"What exactly was the former government's plan heading into the election? It certainly wasn't to address the cause of this cost-of-living crisis. It wasn't to implement policies that will address labour supply. It wasn't to address expenses such as cheaper medicine or to put downward pressure on childcare fees. It clearly wasn't to lift wages."
Address to the House of Representatives, Matter of Public Importance - Interest Rates
Wednesday 8 February 2023
The coalition oversaw a decade of wasted opportunities and misguided priorities that left with Australia with falling real wages, cost-of-living pressures and a trillion dollars of debt without an economic dividend to show for it. They arrogantly believed they were solving this by simply being in power. They were the performing statue of politics—largely doing nothing but expecting applause for imperceptible movement. What they have to show for nearly a decade of power is leaving us with the worst cost-of-living crisis this nation has ever faced.
The Albanese government has been working overtime to deliver for hardworking Australian families. We've worked overtime because those opposite sat in government for nine years and did nothing. They barely moved. Australians understand we didn't create these challenges but they elected us to take responsibility for addressing them, and we are.
The government is tackling this cost-of-living crisis in a range of ways. We have laid the groundwork to get wages moving. We have introduced cost-of-living measures to support people with the cost of medicine and child care. We are working on fixing skilled labour shortages as well as growing the economy the right way, making us more resistant against future shocks. The government knows households are feeling the pressure. That's why our plan has been to provide targeted relief to households and to ensure that, through government programs and government spending, we aren't making a bad situation worse—no colour coding here!
One of the very first acts of the Albanese government was to successfully argue for the minimum wage to keep pace with inflation—an outcome which helped 2.7 million Australians and we know was against the architectural beliefs of those opposite. But what else have we already done to address cost-of-living pressures for households? On 1 January millions of Australians saw a 29 per cent drop in their PBS prescriptions, with the maximum PBS co-payment dropping from $42.50 to $30. For the first time in the 75-year history of the PBS, the co-payment for general scripts has fallen. For a family relying on two or three medications, this can put as much as $450 back into their household budget.
From 1 July this year more than a million families across the country will be able to access more affordable early childhood education. In my electorate of Bean alone, 6,600 families will be better off. Additionally, the childhood education subsidy for families earning $80,000 or less will increase to 90 per cent. These changes will provide household budget relief for families struggling with the cost-of-living.
Let's also talk about the important work this government is doing to fix the skill shortage. In the ACT students will be able to access fee-free courses at the Canberra Institute of Technology in my electorate, as the Albanese government and the ACT government signed a landmark 12-month skills agreement to address the current skill shortage. The agreement will inject more than $16.5 million into the ACT skills and training sector, with immediate support for over 2½ thousand fee-free TAFE places at the CIT this year.
What exactly was the former government's plan heading into the election? It certainly wasn't to have a tailored response to address the cause of this cost-of-living crisis. It wasn't to implement policies that will address labour supply. It wasn't to address expenses such as cheaper medicine or to put downward pressure on childcare fees. It clearly wasn't to lift wages. What's their plan now? To block every proposal to reduce cost-of-living pressures on families. Those opposite claim to be superior economic managers, yet all they can manage to say is no. The economy we inherited was defined by a decade of stagnant wages, flatlining productivity, weak business investment, skill shortages and energy chaos. That doesn't sound like superior economic management to me, and it was clear at the last election that the Australian people thought likewise.
The next budget will build on the strong work that we've already done, including assistance with energy bills, higher wages for aged-care workers and investments in the economy. We've hit the ground running; 2023 is a year to be optimistic about. Households are already seeing real and practical positive change, and Australian families are finally witnessing a government that doesn't hold them in contempt.