Tuesday, 17 October 2023
Questions without Notice
Cost of Living
My question is to the Minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Gallagher. Minister, you and your colleagues continue to justify Mr Albanese's disastrous and divisive referendum by saying it was about honouring a promise. Since the latest CPI figures show the cost of food and non-alcoholic beverages has increased 7.5 per cent year on year. Instead of dividing Australia with his disastrous referendum, could the Prime Minister also keep his promise that a Labor government will lower the cost of living?
I thank Senator Liddle for the question. It relates to cost of living, which is an incredibly important issue for the government and one that we have remained focused on since we came into government.
If I just block out some of those interjections, I will get to it. As I said yesterday, we have provided a very significant cost-of-living package through the October budget and through the May budget to address those pressures where we can without adding to inflation. Every single step along the way, as we've been designing those programs and implementing them through legislation, those opposite have opposed them. It's one thing to stand up and ask questions about what you're doing in the same breath as you're opposing the steps that we're taking to reduce those pressures on families and households across Australia. It's hypocritical, I would argue, to, on the one hand, rail against it and, in the same breath, use your vote—every single one of your votes—and sit on the other side to block legislation that would introduce measures that support households with those cost-of-living pressures. We are totally focused on cost of living. Since day one of this government—
Opposition senators interjecting—
Well, have a look. Go back and have a look. Have a look at the October budget. Have a look at the energy bill relief. Have a look at the cheaper child care. Have a look at the fee-free TAFE. Have a look at cheaper medicines. And where were you then? Absolutely nowhere.
Opposition senators interjecting—
I know it hurts when people call you out for the double standards and for your hypocrisy, but that is what we are seeing here. To call it out, to pretend you're concerned, but then to actually block and stand in the way of those measures being introduced—that's exactly what you did. Where were you on cheaper medicines? Where were you?
Minister, instead of a divisive and expensive referendum to keep his word, when will the Prime Minister keep his word and deliver a $275 cut to power bills, as promised 97 times, instead of the 20 per cent increase announced by the Australian Energy Regulator in May 2023?
Well, for the first time in a long time we do have a Prime Minister that keeps his word. We do have a Prime Minister that keeps his word, that actually sticks by his convictions, by the commitments that he gives. We know that's a strange concept to those opposite, who fly by the wind of a 24/7 media cycle and change their positions as much as they probably change their underwear, I would imagine. So I accept that it is a foreign concept to you. But, on energy bill relief, on implementing the Powering Australia plan, we are doing exactly what we said we would when we promised before the election. And where were those opposite when we sought to pass legislation that allowed billions of dollars to flow on people's energy bills, on their winter bills? Where were you then? You opposed it. We don't forget that, and we'll be making sure everybody else knows about it.
Minister, we've just had the expensive and divisive referendum so the Prime Minister could keep his word. When will the Prime Minister keep his promise to get real wages moving, considering—
When will the Prime Minister keep his promise to get real wages moving, considering under his watch real wages have fallen by more than 2.3 per cent?
I thank Senator Liddle for the question. I feel that whoever wrote that didn't really have your best interests at heart, Senator Liddle, when they put that together, when the coalition spend a decade keeping wages down. That is what you did—to ensure that working people never, ever got ahead.
Honourable senators interjecting—
You had a whole section in your minimum wage case submission that had the headline 'The importance of low wages'. That is your record—wages stagnating. You never, ever supported a minimum wage increase. What did you do on aged care? What did you do?
Minister, please resume your seat. Senator Hughes, I have called—
Senator Hughes, for the third time! I've called you twice. I called the chamber to order, and you were yelling across the chamber.
Don't answer back. I'm calling for order, and it is disrespectful to continue to call out after I have called for order. Minister, please continue.
Wages are growing for the first time in a decade, because you have a government that supports working people getting wage increases, that supports minimum wage increases, that supports aged-care workers getting an increase. That is why we are seeing those wages move for the first time in a decade. (Time expired)