I note the members opposite have so much to say about this important topic that in fact two of their speakers have finished with a full minute left in their allocated time. It’s obviously something they feel passionate about, that they have a lot of material ready to go. But of course it is an important topic.
I do understand it has been a difficult two months for those opposite—lots of life changes, lots of transitions—but for them to come in here and suggest our government doesn’t have a plan represents a kind of collective amnesia around their wasted decade in office. It was a decade with no plan for wages growth; no plan to tackle the climate crisis; no plan to invest in renewables and bring down power prices; no plan to support women back to work and invest in cheaper child care; no real plan to support small business, despite the incredibly challenging circumstances those businesses have faced for the past two years. Simply heckling from the sidelines, kind of like what they did for past 10 years, seems to be what they’re doing from opposition.
This government has no intention of wasting its time in office. We do have a plan. We acknowledge the circumstances we find ourselves in are challenging. We do know that inflation is high, and that it’s hitting Australian households. It is absolutely the case, and I, like every member in this place, talk to people in my electorate who are feeling that effect. We know that rate rises hurt ordinary Australians struggling to pay their mortgages. We also know that the causes of inflation at the moment are primarily global. We have inherited a situation from the previous government: nine years of mess, $1 trillion of debt and nothing to show for it. As so many on this side have said, nine years of mess can’t be cleaned up in nine weeks. The maths doesn’t work. It will take time, and Australians know this.
I want to highlight one of the very key areas where this opposition let Australian people down when it was in government, and that was its deliberate design feature of low wages. What is it that means Australians are struggling to pay for things? There’s not enough in their pay packets. And what was the previous government’s policy? Deliberately low wages. It has a real effect on Australians lives and their ability to meet cost-of-living pressures.
It was the previous Prime Minister who said an increase to the minimum wage would be ‘reckless and dangerous’. And to be clear, these are the wages of the people we called heroes during the pandemic, people such as our cleaners, our aged-care workers, our early educators. We know that these workforces are largely made up of women. These are the people that the previous Prime Minister said it would be reckless and dangerous to give a pay rise to. This government takes a very different approach on wages. We supported an increase to the minimum wage. We’ve been very clear that we will support a wage increase for aged-care workers. Again, these are some of the lowest-paid people in our community, who are doing some of the most difficult and most important work.
We get it. We get what people’s lives are like. We get where the pressures are. The previous government didn’t get it. It’s not just those on minimum wages that the previous government was prepared to leave behind. Pensioners in my electorate haven’t forgotten that, under the coalition, around 370,000 pensioners saw a cut to their pension. Pensioner concessions were scrapped. And, of course, the previous Prime Minister tried to raise the pension age to 70. We’ve seen a decade of inaction, a decade of cuts.
Our government will be different. We will make child care cheaper, helping Australian women to get back to work and to do more work. I note no-one on the other side addressed the important issue of women’s participation in the workforce and how you best support that. We will get on with dealing with the climate crisis and make sure we have reliable renewable energy. This is another area the previous government failed to address for a decade. We will invest in small business. We will make Australian people’s lives better.