Wednesday, 17 May 2023


Cost of living


Cost of living

Georgie CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) (16:54): I rise to move and speak to my motion 45, which goes to a very important issue that is affecting so many Victorian households:

That this house notes:

(1) that Victorian families, households and businesses are struggling under increasing cost-of-living pressures due to policy failures of the Andrews Labor government;

(2) that Victoria has the highest debt of all states and is paying $10 million per day in interest alone;

(3) that Victorian households and businesses are facing energy price increases of up to $1000 this year with the Andrews Labor government unable to provide any detail on when power costs will reduce;

(4) the burden of increasing tax bills including land tax which is hurting mum-and-dad investors;

(5) the declining standard of living for an increasing number of Victorians struggling under the pressure of higher costs for necessities and the inability to access services; and

(6) the ongoing waste and mismanagement by the Andrews Labor government with no plan to alleviate the financial stress and address rising debt.

We have got a real problem in this state with rising debt. I think most Victorians are waking up to the fact that a debt of $165 billion and rising is of huge concern. That debt is equivalent to New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania combined – those three states – yet we are in this position and paying $10 million a day in interest. When you add that up, that is $70 million a week. That is over a quarter of a billion dollars a month. And what could that money do to actually improve services and bring down some of these cost-of-living pressures if only the government had managed Victoria’s budget properly?

I will come back to that debt, but I want to make a few points. We have been talking about an inquiry into the Victorian education system. Parents know that the cost of educating a child in Victoria is very high, that those costs are rising, that they are greater than in other states, that the costs associated with children’s basic learning is rising and that the cost of uniforms is rising, yet children cannot even go on overnight camps because there is just not enough money in the school budgets. So children are missing out on fundamental things like excursions because there is not enough money in those education budgets. I was speaking to a local school in Bentleigh about this very issue a few weeks ago. They were saying to me that it is such an important part of a child’s education to be able to experience going on those school camps. They get an ability to socialise, to be away from their home environment, to really learn about mixing with others and their peers, to have the wonderful experience of living away from home and exploring the outdoors and a whole range of other activities. Yet the schools cannot afford it and the parents cannot afford it, or some parents cannot afford it, so the schools, to enable those students to undertake the excursions, are digging into their maintenance budgets because the Department of Education will not provide additional funding. That is one thing where we are seeing the impact of the stresses on households and our services such as education.

Businesses are struggling because of the increase in taxes that have been applied right across the board. Let us not forget what Daniel Andrews said on the eve of the 2014 election to Peter Mitchell, Channel 7 reporter: ‘I promise you, Peter, no more taxes,’ or words to that effect. Well, we have had 43 new or increased taxes since 2013 – 43 – and no doubt we will be getting well in excess of that, I suspect, in less than a week’s time when the budget is handed down.

We are seeing the government backflip on their budget promises. The airport rail link is now not going ahead. A few months ago Daniel Andrews told Victorians that they could do everything: they could build the infrastructure and they could deliver the health services to Victorians. Yet just a couple of weeks ago we again had a huge demand on our ambulance services. There was less than 3 per cent capacity and 70 Victorians were waiting for an ambulance because they were deemed to need one. That is a really serious situation, and today of course Victorians have been learning about the fact that the Ombudsman has referred on the issue that I wrote to the Ombudsman about, the code orange and code red situation in Ambulance Victoria. That was not me referring it to IBAC, that is the Ombudsman referring this very serious issue for further investigation. That should be concerning to every single Victorian – that the Ombudsman sees that this is significant enough to be referred to the anti-corruption commission. Again, I heard some flippant remark from Daniel Andrews just brushing it off, not actually being challenged on his remarks. It is all very well to say, ‘The information’s given to the minister after the event.’ Well, that might be the case, but the minister might be asleep at 11 at night when a code is called, and of course they are going to be notified after the case.

But that does not go to the heart of the fact, and that is whether it should have been a code red over a code orange. I have had many people, far too many people, contact me very concerned about the criteria and what played out. So let us just see where that goes. But this goes to the heart of good government, and again I say that this government, with their increasing taxes, is putting more and more pressure on businesses and of course putting more and more pressure on everyday households.

