Matters of Public Importance – JobSeeker Payment, 26 October 2022

Senator BABET (Victoria—United Australia Party Whip) (16:51): Labor’s budget is a disaster. The cost of living is going up, power prices are going up, taxes are going up and unemployment is going up. The only thing that isn’t going up is your wages.

This Labor government continually promises to reduce the cost of living, while simultaneously increasing the cost of living. Their strategy to lower prices is to increase prices. I can’t, for the life of me, work out which is more incredible: the claims that this Labor government makes or the fact that this government expects Australians to believe their claims.

During the election campaign, Labor promised many times that they would reduce power prices by approximately $275. Instead, power prices are set to go up by more than 50 per cent. This Labor government insists that renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy, or at least it will be just as soon as they spend $10 billion here and another $10 billion there. There seems to be a direct relationship between how much of our money Labor spend on their renewable energy fantasy and how many times they assure us that it will result in cheaper power. It’ll just take a few more billion dollars, as always. If you believe that, you have the one prerequisite necessary to do the energy minister’s job. And what is that prerequisite? It is wishful thinking, that’s what it is.

The energy crisis—which, in turn, is increasing the cost of everything else—has nothing to do with Vladimir Putin and the war in Ukraine, as some would have you believe. Labor made its promise to reduce power prices after Russia invaded Ukraine. It has everything to do with Labor, the Greens and the closet Greens on all sides of this chamber who are sabotaging cheap energy in this country. While Australia is pursuing frankly crazy climate policies, China is building more than half the world’s coal-fired power plants, strengthening their economy and increasing their standard of living. At the same time, the price of food in Australia is going up, partly because of floods but mostly because of the skyrocketing costs of energy, making it more and more expensive to get Aussie food onto supermarket shelves. And now, for good measure, the Labor government also wants to lower methane, which will almost certainly become a tax on cows farting. That’s what’s going to happen: a tax on cows farting. It’s going to drive up the cost of your average Aussie barbecue at the same time.

The soaring cost of living is not just a problem for the unemployed. It is a problem for everyone: families paying off a mortgage, pensioners, retirees trying to keep cool in summer and warm in winter and businesses trying to employ people—everyone. In fact, as energy prices go through the roof, manufacturers are going to be forced to go offshore—probably to China because China isn’t crippled by crazy climate policies which obviously result in unaffordable energy—as it becomes harder for businesses to keep the doors open and the lights on.

The real solution to the cost-of-living crisis is not a handout; it is affordable energy, getting rid of red and green tape and keeping government spending and taxes low so that Australia can be a land of opportunity. Raising the rate of JobSeeker is not a viable long-term solution. We absolutely have a responsibility to keep disadvantaged Australians well looked after, but the best way to do that is by creating conditions in which industry can thrive so that they can be gainfully employed. It is industry that creates jobs, not government.

Increasing the size of our welfare programs will raise our already unsustainable debt level further. This will inevitably lead to higher taxes and make it harder for families and pensioners to look after themselves and harder for businesses to employ people. The government can’t have skyrocketing power prices and a generous welfare system. The government can’t trash our competitive advantage, which is cheap, reliable, abundant energy in the form of coal and gas, and then expect people to prosper. (Time expired)