On Monday 6 March 2023, I made a speech in Federal Parliament on the cost of living crisis. You can watch the speech here or read the full transcript below.
E WATSON-BROWN: I move:
That this House:
(1) notes the Government's plan for $254 billion Stage 3 tax cuts for billionaires and politicians while flagging austerity measures in the upcoming Budget; and
(2) calls on the Government to scrap their unfair Stage 3 tax cuts in the upcoming Budget and instead deliver real cost of living relief by getting dental and mental health into Medicare, making childcare free, and addressing the housing and rental crisis, including by doubling rent assistance.
It's a sad fact, with the way things are set up now in Australia, that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and tragically, in times of crisis, this intensifies—the gap widens and the pain increases. And we are in crisis. Right now, renters in Brisbane are paying around 24 per cent more than 12 months ago, while real wages have dropped back to 2010 levels and the share of national income going to wages is the lowest ever recorded. Mortgage holders in Ryan are paying about $300 per week more—that's per week, not per month—on their mortgages since last year. Even the price of groceries has gone up more than inflation, rising by about 10 per cent in the last year. That's not to mention the exponential rise in energy costs. This is causing untold pain for so many.
But how's the other the end of town doing? We've just learned that 2022 was the best year on record for corporate profits—an absolute profit bonanza. There was more than $5 billion profit in six months for the Commonwealth Bank, courtesy of much higher interest rates for mortgage holders. Coles and Woolies have also been doing quite well. Woolworths posted almost $1 billion in profit last year, up 14 per cent. Coles's profits went up by 17 per cent. Santos's profits increased by an eye-watering 221 per cent in 2022, profiteering from both a war and the climate crisis. Woodside tripled their profits. This is not okay. This is simply outrageous while so many Australians are struggling to put food on the table, to pay their bills and to pay their rent or mortgage.
Qantas just posted a record half-yearly profit of $1.43 billion. Are they going to use that money to help workers—the ones that they illegally fired—or to perhaps payback some of the JobKeeper money they took during the pandemic? Of course not. They're planning to spend that money on stock buybacks to pump up their own share price. What's the government doing about this, you might ask? The government is choosing to spend our money on $250 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy. Does Clive Palmer really need an extra $9,000 a year or should that money go towards tackling this cost-of-living crisis? The government is choosing to continue to give $12 billion per year in fossil fuel tax concessions. The government is choosing to continue to give $12 billion per year in tax concessions to property investors instead of tackling the housing crisis. The government is apparently happy to see ordinary Australians exploited so these companies can post record profits. Interestingly, most of these companies are major donors to the Labor Party. In the last financial year alone, Labor got nearly $1 million from the fossil fuel industry, nearly $1.2 million from the property industry and $5.2 million from the banks—not okay.
While people are sacrificing meals to pay for their rising rents and mortgages, this government, instead of actually addressing the housing crisis, wants to gamble $10 billion on the stock market, paying fund managers millions of dollars in the process, to maybe build a few thousand homes per year if that gamble pays off. This is completely inadequate. This response will make the housing crisis substantially worse. Their plan does absolutely nothing to address rising rents in the private market, absolutely nothing to address rising rates for mortgage holders and absolutely nothing for hundreds of thousands of Australians stuck on the social housing waitlist and at extreme risk of homelessness. Is this good policy? Is this good economic management? Is this looking after ordinary Australians? I say no. It's making things worse. So how did we get here, Australia? How did we get to this point where our government is preferencing huge for-profit corporations over ordinary Australians? We got here from decades of policies that reinforced this divide, and that has poisoned the well.
Obviously a major overhaul is needed for our very survival, and it needs to start with demolishing the corporate capture of our government.