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Tuesday, 12 September 2017
Page: 10164


Mr VASTA (Bonner) (18:10): I want to talk about an issue that, without fail, tops the lists of concerns of my constituents. At my regular mobile offices, in my community surveys and when I'm out and about in the community, people continue to raise with me one issue above all else. I'm sure it's the same for most of my colleagues. That issue of course is the cost of living. Residents are telling me it's getting harder to pay the bills, small-business owners are struggling with rising power prices, families are finding it harder to cope with childcare fees, and there's the often debilitating cost of housing. Parents and even grandparents are coming to me worried about the ability of their children or grandchildren to afford their first home. The coalition went to the last election with a promise to tackle cost-of-living pressures for households, families and businesses. We're continuing to deliver on this commitment, and I'm pleased to say this is being reflected in the feedback I've been getting from people all over my community.

Take power prices. Recent figures from the Australian Energy Regulator show over 460 Queenslanders a week are having their electricity disconnected, a huge jump from last year. It's no wonder, with record increases in wholesale electricity prices under the state Labor government flowing through to households and businesses. At one of my recent community forums, a local from Carindale, Michael Sininsky, told me that, ahead of all other issues dominating the headlines at the moment, the cost of power is the number one problem that needs addressing. When he's chatting with friends, family, neighbours and others in the community about issues the government should be focusing on, it's power prices that dominate the conversation. It's great to be able to tell Michael and other locals about how the Turnbull government has taken decisive action to put downward pressure on power bills. We're getting on with the job of building Snowy Hydro 2.0, we've announced tough new regulations ensuring the gas sector will put Australian businesses and consumers first when it comes to our gas supplies, and we've delivered the energy assistance payment, which will benefit over 21,000 people in Bonner.

More recently we've secured the agreement of our largest energy retailers to implement a number of immediate and ongoing changes. Thanks to this government's efforts the retailers have committed to contacting up to two million Australian households to let them know how they can get a better, cheaper deal on their power bills. I have contacted my retailer, and I'm saving about $600 annually just by changing my plan. We've also promoted the Australian Energy Regulator's comparison website, Energy Made Easy. This site lets households plug in their relevant data to find a better power deal for themselves. Over 300,000 Australians have used Energy Made Easy to check they're on the best energy plan available to them, potentially saving them hundreds of dollars a year. We've also presented legislation to stop electricity networks from gaming the system to boost their profits.

It's a shame that, instead of supporting in the Senate these measures that will give families relief from rising power prices, Labor has instead chosen to play politics and refer the legislation to a Senate committee. The coalition's energy policies will benefit not only householders but small businesses as well. It's so important to support the engine room of our economy. Small business employs more than half of the Australian workforce, after all. As a former small-business owner, I know how every dollar counts towards the bottom line. The skyrocketing power prices Queensland has seen under Labor has meant that, instead of being able to employ extra staff or invest in new equipment, small-business owners have had to spend more and more to cover their power bills. Now, I'm glad to say that our energy policies are paying off for small business. I'm also hearing from more business owners about how our measures, designed to back small businesses, are helping them with their day-to-day expenses.

Take Little Gnome, located in the heart of Wynnum CBD. Little Gnome is a bookshop and cafe run by mother and son duo, Bel and Jack Ellis. It's a great example of a small business that has taken advantage of the coalition's small business initiatives and programs to their full benefit. Bel tells me that the cut to the small business company tax rate was a welcome sight. It allowed Little Gnome to reinvest in new equipment and technologies. She said it's also helped them employ extra staff when needed. She is just one of the many local business owners who have told me that the small business tax rate reduction has helped them expand and hire more people. Bel also praised our decision to extend the $20,000 instant asset write-off threshold. Small businesses with a turnover of less than $10 million can now claim a deduction for the business portion of each new or second-hand asset they purchase costing less than $20,000 until 30 June next year—an added bonus to our small business tax cuts, as Bel puts it.

Bel tells me that, when Little Gnome was starting out, the most valuable tool that they had at their disposal was the federal government's small business information portal at business.gov.au. It answered many of their obscure questions on finance, tax, GST and more. The government has also made low-cost business advice available to small business owners through its Australian Small Business Advisory Services program. The local provider in my electorate is the Greater Brisbane Small Business Advisory Services. Can I just say that Alice Langford, Tony Curl and the rest of the GBSBAS team are doing a fantastic job.

The coalition will always have the backs of small businesses to find and achieve savings wherever possible. We understand that when small businesses are given room to grow, to employ more people and pay them better wages, we all benefit. This is plain to see in the latest national accounts data. Business conditions have risen to their highest level in almost a decade. Over 240,000 jobs were created in the last financial year alone—the strongest financial year jobs growth since the GFC—and wages are showing a modest but steady rise. The coalition is also supporting Australian families not just with keeping their power bills down but also with dealing with other cost-of-living pressures, including housing affordability and child care. We've introduced legislation that lets young Australians save for their first home by building a deposit inside their superannuation. We've also boosted the availability of rental accommodation on the market with our foreign resident vacancy tax, and we've legislated the Jobs for Families Child Care Package, which is delivering more affordable and more accessible child care for over 10,200 families in Bonner alone.

For people in my electorate like Michael from Carindale and Bel and Jack from Little Gnome, the Turnbull coalition government's economic plan means better days ahead. Our plan is helping secure small businesses while creating more and better paying jobs. Most importantly, our plan is putting downward pressure on rising living costs. These are the issues that my constituents care about most, and I'm proud to say this government is delivering for them.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Goodenough ): The time for the grievance debate has expired. The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 192(b). The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 18:18