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Tuesday, 12 September 2023
Page: 41

Mr STEVENS (Sturt) (16:04): I appreciate the opportunity that the shadow Treasurer is providing to members to talk about the situation of real wages going backwards in this country. I regret that the government contributors have decided not to address that central point, though I suppose they wouldn't want to because, if we look at the situation with inflation and look at the situation with wages, inflation in June, for the financial year, was six per cent, and wages growth was 3.6 per cent. So real wages in the first financial year of this government are going backwards. Those are ABS statistics. They can't be disputed, so the talking points will be every attempt imaginable to put some sort of spin on this diabolical situation that Australian families find themselves in.

Not as many of them as some might like are listening to this debate, but they're certainly feeling it in the hip pocket when they're having discussions around the kitchen table about the family budget, when they're getting bill shock from opening the electricity bill, when they get to the check-out at the supermarket and they see what the weekly or fortnightly shop is costing them, and when they see the power of their pay packet going backwards. As their costs are rising dramatically, their wages are going backwards relatively. That's the reality of the first 12 months of this government.

Many of those opposite, who get the talking points from the Treasurer's office, were instructed to talk about the previous government. Bizarrely, they were even conceding that there was growth under the previous government; they were just saying it wasn't high enough. Under this government, it's going backwards. You don't have any real growth. You've got negative growth. You've got a deterioration in the spending power of the average worker. That's indisputable when you compare the annualised CPI and the annualised wages growth. So workers in this country, the ones the government claims to support, are going backwards under this government.

With interest rates, the fixed rate is now in the sixes. A lot of people who are coming off three-year rates that were in the low twos are now getting rates in the low sixes. I was talking to a couple on the weekend who have just last month seen their interest repayments triple as they have matured from a three-year fixed rate. Their total mortgage has gone up threefold. Their electricity bills are going up—and for their groceries. In Adelaide right now, fuel is way over $2 a litre. Regrettably, with the Aussie dollar where it is and oil prices where they are, that's only going to go up in the weeks ahead.

So all of the major outputs from the average family budget are going up, but real wages are going down, and that's the point of this MPI. It's an opportunity for those in this parliament, particularly those who are members of a government that committed to addressing real wages growth, as they call it—there's no growth going on. It's going backwards under this government. That's something that is shameful and something that you would think would be a priority—not a referendum, not that major distraction from the core issue that all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, are facing, which is the dramatic escalation of cost-of-living pressures across all the major elements of the household budget.

This government has the wrong priorities. They don't want to talk about the statistics for their time in government. They don't want to talk about the reality of increasing electricity and other utility prices across the board, increasing mortgages and increasing rents, and real wages going backwards in this high-inflation environment. All we've heard is commentary from talking points distributed by a minister, no doubt about the previous government. There is no pride in the record of the first 12 months or more of their government because, on this topic and so many others, there is absolutely nothing to be proud of. The $275 reduction in electricity prices—we never again heard that commitment discussed in this chamber by those opposite.

An explosion in interest rates, an explosion in rental costs, inflation out of control and real wages going backwards are the reality of the record of this government. There was an opportunity to dispute those facts from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and others. But, of course, if I was in a government with that record I probably would give a speech that was all about the last government because I wouldn't be proud of the record of the government I was part of, and that has become patently clear in this debate today.