Federal Parliament - Economy

20 June 2023

Matters Of Public Importance


Dr ALY (Cowan—Minister for Early Childhood Education and Minister for Youth) (15:24): It's always great to have an opportunity to speak about what this government, the Albanese government, has achieved in the relatively short time that we have been in office—relative, of course, to the nigh on 10 years that those opposite had when they were in government to do anything, relative to other OECD countries and relative to and in spite of global headwinds.

I note that those opposite like to talk about the cost of living. I will remind them that I was elected to this place in 2016, and since 2016 I have lost count of the number of times I've come into this House and spoken about the cost of living for people in my electorate, in the election of Cowan. These are the people in suburbs like Girrawheen, in Lockridge, in Kiara, in Wanneroo and in Balga, people who live in low socioeconomic suburbs, people whose minimum wages were kept deliberately low as a centrepiece of the economic agenda of those opposite when they were in government, people who have lower education outcomes and people who saw the cost of an arts degree go up by 113 per cent because of those opposite. I had young people, the very first person in their family able to go to university, in my office in tears because those opposite increased the cost of a university degree by 113 per cent, and they were not going to be able to complete their degree. These are the people in my electorate who had to choose between buying food and buying the medicines that they need to take control of their chronic illnesses and their chronic pain. Since 2016, I have been speaking about the cost of living for those people, and I know many of my colleagues on this side of the House have been doing the same for the people in the electorates that they represent.

What have we achieved in just over a year of being in office? We've reversed a $78 billion deficit and turned it into a projected $4 billion surplus. We've created 465,000 jobs in this term of government. And I am very proud to note that I am part of an Albanese Labor government which saw, in March, women's workforce participation at an all-time high, reversing a 20-year trend. None of this was by accident. All of it is in no small measure due to the responsible and responsive budget delivered by the Treasurer in May. While those opposite like to quote, I shall just use one quote in my contribution today, and that quote is from the Reserve Bank governor, who made it clear that our budget is addressing inflation, not adding to it. In Senate estimates, on 31 May, the Reserve Bank governor said:

I don't think that the budget is adding to inflation; it's actually reducing inflation in the next financial year.


The things that we are seeing—the record job growth; the record number of women in full-time employment; the budget returning to a surplus, even though those opposite promised it and were unable to deliver it—are a direct response to a responsible and responsive budget that was designed to deal with the greatest challenge that we are dealing with, which is the inflation challenge. The inflation challenge is a central focus of our economic plan and of the budget that was handed down by the Treasurer.

If we were to look at the record of the Albanese Labor government in the last 12 months compared to those opposite, who had 10 years—or close to 10 years, to be precise. Let's do a compare and contrast. They took us to a record deficit; we saw record jobs. They deliberately kept wages low—let's keep reminding people of that; let's keep reminding people that their economic agenda, their approach to the economy, was to deliberately keep wages low. We have gotten wages moving again. We've seen an increase to the minimum wage, and my colleague the Minister for Aged Care has overseen an increase to the wages of aged-care areas. My mum was an aged care nurse; I welcome that, and I pay heed to the minister for that.

Under those opposite, the cost of early childhood education and care rose by 49 per cent. One of our first acts in government, within our first six months, was to boost the childcare subsidy to provide very much needed cost-of-living relief to 1.2 million families right across Australia, including 265,000 in rural and regional Australia. When those families sit around the family table and budget, one of the first things they factor in is the cost of early childhood education and care. Then they work out everything else around that, including how many hours the primary caregiver—most often the woman in the family—can work before that financial benefit from working is eaten by the cost of early childhood education and care. Those opposite had 10 years to do something about the cost of early childhood education and care, to provide that cost-of-living relief to families, and they did nothing. Our biggest budget promise that we took to the election was that boost to the childcare subsidy, which will come into play on 1 July.

In terms of housing affordability and supply, they did nothing. We have before us the HAFF, the Housing Australia Future Fund, to provide housing supply, particularly for those most vulnerable—particularly for women and children fleeing family and domestic violence. Those opposite teamed up with the Greens political party to block that.

Mr Burnell:

Surprise, surprise!

Dr ALY: Surprise, surprise indeed. Strange bedfellows, might I say. Those opposite did nothing about giving families choice; we increased paid parental leave so that mothers and fathers could stay at home with their children in those first vital six months of their lives. Those opposite increased the cost of university degrees; what did we do? We made more university places available and provided fee-free TAFE for thousands of Australians across the nation. I had the great pleasure of meeting some early childhood education and care students at Swinburne TAFE with the fabulous new member there. They were saving thousands on their degrees in early childhood education and care.

Those opposite failed to land a single energy policy, whereas on this side, as the Minister for Climate Change and Energy mentioned in question time, our changes—which they voted against—will deliver an average of $819 of fee relief on electricity prices for families and households, as well as for small business. Those opposite failed to establish a national anticorruption body, something that they promised for three years. It took them three years where they kept promising it, and then they failed to deliver it at all. We're delivering on that promise, and I look forward to when that body is established.

Those opposite froze the Medicare rebate. We all know what they want to do with Medicare. We all know that their hearts are not in Medicare. What we do know is Medicare is a Labor government legacy and we will always protect it. We have slashed the cost of medicines. We've increased the GP rebate. And we have delivered $100 million saved by Australians on the cost of their medicines.

I note that it's reported in the media that in their caucus meeting today the Leader of the Opposition urged his party to appear to be more compassionate. I would hope that every single member that comes into this place comes here with compassion. It's reported in the media. I would hope that every single person comes here with compassion for their electorate, but, hey, good luck doing that.