Doorstop, Thornlands, Queensland - Monday 20th November 2023

Tuesday, 21 November 2023

Topics: Cost-of-living, Inflation, PRRT 



Good afternoon. I'm Henry Pike, the Federal Member for Bowman. It's great to have the Shadow Treasurer Angus Taylor here in the Redlands today, to talk about cost-of-living issues and to discuss with some local service providers and businesses about the pressures they're facing, about the issues that are affecting them. And how we can really try to address that as the Opposition and try to apply the appropriate pressure to the government to try to get some changes to improve the quality of life for locals. I'm going to throw to Grant Cunningham, who runs the Champions Support Services. They do a fantastic job within the Redlands providing support for local families that are doing it tough. I’ll throw over to Grant.  


Awesome. Thank you very much, Mr. Pike and Mr. Taylor for coming today and checking out our facilities. We really do appreciate that today. What we do here at Champions Support Services, our heartbeat is to be a hand up and not a handout. We want to actually help people. We want to give them a hand up instead of just a handout from week to week. Our heartbeat here, what we've seen happen this year inside this facility is amazing. At the start of the year, we were seeing around 50 clients each week. Now, we're pushing up to 150 every single week that are coming through our doors. The big pressure they're facing is the cost of living. So, they come here, they get a smiling face, they get a helping hand. They get a hand up instead of a handout and we're here to support them, love them, and care for them. 


Good on you, Grant. Thank you for having me. Having Henry and I. It's really good to be here with Champions Support Services. Thank you for the work you do. Henry, a hard-working local member here for Bowman, it's great to be here with you today. Of course, what we see here at Champions Support Services is the face of a cost-of-living crisis. I make a point as I get out and about around Australia when going to places like Champions Support Services, who provide that incredibly important support, including the hand up, as you rightly say, Grant, which is so important. We are seeing a changing face to this cost-of-living crisis as a much broader range of demographics, a range of people, are coming in to get these services because they simply can't make ends meet. They simply can't make ends meet. This crisis is intensifying by the month, and it is hurting Australians across the board.  

Now, we've consistently said the best way to help the most vulnerable Australians right now is getting this cost-of-living pressure down, with getting inflation down. There is no better way to help every Australian to make ends meet. Whether it's the energy bills, the grocery bills, buying clothing. You name it, Australians are struggling with it. And putting downward pressure on inflation is what is needed most of all. Now the truth is, inflation is coming from Canberra. Now, we know that because Australia is at the back of the pack.   

We are facing amongst the highest levels of inflation in the advanced world. We are facing a situation where The Economist tells us we've got the stickiest inflation, the most persistent inflation in the advanced world. We know household disposable income has fallen more in Australia than any other advanced country, 5.1% in the last year. That's every Australian family, on average, 5.1% worse than they were a year ago. What this ultimately means is people's pay packets are buying less. That's the result and that's the pain that we're seeing wherever we go. We need a government that's treating this as its top priority. Now, this government has been distracted. It has had its eye off the ball. It hasn't been focused on the issues that have been talked about and dealt with around kitchen tables.    

Its cabinet table has been focused on the wrong issues. We're seeing the result of that now. There is much government can do. Whether it's through fiscal policy, whether it's through competition policy, or whether it's through industrial relations. There is much government can do. We have learned that from past episodes of inflation, and this government is taking us in the wrong direction. But in the meantime, we need wonderful services like this one we've got here from Champions Support Services here today. Thank you for the incredible work you're doing Grant. Happy to take questions.   


Given what you've seen from this organization, what they provide, what specific policies do you think the government should be doing to help with the cost-of-living crisis?   


Put downward pressure on inflation. Everyone benefits. Every Australian is affected by inflationary pressures. That's why this has to be the top priority. And this is different from other economic challenges we've faced in the past. Every Australian is impacted by it. That's why you got to get to the source of the problem, not the symptoms. There's no point putting a band aid on a bullet wound. You've got to go to the source of the problem and that means the underlying policies that are going to take pressure off inflation, industrial relations, competition, fiscal policy, productivity. I mean, all of these things will put downward pressure on inflation. How do we know that? Because we've seen that through history. We know that's the way to beat it. It can be beaten. But right now, Australia's at the back of the pack. We need Australia to be at the front of the pack, getting ahead of this and beating it. 


I got some questions on the PRRT. So, are you willing to vote down the PRRT changes if conditions laid out in your letter to the Treasurer are not met? 


We’ve laid out very clearly that we are prepared to support the PRRT but it's on the condition that this government deals with getting more gas out from under the ground. Now, Chris Bowen, after years of fighting against the gas industry, has suddenly realized he needs an energy system that's putting downward pressure on prices that's keeping jobs, particularly industrial jobs. That means we need gas. We can't go without it. We've got a collapsing gas supply coming in Bass Strait, about 10% of the gas supply disappearing in a year. And this government has been asleep at the wheel again. It's finally worked out that this is a problem. So, that's why we've said to the government we'll work with you on this. We're prepared to be bipartisan, and I've shown the willingness to be bipartisan with the government on other issues like the Reserve Bank, but we need supply. That means we need to take away some of the red tape that's preventing supply from coming into the market, putting downward pressure on prices, to ensure we've got a reliable electricity system to ensure we've got those industrial jobs we need. We look forward to working with Labor on this. But the ball is now in their court. They can work with us, and they can work with the Greens. I know which pathway will deliver a more reliable and affordable energy system. 


Given that the gas industry does support the proposed PRRT changes, is the Coalition a bit out of step with the industry in terms of trying to negotiate this bill do you think? 


I think that the industry wants to see more supply coming out from under the ground. The industry wants to see less red tape. So, I think we're very aligned with where the industry wants to go. That's because they know that a reliable energy system in Australia and for our customer countries, relies on supply. We need more supply. And this is a government that hasn't supported more supply. They're belatedly working out that they've got a crisis coming up. They've failed to deliver a reduction in electricity prices as they promised. They promised at $275 reduction. Instead, we've seen steep increases in people's bills. We need a government that gets focused on the main game. We’ve seen last week that it relies on us to say to the government that this is what needs to happen to get these things done. We're doing it again. I have no doubt that the gas industry is supportive of getting more supply out from under the ground. 


Do you think the status quo is preferable to the reforms proposed by the government then? 


I think we need to see more supply. That's what needs to change. We need to see more supply. I've been consistent about this for a long time. Chris Bowen has taken a couple of years to work this out, many years to work it out. He's finally discovering that he needs more supply. If you're going to put downward pressure on prices, if you're going to keep the energy system reliable, if you're also going to get down emissions, you need gas as part of that mix. It's a balance you need, and he's let the balance get out of whack. We're proposing these sensible initiatives that will help to get that balance back to where it needs to be.