The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:28): I rise to speak in firm support of this motion put by my colleague the Hon. Robert Simms. This motion recognises the cost-of-living pressures we currently face in our state and across this nation. It does call on the Malinauskas Labor government to take some steps to relieve those cost-of-living pressures in their first budget, most specifically by making public transport free, introducing rent caps and rent subsidies, increasing the wages of public sector workers, abolishing materials and services charges and subject fees for public school students, as well as significantly increasing our investment in public housing.
Cost-of-living pressures impact on all households, and we know that when the costs of basic necessities like housing, utilities, food, health and transport increase the most vulnerable people in our society are hit the hardest. Low income households are disproportionately affected, and we are seeing many households struggling through our state as incomes and income support payments consistently fail to keep pace with price rises. We know that so many people were plunged into poverty under successive federal governments’ abandonment of them through our supposed welfare system.
We have just come out of a state election campaign and into a federal one, where we have seen politicians being asked about the price of bread, the wage price index and other sundry items. What has been missing from this conversation is not a conversation about keto, is not a rattling off of some numbers: it is actually missing the point to ask these questions when in fact the questions people are asking themselves is how they are even meant to afford that loaf of bread when the payments they receive are below the poverty line. What choice do they have? Is it the choice to skip meals or to skip medications?
Is it acceptable that South Australians in 2022 are having to make these choices because our politicians have refused to make the hard political choices to stand up to vested interests? The cost-of-living crisis is an inequality crisis. Currently, the gap between the rich and the poor in our nation has never been wider—it only continues to grow. Many billionaires doubled their wealth during this pandemic, while around the country over three million people are living in poverty. Our essential services have been sold off and now electricity, housing, health and education are all too expensive, when they should be universal, should be accessible and should be affordable.
We now have record low wage growth, endemic wage theft and out-of-control insecure work. Governments are the key to solving these crises, this inequality crisis, and they have the power to improve our state, but they must make the deliberate choice to do so. One of the government’s key duties is to provide essential services, and to ensure that we all have the ability to live a healthy life, chase opportunities and to be happy. How can people access their essential services, such as health and transport, when prices continue to go up? People who cannot afford fuel or cars are looking at continual price rises, yet public transport is also not affordable for many either. How can people apply for jobs or get the treatments they need or access the services they deserve when they cannot even afford to pay their phone or internet bills?
I think it is important that the parliament does seriously consider this motion, particularly as we head towards the Malinauskas government’s first budget, just one month from now. Budgets are about choices and, put simply, they tell us what the government of the day chooses as being worthy of funding and what it does not. The impact of those choices on us and on future generations are the result of very deliberate political decisions. The government can make a very real and meaningful change for the people of this state, and I urge them—and I urge this council—to support and implement the measures outlined in this motion.