Energy costs are just going through the roof. Again, these are failures of government to ensure that as we transition to renewable energy you have sufficient energy in place to be able to manage that. I was speaking to a local businesswoman in my area, my drycleaner, a few weeks ago. She said to me, ‘Georgie, what on earth is going on? What is the government doing? Last year we paid $4000 a month for our energy costs; it is now over $8000, and we don’t know if we can continue to operate.’ You could not get a harder working couple operating this business with what they do. Like everyone, they have experienced some workforce shortages, but it is not that – it is the fact that they have to work so hard, and having those enormous on-costs is just creating huge stress. We are going to see businesses like this not able to survive. They have got to make a decision: can we go on like this? Can we put our family into debt while we get through this – because the government has not provided enough support. It was $4000 to over $8000 a month in energy costs alone. That shows you the extent of the pain that is going on out there. And this comes off the back of COVID, where businesses were shut down. Of course those were decisions of government; businesses did not shut themselves down, governments shut them down.

We were in here for months and months and months asking for support to business through COVID. It came in dribs and drabs, and it was a damn disgrace, actually, how many businesses had to suffer and wait for assistance from the Andrews Labor government. Many of those businesses have got back up and running, but they are still paying the price. Many went out of business. You only have to go down the high streets around the suburbs to see how many ‘For lease’ signs are up. I think it is a very serious and ominous reflection of what is happening in our suburbs despite the good efforts of small business owners and everyone involved. But it really is not something that this government cares about. They are actually for the big end of town, big business and the unions. They are their mates. They are not really concerned about small business and families and how they have to survive, the bills and the sacrifices that they pay every day. I think we will see very shortly rising interest rates, cost-of-living burdens and things like electricity prices absolutely causing so much pain and distress and real hardship for so many businesses and also families.

Land tax – well, isn’t that a nice tax grab from a socialist government like the Andrews Labor government. They just love taxing us. They will tax anyone that has a go. There are many people, mum-and-dad investors, who just want to get ahead. They do not have a huge amount in their superannuation funds. They do not want to be a burden on government. They actually do not want to be dependent on a pension from government that taxpayers pay; they want to be self-sufficient. But again we know Labor governments do not care for that. That is not in their mantra. Basically their mantra is for socialism – do not let anyone get ahead. There are too many mums and dads on wages who might just have an investment home and are being slugged huge amounts of land tax. They have got to make decisions on whether they sell that investment property or the beach house down on the Bellarine Coast or down in Gippsland or wherever it is and about what they can do and what they can pay for, because they have got to make decisions around their family.

That is hurting mum-and-dad investors; land tax is absolutely hurting mum-and-dad investors. Again it just shows that when you have got such an extraordinary debt, like $165 billion, government has to manage that somehow – and with their rising costs, they are going to have to tax us more, or borrow more. But those borrowings are getting out of control, and that creates a real disincentive for investment. Despite the government’s spruiking all of the positivity, there is real concern amongst many about how this state is going to manage. We are hearing from their mates in Canberra that there are rough headwinds afoot – well, Blind Freddie could have told you that 12 months ago. But there is concern out there, and it is going to be very, very tough for many households. This government is not helping those families. They are not doing anything to really understand that there is a declining standard of living for many Victorians who are struggling under those increasing costs. We hear that all the time with grocery bills that are going up and up and up. People just say, ‘I just can’t believe it. I went in, and my grocery bill has doubled in the last six months.’ These issues are just going to put more pressure on families in terms of choices they can make around their expenditure and their discretionary spend and how that will play out into our overall economy.

But in the meantime we have, as I said, a government that is absolutely hooked on debt. It is hooked on taxes and it is hooked on spin about how they are going to manage this. I think Victorians are waking up to the fact that you just cannot manage it all. There are going to be some very big issues that arise, and we are already seeing this with some of their backtracking on major infrastructure projects, whereas only a few weeks ago the Premier was out there spruiking once again that they can do it all. Well, he plays a big game. He is getting tired. It is obviously not long that he is going to stay around before he hands it over to someone else, because it is such a mess. He does not want that legacy of the rust bucket state that we are heading toward. He will have a number of legacies actually which I think he will not be very happy with, but he will be remembered not for what the government actually spruiks all the time. It is actually about a falling standard of living, it is about families hurting, it is about increasing taxes and it is about an out-of-control debt. It is about budget blowouts with project management. It is about a government not understanding the value of taxpayer money and how it should be managed properly. It is about corruption – the tentacles of this Premier and his private office go into all parts of government administration and public service. It is about corruption. They are the legacies that Daniel Andrews will be remembered for and not necessarily what he would like to be remembered for. Again I say I am extremely concerned about where the state is heading with that rise in debt, and I urge all members to acknowledge this motion and support it.

Ryan BATCHELOR (Southern Metropolitan) (17:10): I move:

That this motion be adjourned until the next day of meeting.

Motion agreed to and debate adjourned until the next day of meeting.