2022 Budget

"Dealing with inequality has been in Labor's DNA for more than 100 years. Every member of the government cares about workers and their plight as they try to balance the books at home."

Address to the House of Representatives, Matter of Public Importance, 2022 Budget

Wednesday 9 November 2022

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this matter of public importance, although I do find it ironic that this is an MPI that includes contributions from some that extraordinarily, if perhaps inadvertently, tried to block supply. That action, if it had been successful, would have been catastrophic for anyone with a real interest in addressing inequality. Every person on this side of the chamber understands the importance of addressing inequality. Dealing with inequality has been in Labor's DNA for more than 100 years. Every member of the government cares about workers and their plight as they try to balance the books at home. I wonder: have those having a go at the government today been watching the debate in this chamber today? We are literally moving a bill designed to deliver secure jobs and better pay, a bill that some in this chamber want to unconscionably delay, a bill that aims to provide more job security, help close the gender pay gap, modernise the workplace bargaining system and get wages moving. These are all measures that address the cost of living and rising inequality.

Under the previous government, wages were deliberately kept low and insecure work was encouraged. Labor is taking the opposite approach, because we want to help workers get ahead. The Albanese Labor government wants a strong economy that delivers for all Australians. We want to see more workers in good jobs, jobs with security, fair pay and proper protections. We want workers to have a pathway to a better life and businesses to thrive. But, in terms of immediate action, you couldn't have been more immediate than the actions that we have taken to argue for a minimum wage increase in line with inflation. This comes after nine years of silence from those opposite during similar wage cases.

The minimum wage case is critically important, because, in particular, low paid-workers experience the worst impacts of inflation and have the least capacity to draw on savings. That's why it was one of our first acts to support wage increases for Australia's lowest paid workers, to ensure that their real wages do not go backwards. The Fair Work Commission delivered a minimum pay rise of $40 per week for full-time workers, benefiting around 2.7 million workers.

We're doing much, much more. We have introduced legislation that will drive investment in cleaner and cheaper energy, putting downward pressure on power prices. We are modernising the electricity grid to help put downward pressure on prices and support the transformation to a clean energy future. You can achieve more than one public good at the same time. Our allocation of $20 billion to the Rewiring the Nation fund will make much-needed upgrades to our outdated energy grid. New investment in renewables generation and shortage capacity will reduce Australia's exposure to international energy prices. We know what's happened over the course of this year. We'll create construction jobs in regional Australia and fast-track growth in sectors such as green hydrogen and battery production.

We are making early childhood education and care more affordable. This is the central part of our budget. We're investing $4.7 billion over four years to make early education more affordable for 96 per cent of families. This is an economic reform that will empower women with young children to work up to 1.4 million more hours per week in 2023-24.

Our budget cuts the costs of medicines. Starting next year, the maximum co-payment under the PBS will fall from $42.50 to $30 per script, a 29 per cent reduction. Each year, that will save 3.6 million Australians more than $190 million in out-of-pockets costs. So many pharmacists have told me what a difference they have seen in terms of their client base, knowing what medicines too many Australians have gone without because of the cost of those medicines.

And, of course, from 2026 families will be able to access up to 26 weeks of paid parental leave—the biggest expansion of paid parental leave since—who?—Labor introduced it in 2011. We're fast-tracking fee-free TAFE places. There's so much more we're doing. We're improving pay equality for women. We've got a housing accord that will deliver a million affordable houses in next few years. I'm not sure how much else we can do.