Ross Vasta MP

Federal Member for Bonner

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GRIEVANCE DEBATE: COST OF LIVING

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

I want to talk about an issue that, without fail, tops the list of concerns of my constituents. At my regular mobile offices, in my community surveys, and when I’m out and about in the community, people continue to raise with me one issue above all else. I’m sure it’s the same for most of my colleagues. That issue, of course, is cost of living.

Residents are telling me it’s getting harder to pay the bills. Small business owners are struggling with rising power prices. Families are finding it harder to cope with childcare fees. And there’s the often debilitating cost of housing—parents and even grandparents are coming to me worried about their children’s ability to afford their first home.

The Coalition went to the last election with a promise to tackle cost of living pressures for households, families, and businesses. We’re continuing to deliver on this commitment and I’m pleased to say this is being reflected in the feedback I’ve been getting from people in the community.

Take power prices. Recent figures from the Australian Energy Regulator show over 460 Queenslanders a week are having their electricity disconnected, a huge jump from last year. And it’s no wonder, with record increases in wholesale electricity prices under the state Labor government flowing through to households and businesses.

At one of my recent community forums, a local from Carindale, Michael Sinitsky, told me that ahead of all the other issues dominating the headlines at the moment, the cost of power is the number one problem that needs addressing. When he’s chatting with friends, family, neighbours and others in the community about issues the government should be focussing on, it’s power prices that dominate the conversation.

It’s great to be able tell Michael and other locals about how the Turnbull Coalition Government has taken decisive action to put downward pressure on power bills. We’re getting on with the job of building Snowy Hydro 2.0. We’ve announced tough new regulations ensuring the gas sector will put Australian businesses and consumers first when it comes to our gas supply. And we’ve delivered the Energy Assistance Payment that will benefit over 21,000 people in Bonner.

More recently, we’ve secured the agreement of our largest energy retailers to implement a number of immediate and ongoing changes. Thanks to this Government’s efforts, the retailers have committed to contacting up to two million Australian households to let them know how they can get better, cheaper deals on their power bills.

We’ve also promoted the Australian Energy Regulator’s comparison website, Energy Made Easy. This site lets households plug in their relevant data to find a better power deal for themselves. Over 300,000 Australians have used Energy Made Easy to check that they're on the best energy plan available to them, potentially saving themselves hundreds of dollars a year.

We’ve also presented legislation to stop electricity networks from gaming the system to boost their profits. It’s a shame that instead of supporting these measures in the Senate that will give families relief from rising power prices, Labor has instead chosen to play politics and referred the legislation to a Senate committee.

The Coalition’s energy policies will benefit not only householders but small businesses as well. It’s so important to support the engine room of our economy—small business employs more than half the Australian workforce after all. As a former small business owner, I know how every dollar counts toward the bottom line. The skyrocketing power prices Queensland’s seen under Labor has meant that instead of being able to employ extra staff or invest in new equipment, small business owners have had to spend more and more to cover their power bills.

Now I’m glad to say our energy policies are paying off for small business. I’m also hearing from more business owners about how our measures designed to back small business are helping them with their day-to-day expenses.

Take Little Gnome, located in the heart of Wynnum CBD. Little Gnome is a bookshop and café run by mother and son duo, Bel and Jack Ellis. It’s a great example of a small business that has taken advantage of the Coalition Government’s small business incentives and programs to their full benefit.

Bel tells me our cut to the small business company tax rate was a welcome sight. It allowed Little Gnome to reinvest in new equipment and technologies. She says it’s also helped them employ extra staff when needed. And she’s just one of many local business owners who’ve told me the small business tax rate reduction has helped them expand and hire more people.

Bel also praised our decision to extend the $20,000 instant asset-write off threshold. Small businesses with a turnover of less than $10 million can now claim a deduction for the business portion of each new or second-hand asset they purchase costing less than $20,000 until June 30th next year—an added bonus to our small business tax cuts, as Bel calls it!

When Little Gnome was starting out, Bel tells me the most valuable tool they had at their disposal was the Federal Government’s small business information portal at business.gov.au. It answered many of their obscure questions on finance, tax, GST, and more.

The Government has also made available to small business owners low-cost business advice through our Australian Small Business Advisory Services Programme. The local provider in my electorate is the Greater Brisbane Small Business Advisory Services—can I just say Alice Langford, Tony Curl, and the rest of the GBSBAS are doing a fantastic job.

The Coalition will always have the back of small business to find and achieve savings wherever possible. We understand that when small businesses are given room to grow, employ more people and pay them better wages, we all benefit.

This is plain to see in the latest National Accounts data. Business conditions have risen to their highest level in almost a decade. Over 240,000 jobs were created in the last financial year alone, the strongest financial year jobs growth since the GFC. And wages are showing a modest but steady rise.

The Coalition is also supporting Australian families, not just with keeping their power bills down, but also with dealing with other cost of living pressures including housing affordability and childcare.

We’ve introduced legislation that lets young Australians save for their first home by building a deposit inside their superannuation. We’ve also boosted the availability of rental accommodation on the market with our foreign resident vacancy tax. And we’ve legislated the Jobs for Families Child Care Package, which is delivering more affordable and more accessible child care for over 10,200 families in Bonner alone.

For people in my electorate like Michael in Carindale, and Bel and Jack from Little Gnome, the Turnbull Coalition Government’s economic plan means better days ahead. Our plan is helping secure small business while creating more and better paying jobs. Most importantly, our plan is putting downward pressure on rising living costs. These are the issues my constituents care about most, and I’m proud to say this Government is delivering for them.

 

To watch my speech please click here



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