TAKE NOTE OF ANSWERS - Cost of Living Main Image

By Louise Pratt

13 November 2023

Labor is firmly focused on the cost-of-living issues facing Australians. We were focused on them before our election and we have been every single day since. Even with things like the referendum campaign, conflicts in the Middle East—

An opposition senator interjecting—

Was that just a little under the hand—anyway, it's very distracting. We've maintained our focus, as I will seek to maintain my focus now, on the bread-and-butter issues affecting Australians.

Cost-of-living pressures are hurting many households. Primarily, there are those who are now experiencing high interest rates, where their housing costs have gone up considerably, and we are doing everything we can to make things easier. As we move towards next year's budget, we will reflect on how to do that again, if not sooner. We have rolled out—or are in the process of doing so—billions of dollars in targeted cost-of-living relief. This relief is designed to ease the pressures on Australians for everyday essentials. For example, people I know go, 'How can I afford to go to the doctor if my mortgage repayments have gone up?' That is why we have introduced bulk-billing incentives which are already seeing rates of bulk-billing lift.

We have a clear plan that covers a whole variety of different areas—in fact, 10 key areas—where we will invest $23 billion of support targeted to where it's needed most.

Those opposite might have pooh-poohed our electricity rebates, saying that they are meaningless. In fact, our electricity rebates have saved households a substantial amount of money, making their electricity bills much lower than they otherwise would have been. Up to $500 has been provided to around five million households. That has taken the sting out of power bill increases.

We have also made child care cheaper for 1.2 million households, saving around $1,700 a year, for example, for a family on an income of $120,000 with one child in child care. Now, one of the key issues here was that people, especially women, were choosing not to participate in the workforce because of the tax efficiency of going to work versus what they had to pay in outgoing childcare fees. That means that this cost-of-living relief, facilitating and enabling women to participate in the workforce, provides a particular benefit, not just by reducing the fees attached to child care but also by lifting a family's household income overall to cope with everyday living expenses, which we know have been on the rise. Recipients on the maximum rate of Commonwealth rent assistance last month received the biggest bump in their payment in 30 years. We've also lifted the rate for those on the working-age payment by $40 a fortnight. That's in addition to the regular indexation and greater support provided to parents.

Australians have already saved $180 million on 16 million prescriptions after the maximum co-payment was reduced from $42.50 down to $30. When you're experiencing other household income pressures, the last thing we want is to see Australian households unable to afford medication that their doctors have prescribed them. Countless times, over and over again, under the last government, we would see witnesses before Senate committees say, 'I cannot afford my medication.' Fixing this issue is something that we have prioritised. I could go on and on, but my time has run out. (Time expired)