We have a responsibility to help our people

26 March, 2024

Mr BROADBENT (Monash) (17:05): I don't think that the former member for Bennelong ever gave a speech like that one, where he never followed the dictates of the party or the talking points.

Mr Perrett: John Howard?

Mr BROADBENT: Yes. Good man! One thing we know is that Australian families are enduring very difficult times, whether from high rents or mortgages, skyrocketing energy bills or insurance premiums going through the roof. Many families doing a tough right now with rising inflation. I heard a call before, saying that inflation is going down. Go and get a trolley full of groceries and find out if inflation is going down! If you can find inflation is going down—

Mr Perrett interjecting—

Mr BROADBENT: then you're not doing the shopping!

Mr Perrett: I do the shopping!

Mr BROADBENT: That's what's happening. You're not seeing the price that families are paying—

Mr Perrett interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Wilkie): The member for Moreton should restrain himself.

Mr BROADBENT: The member for Moreton should never restrain himself! I really appreciate him. I don't want to go across you, Deputy Speaker Wilkie, but I enjoy the member for Moreton; he has been a great contributor to the parliament. He's prepared to stand up and talk about the real issues that are affecting families every day in Moreton, as I do in Monash!

A tub of yoghurt, for instance, used to be about five bucks; last week it was 10! What's going on? I don't think that's supermarket gouging—I don't know what it is—but you can't have a 100 per cent increase in something. Everything I touch is either getting smaller in the packet—smaller jam!—and still larger in price. I'm embarrassed to come home to my wife and say, 'Here's your marmalade.' The tub used to be about this big and now it's only about that big at the same price, if not dearer.

Last week a constituent told me her story. Alison and Dean are in their late 20s, with two young kids aged three and eight months. Up until late last year, Dean had run his own business for five years as a gas plumber. No longer in Victoria: when the Victorian government brought in new legislative changes which meant that gas could not be installed in new homes as of 24 January, Dean was out of a job—along with thousands of other people. Just like that he had to close his business. That's five years of hard work down the drain. Alison planned to have eight full months of maternity leave after giving birth to her second child in July last year. However, due to their financial situation, including the uncertainty of Dean having to find a new job, Alison had to return to work months earlier than expected. The couple now pay $260 week for their two children to attend child care three days a week. Alison told me that there have been weeks when their bank account has been in minus and they've had to wait until payday to be able to pay council rates and insurances. And she's not on her own there, I can tell you. This is because they prioritise their mortgage, childcare fees and ensuring their children are fed before anything else. To add to this, every time their account is in minus, their bank charges them a fee of between $5 and $10. At the moment they're living from pay cheque to pay cheque. At the end of the week, after taking into account the bills and the mortgage, there's not much left to spend, let alone save for a rainy day.

A recent report from the Brotherhood of St Laurence found, quite rightly, that people experiencing poverty and job insecurity are increasingly unable to budget their way out of financial crisis. I know a family that's reticent to go to the doctor because they can't afford the out-of-pocket costs. This is disgraceful in a country like ours; taking a child to the doctor is not discretionary! Apparently, more than 1.2 million Australians—and they would have been in Tasmania too, Deputy Speaker Wilkie—did not go and see a GP during 2022-23 because of the cost. That's twice as many as compared to 2021-22. It's affecting all of us. And then there are people who are rationing their medication in order to make it through to their next payday. This is not good enough in a nation as wealthy and with as strong an economy as we have.

Governments need to redirect their priorities towards those doing it toughest in Australia, towards those who are living independently or who are lonely. We have a responsibility to those who are least able to look after themselves in this country. I haven't stopped addressing those who need the most help since I first came into this place. Right now, this country is facing a crisis of people who need direct help. We have to find ways to give it to them.

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Russell Broadbent MP
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