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Tuesday, 6 September 2022
Page: 36

Senator WALSH (Victoria) (15:25): I thank Senator Paterson for his questions without notice today on inflation and interest rates in this country and I thank Senator Gallagher for her answers as well. On these questions, it must be noted from the outset that the Albanese government has inherited an economy from those opposite with high and rising inflation. We have inherited an economy with rising interest rates as well. On top of that, we have inherited an economy with the slowest wages growth on record. In short, the Albanese government has come into office inheriting a full-blown cost-of-living crisis from those opposite.

One of the most important things that we need to do in the context of that crisis to help Australians get through it, to help Australians do well and to help Australians survive and thrive in this environment is to get wages moving in this country. We also need to deal directly with the rising cost of living. And we are already putting plans in place to do both. We need to get wages moving so that people have the resources that they need to deal with the rising cost of living, and we have hit the ground running to do just that. Right on winning government, we made a submission to the Fair Work Commission arguing for an increase in the minimum wage. Our submissions, along with the work of the Australian trade union movement, were successful, and there was a 5.2 per cent increase to the minimum wage. We also made submissions to the aged-care work value case, supporting a pay rise for some of Australia's lowest-paid workers—hundreds of thousands of workers—because we are committed to the women who work in the care economy and we are committed to getting wages moving in this country.

Last week we brought together 150 people from around the country in our absolutely historic Jobs and Skills Summit to answer the fundamental questions about the economy: How do we get wages moving? How do we improve productivity? How do we get the country moving in one direction together? There were a number of things about getting wages moving that were agreed by, really, everyone at the summit—except of course those opposite.

Everyone in our country agrees that we need to get wages moving, except the opposition. Everyone agrees that the bargaining system is broken, except, apparently, the opposition. Everyone agrees we should bring people together, we should bring unions and employers together, to focus on solutions—everyone, apparently, except the opposition and the opposition leader, who refused to turn up. Everyone agrees that women working in the care economy are the most in need of reform to our industrial relations system, except, apparently, the opposition.

We are focused on bringing people together. We are focused on the cost-of-living crisis. We are focused on getting wages moving to help people deal with that crisis, because getting wages moving is half the equation of dealing with the crisis delivered by the former government. That is exactly what we have hit the ground running doing and that is exactly what we will continue to do.

The second half of the equation is direct action to relieve the rising costs of living. We have just announced the biggest indexation of social security payments on record, and that is going to help so many Australians deal with the rising cost of living that has been delivered by the previous government. We have also extended the paid pandemic leave that was due to expire under those opposite. We have introduced legislation to drive investment in cleaner and cheaper energy to put downward pressure on power prices. We, as Senator Canavan noticed, are going to make child care cheaper. We are dealing with the cost-of-living crisis bequeathed by the previous government.