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Support for the cost of living crisis motion

July 1, 2024: 

I rise in support of the motion that tackling cost-of-living pressure must be the government's No. 1 priority, as indeed it is mine. The cost-of-living crisis is having a very significant impact on the people of Mackellar. When people who don't live there think of Mackellar, they typically think of Palm Beach and Whale Beach, which are indeed some of the most beautiful and fortunate parts of Australia. What they overlook, however, is the vast majority of the electorate, from Dee Why to Davidson, from Narrabeen to Narraweena, and Collaroy to Cromer, where ordinary Australians and families are quite simply doing it tough right now.

Demand for food support from wonderful Mackellar charities such as AOK and Street Mission has never been higher. Regardless of the cause, over the past two years, I have consistently called for and supported many steps to alleviate the impacts of the cost-of-living crisis. I supported capping gas prices when the war in Ukraine made them soar. I supported making childcare more affordable making visits to the GP and medicines cheaper. I supported paid parental leave and fee-free TAFE and I also supported making HECS far fairer. I supported investing in the construction of more affordable and social housing and the inquiries into price gouging by supermarkets. Importantly, I supported the changes to the stage 3 tax cuts so they are fairer and benefit more people, especially people on lower income who were going to miss out.

But the main thing I want to talk about today, which will have an enormous long-term impact on the cost of living, is energy prices. At the world transitions away from fossil fuels due to climate change, Australians will nevertheless continue to demand two things from our energy system. They will want it to be as inexpensive as possible and as reliable as possible. These two core demands are vital for households and for our economy, particularly if we truly do want a future made in Australia by expanding our manufacturing base. It is these two demands, not ideology and not politicking, that must dictate our energy. They are pragmatic.

The 2023 GenCost report by the CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator confirmed that firmed renewables are the cheapest form of reliable energy in Australia both now and to 2030. It is simply irresponsible and undermines the status of our nation's key scientific body for the coalition to argue otherwise for political reasons. The Grattan Institute explains that the 20 per cent rise in the cost of wholesale electricity prices last year had a few main causes: the war in Ukraine causing global gas shortages and pushing up the price of gas, outages at ageing coal power plants reducing competition and extreme weather events causing flooding in coal mines. The fact that renewable energy is the cheapest form of energy and getting cheaper is the one thing countering further rises in energy prices right now. Already, 40 per cent of Australians' energy is generated from wind and solar—a 25 per cent increase in the last two years. So we are already a long way down the path to the 82 per cent renewable energy target by 2030. Energy prices will continue to reduce in line with the increase of renewable energy inputs to our grid.

On the other hand, the CSIRO and AEMO found that nuclear energy generation would be the most expensive energy technology available for consumers. Relying on nuclear energy would make household and business energy bills go up, not down, causing inflation throughout our economy. We know from experience that nuclear reactors generally take a couple of decades to build. Heading down the nuclear path would be too expensive and too late to help with the cost-of-living crisis we are experiencing right now. It is absolutely critical that Australia has cheap, clean energy now, in this decade, not in two decades time.

To make energy cheaper for households and businesses, I call on the government to invest heavily in the rollout of rooftop solar and behind-the-meter battery storage. This would take the pressure off building big renewable projects and transmission lines in the regions and immediately deliver cheaper energy prices for Australians across the country. We cannot make the transition quickly enough to clean, cheaper energy. It is good for the planet and it is good for our back pockets.