Matters of Urgency – Cost of Living, Tuesday 14 November, 2023

Senator BABET (Victoria—United Australia Party Whip) (15:42): I move:

That, in the opinion of the Senate, the following is a matter of urgency:

Since the 2022 election, the Albanese Labor government has committed billions in spending, which contributes to inflationary pressure and drives up interest rates. Tradies are in short supply, reducing the amount of houses that can be built.

Almost half of Australian mortgage holders are now in mortgage stress. The government must reduce spending and cancel or delay unnecessary and wasteful projects, such as Snowy 2.0, to temper inflation, build more houses and reduce mortgage stress.

I rise today to speak up for the millions of Australians who are struggling to make ends meet. We’ve seen 13 consecutive interest rate rises, and the government continues to, in my opinion, shirk responsibility. They blame everything from the war in Ukraine to the COVID pandemic while hardworking Australians are on struggle street.

Over just 18 months, the cost of servicing a median Victorian mortgage has increased by—guess how much—$18,000 a year. How many families have a lazy 18 grand lying around just to keep a roof over their heads? That’s nearly 350 bucks every single week. It is no wonder that the lines at the food bank are unfortunately growing. Minimum loan repayments have increased from 30 per cent, approximately, to a staggering 50 per cent of the average Victorian wage. Half of their money is being spent to pay off the mortgage—absolutely massive. The number of Victorian calls to the National Debt Helpline is up 40 per cent just this year. Many hardworking Aussies face the prospect of losing their home or never reaching that great Aussie dream of homeownership. Taxes, the mortgage, rent, power bills and groceries are robbing Australians of their hard-earned wages.

At a time when Australian workers are struggling, the Labor Party now wants to hit them while they are down. The closing loopholes IR bill proposes what is effectively wage theft. Hardworking Australian casual employees will be forced to become full-time or part-time employees, losing their flexibility and a generous 25 per cent casual loading. Employers will face hefty fines for employing a casual in a way that does not fit this new definition. The data shows that casual employees can earn around six per cent more than full-time or part-time employees when all entitlements are taken into consideration. A six per cent pay cut for many a casual employee is a bitter pill to swallow. If the Labor Party is successful with this bill, the financial loss on the average pay could be more than five grand a year. One can only assume that the Labor Party—backed by their union mates, obviously—is determined to destroy casual employment and help to undermine the small-business sector.

When it comes to inflation drivers, there is a massive elephant in the room, and that elephant is Treasurer Jim Chalmers, the Labor Party and, obviously, the big spending budgets. Mortgage holders are being unfairly punished for inflationary pressure, but the government itself is contributing to it, and it needs to stop. The flames of inflation are being fanned by higher levels of immigration and massive government spending on wasteful and unneeded infrastructure projects. People are having to cut back on essentials and work a second job just to afford a roof over their head. Meanwhile, the government continues to spend like a drunken sailor.

Last week the International Monetary Fund warned that Australian mortgage holders will suffer even more pain if federal and state governments don’t wind back their own reckless spending. Snowy Hydro 2.0’s budget has blown out sixfold to $12 billion at last count, and the government wants mums and dads with mortgages to pay for this mismanagement. If the government are serious about getting inflation under control, they need to tighten their belts and stop pumping hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money into the economy.

If the government did cut some of their inflation-producing multibillion dollar projects, do you know what would happen? Tradesmen would suddenly become available to build houses. That’s what would happen. It’s almost like the government could make headway on two of the greatest challenges faced by our nation—inflation and the housing crisis—if the government did this and just made some hard decisions about their own behaviour. Australians are, unfortunately, sick to the back teeth of hearing Treasurer Jim Chalmers blame the previous government for his own economic woes.

Obviously, we all—well, most of us here in this place—would like to see the government urgently cancel or delay unnecessary projects so that inflation can be brought back under control and so that Australian householders can finally get some interest rate relief. During the election campaign they told us that it wouldn’t be easy under Prime Minister Albanese. In time, it seems like they have potentially been proven to be right.

The PRESIDENT: The question is that the urgency motion as moved by Senator Babet be agreed to.

The Senate divided. [16:16]
(The President—Senator Lines)
Majority ……………..3

Antic, A. Askew, W. Babet, R. Bragg, A. J. Brockman, W. E. Cadell, R. Canavan, M. J. Chandler, C.

Colbeck, R. M. Davey, P. M. Duniam, J. R. Fawcett, D. J. Hanson, P. L. Henderson, S. M.

Hughes, H. A. Hume, J. Kovacic, M. McDonald, S. E. McLachlan, A. L. O’Sullivan, M. A. (Teller)

Rennick, G. Reynolds, L. K. Roberts, M. I. Scarr, P. M. Smith, D. A.

Allman-Payne, P. J. Ayres, T. Bilyk, C. L. Chisholm, A. Ciccone, R. Faruqi, M. Green, N. L. Grogan, K.

Hanson-Young, S. C. Lines, S. McAllister, J. R. McKim, N. J. O’Neill, D. M. Payman, F. Pocock, B.

Polley, H. Pratt, L. C. Rice, J. E. Sheldon, A. V. Shoebridge, D. Smith, M. F. Steele-John, J. A.

Sterle, G. Urquhart, A. E. (Teller) Walsh, J. C. Waters, L. J. Watt, M. P. Whish-Wilson, P. S.

Question negatived.