Senate Take Note

25 March 2024

It’s interesting, as we approach the week leading to Easter, that, clearly, those opposite are running out of things to debate. How flat they were during question time today! It’s really interesting to see the attitude that they come into this place with and the spin that they try to put on: that this government somehow isn’t on the side of workers. Let me make it very clear for the record. Since we’ve come to government, we’ve put in a Fair Work Commission proposal every time to support the lowest paid workers in this country, time and time again. When those opposite were in government, do you think they ever put in a submission to support the lowest paid workers, to support a pay rise for the lowest paid people in this country? The answer is no; they did not. That was one of the very first things that the Albanese Labor Government did when we first came into office. We’ve said time and time again that we want to get wages moving again, and we are. Real wages are now finally starting to come back. They are now coming back, ahead of schedule, because the government has been working very hard to reform the economy and make sure that people get to earn more and get to keep that extra money in their pockets. Annual wages grew at the end of last year for the first time in almost three years, and that is a very sad indictment on the legacy of those opposite, who left this government to mop up and fix up.

The most recent wage figures show that we had a 0.9 per cent rise in the wage price index in the December quarter, meaning that wages were 4.2 per cent higher for the year, the equal fastest annual growth since 2009. This is the first time since 2018 that we’ve seen three consecutive quarters of real wages growth—three consecutive quarters of real wages growth—but we know that people are still under pressure. That is why the cost-of-living tax cuts are so important, and that is why the government has been working very hard to introduce other relief measures in this place. The irony is that those opposite keep saying no. They keep coming into this place and voting against what I think are very moderate changes that will help people deal with the cost-of-living pressures.

We also remember that it was a deliberate design feature of the previous government’s policy to keep wages down. The irony is that they now come in here trying to have a crack at this Labor Government, who are working very hard to reverse a decade of policy that the previous government had instituted to make sure that wages would not grow and that productivity would not grow. The Labor government, under the leadership of Anthony Albanese, Jim Chalmers and Katy Gallagher, is reversing those policies.

The other topic in question time was around fuel efficiency standards. I want to touch on this because this also goes to the heart of the cost of living in this country. It is also about giving people around the country and their families the option to choose vehicles that use less fuel. In fact, we’re getting to a point where you may not actually need to use fuel but will simply use electricity, which will be much cheaper for people in the long run. That is another initiative where we would hope that those on the other side would actually come to the table and work with the Labor Party and the crossbench to try to keep the cost down for people at home.

Having much better fuel efficiency standards in this country will be good not just for the environment but also for people’s hip pockets. Families who pay around $5,000 a year in fuel costs will look at savings of around $1,000 a year and $17,000 over the life of the vehicle.

There will be many choices. Implementing the new vehicle efficiency standards will create greater choice for people in this country. They will include utes. They will include vehicles that will be able to tow boats. There will be a bigger range of vehicles in this country. The sad indictment is that Australia and Russia are the only two countries in the developed world that do not have these standards in place. It is amazing that somehow those in the rest of the world don’t have utes. They don’t have vehicles that tow big boats, but guess what? They also have the same standards that we’re trying to implement here in this country. People will save money. They will have cheaper vehicles. They will have vehicles that will be much more efficient and better for the environment. Quite frankly, it is a win-win situation. I’m surprised those opposite won’t support the package.