Labor policies driving the cost of living crisis — Take Note of Answers Take Note of Answers

My colleague Senator Kovacic asked a question about government spending.

People listening to this question might think, ‘Isn’t spending a good thing? Doesn’t that actually help us?’ But the reality is that the spending by the government—and my colleague highlighted some $6.75 billion in one week—is on top of an extra $200 billion that has been spent by this government since they came to office.

The problem with that is, when you spend that kind of money, it actually drives up inflation, and driving up inflation means that it drives up interest rates, which affects people’s mortgages.

This government has been very quick to try and blame overseas factors, but the reality is that our inflation is running at 4.1 per cent, which is well above the two to three per cent target, and our core inflation in Australia, which is 4.2 per cent, is well above that in the US, Spain, the Netherlands, Germany, Singapore, France, Italy, South Korea, Canada, Japan and, in fact, the entire European Union area.

As a result of that higher inflation, the Reserve Bank has had to meet a number of times—in fact, on 19 occasions during this government. On 12 of those occasions, it has raised interest rates, and, on the others, has kept them level.

That means there has been no relief and families are paying more.

The consequence of this spending which has led to inflation is that, under the Albanese Labor government, Australians have experienced a collapse in their living standards, and there is nothing on the horizon that will point to a reversal.

People are aware of that cost.

Even today, in the ABC reporting online, they talked about a gentleman in New South Wales that saw his most recent power bill go from $600 to more than $1,400. Whilst they highlighted that there were some spending pattern factors to that, they also highlighted that, overall, the price for power has gone up by some 40 per cent, which families are actually having to deal with.

That combination of real costs going up due to inflation means that real household disposable income fell by 2.2 per cent over the last year and is down 7.5 per cent since Labor took office.

If there were plans ahead to make life better, people might have some hope. But answers from ministers opposite today fell back time and again on the fact that they are pushing down this transition to renewable energy because of the idea that it’s going to lower prices.

But, in actual fact, the latest report from Net Zero Australia, which comprises the University of Melbourne, the University of Queensland, Princeton University and a couple of management consultancies, highlights that, by the end of this decade, the cost will be some $1.5 trillion with, overall, a need for about $7 trillion to $9 trillion of capital to meet the additional transmission costs that will be required if we are to reach net zero just using renewable power.

The reality is that those costs are not factored into things like the GenCost report and so all the statements made about renewable energy being the cheapest form do not take account of all the costs that mums and dads and small businesses actually have to pay.

In the last few weeks, as I’ve travelled through regional South Australia, meeting with small businesses, including people like caravan park operators, they tell me about the significant increase in costs.

So, when those opposite say that the coalition is living in a fantasy around energy, what they’re ignoring is the lived experience of countries overseas. We see in terms of cost and time that the United Arab Emirates has just had four reactors built within 10 years at a cost of $20 billion.

That’s the current price tag that is on the battery of the nation, the Snowy Hydro scheme, and the estimates from experts are that there will be four of those required to be part of the transition.

What we see as real costs—actually real costs; that is, Korean contractors in the UAE delivering four reactors within a decade for $20 billion—equals the cost of one pumped hydro project here in Australia, and the estimates are that we need four of them.

So the facts are that nuclear power will drive down costs—that’s the lived experience—and the pathway that this government is on will push up costs for Australian businesses and families.