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Speech on the cost of living impacts for families

On Tuesday 27 March 2024, I made a speech in Federal Parliament about Labor's failure to address the cost of living crisis. You can watch the full speech here or read the transcript below.


Forty per cent of renters will struggle to pay rent over the next three months. Rents and the cost of living are so high that homeownership is becoming further and further out of reach with ballooning house prices. For those who have actually managed to make that jump and buy their first home, just paying the mortgage becomes a major millstone, with people's whole lives geared towards just paying off that debt. With rising interest rates, 1.6 million households are now at risk of mortgage stress. Right now there are 85,000 households that may not be able to pay their mortgages by the end of the year—chilling to think what would happen if this figure rose.

I really don't think many in his place understand the pain first home buyer families are actually feeling: the cost of childcare, sending kids to school, paying for school sport, paying for other extracurricular activities, the cost of several kids seeing the GP or a specialist, the cost of putting food on the table as prices spike, the cost of paying to see the dentist, the cost of servicing the mortgage with rising interest rates, the cost of paying mounting bills. It gets to a point where you're just keeping your head above water and you're one medical emergency away from breaking point. So many of my Ryan constituents in this very situation reach out to me every single week. More than 40 per cent of Aussie households have struggled to afford basics in the last three months, and over half of Australians say they will struggle to pay an essential bill over the next three months.

I'm sure people would be happier to accept tougher times if we were truly all in this together. But, while life has gotten more difficult and more stressful for millions of everyday people, a small handful of people, the big billionaires, have significantly increased their wealth. Big banks, mining companies and supermarkets have all posted record profits. Some people are buying their second or third superyacht while millions of people can't actually afford the basics.

The Prime Minister and the Treasurer front the media and say they're working to fix this. They've got departments supposedly coming up with great plans. But people aren't feeling helped, and they don't trust that these committees and reviews are going to come up with anything that will actually meaningfully help them. And they're right. Too often these supposedly neutral policy proposals from bureaucrats are designed to sound like something is happening when it's clearly not.

So what can actually be done about the cost-of-living crisis? Really, what we need are sensible policy solutions that are easy to roll out, are known to work and don't create major bureaucratic complexity. Simpler proposals are often the most effective. The more universal a scheme is, the fewer cracks emerge for people to fall through, the more everyone benefits, the more everyone feels invested in and the more universal pride there is in our society. The less inequality there is, the less bureaucracy is needed to actually police who is deserving and who isn't. The more publicly owned and run a scheme is, the less it is subject to rorting by private providers mooching off the government and taking advantage of the vulnerable for easy money.

So, if you want to talk about effective ways to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, let's start with these: universal free child care; truly free state schools where your technology and excursion costs are all covered; fixing Medicare to again be a universal scheme where everyone can get to see the doctor for free; bringing dental and mental cover into Medicare so it's free for everyone; free school sports; free breakfasts and lunches at state schools for all families; abolishing student debt; and making university free. Contrary to what mainstream economists might tell you, these are all more achievable than many of the convoluted means-tested measures that our governments over the last few decades have seemed to favour. Those are designed to fail.

So how do we fund all that? Again, it's simple. It's not wacky. It's not radical. Don't let politicians and bureaucrats fool you into thinking we need complex revenue-raising trade-offs or clever future funds and market mechanisms to fund all this, and certainly don't let them tell you that there isn't any money. Just don't let them.

 Let's just increase, in a modest but meaningful way, the taxes on big corporations and billionaires, the people who are making a killing out of this crisis.

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