Matters of Public Importance – Cost of Living

I do want to talk on this MPI, as a member of parliament from a rural and regional electorate, to the young people who are here today. I come from a very small community. There is no doubt that that community, and the others that I represent, are very affected by cost-of-living issues. There is no question in rural and regional Australia that that’s exactly how it is, and why the increases in interest rates, which have put up their mortgages throughout this time of this government, have had so much impact. There’s also an issue with the inflationary impact on the food that people are buying. There have also been the increasing costs of insurance that we in the regions really have no option but to invest in. Then there are increases in the cost of electricity and, as we know, increases in the cost of housing. When I hear the members opposite talking about child care, in my part of the world—as in so many other parts of Australia, particularly in rural and regional areas —we have childcare deserts, where there isn’t any child care is available. That makes it exceptionally difficult for people who need to go to work and can’t.

We’ve seen, as I said, increases in interest rates, inflation, mortgage costs and rents, as we know. Rents have increased by at least 26 per cent over the time that Labor has been in government and we’ve seen housing starts and approvals at their lowest levels in decades. I looked at rentals on good luck trying to find a rental in my part of the world. The vacancy rate in my Bunbury region is 0.45 per cent: the nation’s lowest vacancy rate for the seventh consecutive month. If you’re coming into my electorate, you’ll find it very difficult; but it has been made more difficult by Labor’s increases, with the over 500,000 people it has allowed into this country when there are only 162,000 new dwellings being built at the same time. There is a real imbalance there, which is why, in part, those rental prices are what they are: it’s scarcity.

I walk down the main street in my communities, and I talk to the local people and the local businesses, and I listen to them. When you do that, you find that the cost of living is really impacting on my people. It’s also impacting on small businesses, who are the heart and soul of my electorate. Recently, in this last week, I talked to the car dealers, because they are certainly very concerned about what Labor is proposing with their huge tax on not only the family car but also on our work vehicles. We depend on those vehicles; we need them in rural and regional Australia. We need them for the job they do for us; that’s what we need on our properties and in our businesses. It’s the same as our tradies. They need these vehicles; they’re not just an option, they’re something we need to get the job done. But Labor wants to make this so much more expensive. I went to one dealer who employs 70 people. He is seriously concerned about the types of vehicles that will be allowed to come in with the whole fleet requirement that the government will impose. There’s another one who employs 20 staff—that may not be a lot to those on that side, but, by gee, in the small community where I am, employing 20 people is a lot of people in work in a small community, and each one of those matters to us.

That’s why this extra tax on family vehicles, tradies and our working people is such a major issue. We’ll see that some vehicles will no longer be imported, which is what the government is intending here: by default—it’s very clever—to restrict the sorts of vehicles that will be imported. The manufacturers who are based internationally will decide what they will export here and what they can actually put on the list for Australia. Of course, what concerns me is that this will push us into buying more vehicles made in China. Well, that is something that Australia cannot afford to do.

I also note that the government is trying to dictate to Australians not only what car you drive, whether it’s the family car or it’s a ute; they want to control the food you eat. There’s the NHMRC’s war on meat. There are the clothes you wear—and the minister for environment wanting to tax our clothes and tell us what clothes we can wear. We’ve got carbon accounting on scope 3 emissions. We’ve got the increase— ( Time expired )