SPEECH IN FEDERATION CHAMBER
Subjects: Iraq War, cost of living crisis, Ukraine War, healthcare, energy crisis, housing
PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: Thank you, Deputy Speaker. There was obviously in the House yesterday an acknowledgement of the anniversary of the Iraq War and the men and women who served in that conflict. I just wanted to point out, Deputy Speaker, that all the Australian men and women who were asked to serve, men and women of the ADF, defence officials, diplomats, other security officials who were asked to serve in Iraq, did so whether they agreed or not with the war, whether they had issues themselves with the reasoning behind the war. They did their duty, and they did their obligation and went and served their country in uniform or in their capacity as a security or defence official in Iraq. There’s been a lot of commentary around the past 20 years and what it has meant to the Iraqi people and obviously we have also lost service personnel in Iraq, in that conflict as well, and we grieve for their families. I just wanted to make a note on this occasion, Deputy Speaker, that I spent a year in Iraq. I was asked to serve as a security and defence official in Iraq. I had made it publicly known in some media that I thought the war was wrong, that it was a strategic error but that it was also a humanitarian disaster that unfolded. But having said that, the people that did go to Iraq, the Australians who served there, whether they agreed or not with the war, they also had a responsibility after the Saddam regime had been removed to help rebuild that country and they did so professionally, and they achieved a lot in respect of that rebuilding. Iraq has had a lot of problems over many years, but it still is intact as a sovereign state and some of that, I think, is due to the work that Australians did at the time in helping rebuild the structures, the political and economic parts of that country during that period and it’s important to note the service of all Australians who spent time there.
Deputy Speaker, closer to home, we know as a government that cost of living is front of mind for many Australians right now. The basics are costing a lot more, Australians are walking away from the supermarket with less for their money, rising interest rates are making it harder to pay the mortgage and many renters are feeling the pressure of costs being passed onto their increased rent, and surging rents have kept many Australians trapped in the rental cycle for prolonged periods. So, we know this as a government, the Albanese Government is acutely aware of how difficult it is right now for people just to get by and that’s why we’re so focused on doing what we can to relieve the pressure on Australians.
Now, although we’ve been in power for some 10 months, we’ve done a fair bit to relieve that pressure so far. I’ll just run through a couple of them very quickly, Deputy Speaker, the childcare changes – as many parents would know, childcare costs are such a significant burden, and our cheaper childcare reforms will help families save up to 90% on their childcare. This will be providing much needed relief from 1st July this year and it will make childcare more affordable and accessible for Australian families and ensure families with children in care are better off.
The Albanese Government also has reformed paid parental leave, which recently passed the Parliament, which will now better meet the needs of modern Australian families with a single parent paid parental leave scheme. From 1st of July, new parents will be able to use a total of 20 weeks leave as they choose, sharing the leave, however it works best for that particular family. Parents will also be able to access leaving multiple blocks as small as one day with periods of work in between. The new combined family income level will also see nearly 3000 additional parents become eligible to access paid parental leave and have access to that 20 weeks of paid parental leave increased from 18 weeks. This is just a start. There’s more to do to help working families, and we will be delivering on paid parental leave of 26 weeks in 2026.
We’re also delivering cheaper medicine, and that’s already occurred, Deputy Speaker. Over 3.2 million prescriptions were cheaper in the first two months of this year and thanks to our policy, which came into effect on the 1st of January, Australians have saved more than $36 million since that time. The maximum out of pocket cost for most medicines on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme is now $12.50 lower. For a family relying on two or three medications, that’s going to put as much as $450 back into the household budget, back into people’s pockets. That’s real. That’s making a difference to people. It’s delivering real savings, it’s relieving the pressure on families because of actions taken by the Labor Government – the Albanese Government. We are also working to strengthen Medicare and reduce the pressure on hospitals. That’s part of our $750 million package of strengthening the Medicare fund package which will implement the recommendations of the Strengthening Medicare Task Force Report. We’re delivering 220 million in infrastructure grants to strengthen general practice and we’re delivering 50 urgent care centres that will be rolled out over the course of this year. We’re committed to making it easier for people to see their GP and we’re expanding the Senior Health Care Card, helping more Australians access cheaper medicines and on their visits to the GP. This is why the government is committed to this, because it’s ensuring Australians receive the quality healthcare they deserve.
Now Deputy Speaker, we all are aware, I think it’s a fact we all know, that Russia’s illegal, abhorrent invasion of Ukraine has led globally to energy prices going to historic levels. Now, as much as the opposition will want to politicize this, that’s just a fact. It’s a reality of that war, and the Albanese Labor Government has taken action, though, to help shield Australians from the worst of those rising energy costs. Last week’s release of the draft default market offer, the DMO for electricity, showed increases that are up to 29 percentage points lower than the Australian Energy Regulator projected late last year. Now that wouldn’t have occurred if it weren’t for the action taken by the Albanese Government to cap late last year when we were called back to Parliament, all of us remember this, where we were asked to cap prices of domestic coal and gas. And if we hadn’t done that, Deputy Speaker, the increases would have been much more significant with estimates around 40 to 50% instead of 20 to 22%. That energy price relief plan includes consumer and small business rebates to protect Australians from the worst of the rising energy costs. That included targeted relief on power bills to households receiving income support, pensioners, Commonwealth Senior Health Care Card holders, Family Tax Benefit A&B recipients and small business customers. That’s the investment into those people, those Australians. I’ve got to say, those opposite said “no”. They voted against that relief. That’s also a fact that can never actually be changed. We came back because we knew how serious this was, we recalled Parliament, we came back to vote on this energy price relief bill and those opposite voted “no”. They voted “no” to relief. You voted “no”. You voted “no”. You voted “no” to that relief. And those facts will be there, indelibly, in the Hansard record, in the historical record, you opposed price relief for all of those Australians and that is something that you are responsible for. Thankfully Deputy Speaker, we got it through the Parliament and it is having an effect as I said.
Lastly, Deputy Speaker, I do want to touch on something else that they might be opposing, I hope not. But we all know that safe and affordable housing is central to the security and dignity of all Australians. It’s something I understand personally, as does the Minister for Housing, as does the Prime Minister. We grew up in a housing commission, we’re all housos, proud of it because it gave us a roof over our head, it gave us stability, it was something that allowed us to then maximize our potential and our contribution to this great country. So many Australians are struggling with rising rents, mortgage payments, struggling to buy a home. And sadly, too many are experiencing homelessness. That’s why our government is committed to a $10 billion Australia housing future fund and putting that in place. That’s 30,000 new social and affordable homes. It’s the most significant investment in generations, and it will deliver our commitments to help address acute housing needs: $200,000,000 for the repair, maintenance and improvement of housing and remote Indigenous communities. It will ensure Australians have access to safe and affordable housing, reduce the pressure on the rental market, help provide 40% of the purchase price and repayments from new homes in the help-to-buy scheme for an existing home.
This is the Government focused on addressing the housing and rental crisis and those opposite want to oppose it. Again, you’re going to go down in history as opposing all the types of support necessary for Australians to get through this difficult period and you should be ashamed of that.