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Tuesday, 25 June 2013
Page: 6956


Mr ANDREWS (Menzies) (16:14): I rise to contribute to this matter of public importance debate initiated by the Leader of the National Party. The reality today is that, wherever you go around this country, there is a lack of confidence about economic management and a lack of security about the future. People are concerned about their jobs and they are saving because they are concerned about what might happen next week, next month or next year. If you walk down the high street of any town or suburb in Australia you will see shops that are closed. You know that businesses are not employing people. Indeed, many of them are laying workers off. When people look for some sense of security at the present time all they see here from the leadership of this country is a sense of chaos and confusion.

Three years ago this week the Australian Labor Party was arguing about who should be the leader—who should be the Prime Minister of Australia. Three years on, this week, what is happening? That same Australian Labor Party is arguing about who should be the leader, the Prime Minister of Australia. Of course, the current Prime Minister came to office having removed the previous Prime Minister by saying, 'We had lost our way'—the government had lost its way. Have they found their way since then? We still have the same chaos—still the sense that the only thing that matters for this government is who lives in the Lodge, who has got the job of Prime Minister, rather than the jobs, the future and the security of the people of Australia.

There is no greater impact upon the cost of living of Australians than the introduction of a carbon tax. Remember prior to the last election that famous statement of the Prime Minister—'There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.'

A government member interjecting

Mr ANDREWS: The honourable member opposite can interject all he likes. All that indicates is once again why the people of Australia so distrust this government. Because having made the statement in the dying days of the election campaign that 'there will be no carbon tax under a government I lead'—and this comes to their manic concentration on just the top job—and having failed to secure a majority on the floor of this House, enough members to form a government alone, the Prime Minister was prepared to walk away from that solemn promise to the people of Australia and to introduce a carbon tax. And that carbon tax is having an impact on the cost of living of ordinary Australians.

Let us just look at the increase in the cost of living that people in Australia are bearing, the percentage increase since the ALP came to power from the December quarter of 2007 to the March quarter of 2013, CPI data taken from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Electricity, one of the most basic commodities that Australian households and businesses need, has increased by 93.8 per cent. Water and sewerage have increased by 63.1 per cent. Other utilities have increased by 79.2 per cent. Gas has increased by 61.8 per cent. Insurance has gone up by 45.4 per cent. Education expenses have increased by 38.7 per cent. Rents have increased by 30.2 per cent. Housing costs are up by 29.6 per cent.

Let us just take the period in which this government has supposedly found its way, the period since the current Prime Minister has been the occupant of the Lodge. Over that period, the last three years, since Ms Gillard has been the Prime Minister of Australia, electricity has gone up by 44.7 per cent, water and sewerage have gone up by 26.4 per cent, utilities by 36.9 per cent, gas by 28.6 per cent, insurance by 21.3 per cent and education by 18.8 per cent.

Childcare expenses—something which many families are struggling with in terms of cost of living—alone have gone up by 26 per cent. There are many struggling families today whose childcare costs are so great that it is hardly worth them being able to work. In fact, what I am hearing from childcare centres and operators in my electorate and elsewhere around the country is that the childcare costs are going up by such an amount that it is becoming almost unaffordable for many struggling families to keep their kids in child care.

Rents have gone up by 11 per cent. In Australia today, according to the experts, we have a deficiency of about a quarter of a million dwellings. That means more people are renting if they can get into renting. There are more people that are homeless. There was the famous promise by the previous Prime Minister that he would do something about homelessness. Homelessness has gone up by almost 15,000 to 16,000 in Australia since then and housing has gone up under this Prime Minister by 13 per cent.

What is the only response we get from the government? The only response is a series of excuses. It was the global financial crisis some years ago. What was the government's response to the global financial crisis? To waste more taxpayers' money on things like pink batts in housing roofs causing fires and on a cash-for-clunkers scheme. That was a waste of money. Or they blamed the states or anybody but this government that was in power. The reality is this: when you are elected to occupy those Treasury benches in this place, you are elected to take responsibility for the government of this country. What we have instead of that is chaos and confusion, this internal warfare going on between various factions as to who supports Mr Rudd, who supports Ms Gillard. I suspect a majority support neither of them and would like to get some new leader, but this continues to be played out. All the time what are being forgotten are the people and the families of Australia.

On top of that this government have taken decisions which have cost more for families in this country, whether you are talking about the family tax benefit part A or part B, or the four lots of changes they have made resulting in the abolition of the baby bonus, or the changes they have made about other taxes—the cutting and the capping of the childcare rebate, which was capped to a maximum of $7,500. If it was still being indexed as it was, families would be receiving $700 or more in assistance. Since Ms Gillard became the Prime Minister, childcare costs in this country have increased by 26 per cent. There are the means test on the private health insurance and the changes in the net medical expenses tax offset. We can go on and on.

There are the changes in the means testing of our aged-care system, the parenting payment recipients taken from people who have been moved from a system where they received a much higher parenting payment to the Newstart allowance. The reports I get back from emergency relief centres, not just in my electorate but as I travel around the country, are that we have effectively created a new group of poor parents by simply ripping away those payments from them in every area. This government has been concerned about simply who is going to be the Prime Minister, and how it is going to continue to stay in office, rather than doing the things it was elected for—that is, to provide security to the people of Australia.

No wonder wherever we go around this country people are concerned about the future. People are concerned about whether they will have a job next week or next month or next year. They are certainly concerned about whether their children and their grandchildren will inherit the sort of Australia that they have inherited. I believe it is the aspiration of every Australian to be able to hand on to the next generation—and the generation after that—a better country than they inherited. That is something that is central to our belief, it is central to what we as Australians want, and yet here we have a government which over the last three years has put very much in danger that ability to say, 'We can hand on to the next generation a better Australia than we inherited.' That is a pity, that is a shame on this government. In distinction from that, the coalition have a plan in which we will deliver a prosperous economy and a safe and secure country for the people of this nation.