Responsible cost of living relief


Sometimes you have to pinch yourself, and this motion is one of those occasions. Here we are in this chamber; we've formed government. And there's a trillion dollars of debt, with not enough to show for it. The fact that members of the Liberal Party want to talk about cost of living—the crisis they created—is just extraordinary. Seriously! The party that admitted they deliberately kept wages low for a decade now has the audacity to come into this House and pretend they care.

In fact, one of the biggest cost-of-living pressures on families in the electorate of Lalor and around the nation at the moment is the availability of doctors and the cost of seeing one. This is a direct result, in my community, of changes to the distribution priority area funding that saw our area lose 40 per cent of local GPs. Let us not forget who froze Medicare rebates, let's not forget who changed the rules so those local GP clinics couldn't recruit more doctors and let's not forget who wanted to tax every single visit to the GP: the worst health minister, it was said at the time, since 1980, who's now the Leader of the Opposition. Trash, attack and tax Medicare, and you get promoted in the Liberal Party.

And let's not forget, too, that they hid, prior to the election, a massive hike in electricity prices. In fact, high electricity prices are the result of the fact that they had 22 ineffective energy policies. Imagine how much better off families would be to manage the cost-of-living pressures they now face if the previous Liberal government hadn't made low wages growth a deliberate design feature of their economic plan.

The Albanese Labor government is already addressing the cost-of-living pressures Australians are facing. We've supported a $1-an-hour increase in pay for Australia's lowest-paid workers, helping millions across the country —something those opposite said would cause the sky to fall in. We're supporting an increase in the pay for the heroes of the pandemic, our aged-care workforce. Last week's Jobs and Skills Summit brought unions, employers and industry groups together to work out how we boost wages and deliver secure employment for Australian workers—the best way to tackle cost-of-living pressures. Our Powering Australia plan will invest in renewables, delivering cheaper power prices, lower emissions and more jobs.

This Labor government, in just over 100 days, has taken more action than those opposite took in nearly a decade on cost-of-living pressures. We've extended the pandemic leave that was due to expire under the Liberals. We've introduced legislation that will drive investment in cleaner and cheaper energy, as I said. We're making sure enough gas stays in Australia for Australian households and businesses. We'll introduce legislation for cheaper child care for 1.26 million families. Our budget will cut the cost of medicines. We're fast-tracking fee-free TAFE places. In September, pensions, allowances and rent assistance will increase in line with inflation; that will see 4.7 million Australians receive a government payment increase. That is directly impacting 4.7 million Australians and their capacity to deal with the cost of living.

 It is astounding to be in this House, to be here today, and have those opposite raise these issues. A trillion dollars of debt and not enough to show for it, and they have the audacity to come into this chamber, first thing on a Monday morning, to talk about cost-of-living pressures that they did nothing—nothing—about for nine years. In fact, having been in this chamber for those nine years, I can hark back to that 2014 budget—that cruel, cruel budget that was introduced into this House. It was horrendous. It was driven back by the Australian people and by those on this side now, who worked so hard to make sure that people understood what that Medicare rebate freeze would mean and what the freeze to pensions would mean. Those on this side can walk in here proudly, with our heads held high, because we are getting on with the job; we are introducing the things that need to be done to ensure that Australians are better off, because that's why we exist: to ensure that Australians get a fair go—unlike those opposite, who are happy to see those vulnerable Australians suffer, year in and year out, most potently across the last nine years.

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