Coalition is so disconnected from the pervasive cost of living crisis

Abigail gave a harrowing Adjournment speech last night, calling out the Coalition Government' blatant disregard for the working-class doing it tough.

Abigail said:

I have been struck this week by the incredible disconnect between, on the one hand, the story of economic success being trumpeted by Government members, patting themselves on the back at having supposedly presided over 11 years of "delivering for the people of New South Wales" and, on the other hand, the story I see everywhere I look of the people of our State doing it tougher than ever before. Nurses, midwives and paramedics are exhausted by the past two years of the pandemic; teachers are struggling with huge class sizes; emergency services are simply incapable of responding to the many unfolding climates catastrophes battering our State; and everyday people are unable to pay for the rising price of goods and services, forced to pay ever more to banks in order to keep a roof over their heads, emptying their pockets out every time they take a toll road to get to work or pick kids up from school, or being plunged into energy poverty in the middle of one of the bleakest winters that we have ever experienced.

While the people across the State are suffering, the Coalition Government is consumed with covering up its own corruption, distracted by incredibly petty internal politics, and focused on self-promotion and on scapegoating the essential workers that are holding up the very functioning of our State and the unions that represent them. The only way to make our way out of this systemic crisis is to take big, enduring measures to rebalance the scales of power in our society. Right-wing hacks, the captured tabloid media and politicians bought and paid for by big business donors bleat incessantly about the perils of inflation if we were to improve the economic standing of our essential workers by paying them a fair wage. That narrative is a fantasy. People at the bottom end of the pay scale cannot be blamed for price rises.

The so-called inflation crisis we are facing is theft, plain and simple. The costs of everyday essentials are going up, while corporations are posting mega profits. We are seeing the transfer and consolidation of wealth on a breathtaking scale. Amidst electricity bill spikes of over 18 per cent, Origin Energy has posted a doubling in revenue and an over $4 billion uplift in its assets. While households are straining to make mortgage repayments, the Commonwealth Bank has posted a nearly $10 billion profit. The big businesses are driving up prices and skimming profits, leaving people struggling and going without essential goods and services. Would it have been at all acceptable for the Commonwealth Bank to be so clearly profiting from our misery if it were still in public hands and had not been sold off to private profiteers? Would we accept so many people in this State sliding into energy poverty, paying more than 10 per cent of their household income just to keep the lights on, if our energy network had not been sold off for a song?

Given the choice, there is no doubt we would not allow such blatant profiteering to occur, but we do not now have that choice. That choice has been taken away from us as a result of the ideology of privatisation. Quite simply, we have handed over far too much of our essential goods and services to capitalists. The inescapable fact of the matter is that capitalism is fundamentally anti-democratic. Our democracy is meant to be built on a principle of one person one vote, but when it comes to the political outcomes in our State, it is far more like one dollar, one vote. There is no shortage of dollars in this State; it is just that those in power choose to distribute it unfairly. We need to make a dramatic intervention into the power structures in our society to redistribute the wealth from the mega rich minority to the working-class majority, and the first step to that is an urgent and hefty pay rise for our workers.

We need a permanent increase in salaries and wages so that working-class people of this State can have some certainty in their lives, certainty that they will be able to pay their energy bills, cover the cost of housing, groceries, transport to and from work, and to know that they will be able to not just pay those bills today and next week but next year and the year after that. We need a massive and wideranging regime of renationalisation of our crucial public amenities like housing, roads, water, electricity, banking and telecommunications, and a commitment to public investment in public assets to remain in public hands moving forward. Yes, reversing the mistakes of this Coalition Government in its race to privatise every last asset in the interests of a short-term funding hit will cost us, but if we do not reverse those mistakes now and take back what is rightfully ours and should never have been sold, we will be paying a lot more in the long run. The best time to take the power back and renationalise our public amenities was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.


For the full transcript, see Hansard here.

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