—