Straight from the Senate - Issue 12

5.00pm | March 19, 2017



Housing affordability is a huge issue at many levels. Very high costs for purchase are associated with high household debt levels, and lack of access to appropriate housing hinders many people from finding work and sustaining their families.

At a Finance Committee hearing this week I asked the Treasury about its work on housing affordability. Officials revealed that the Government only established an interdepartmental working group to investigate this area three and a half months ago, and they can't clearly say which government department is responsible for housing. Labor, economists and the public have been talking about Australia’s housing affordability crisis for years. Yet it is only within the last few months that the Turnbull Government has started to give any thought to the issue.


On Tuesday Labor leader Bill Shorten MP announced that when Parliament returns next week Labor will introduce legislation to protect penalty rates. When Mr Turnbull is giving big business a $50 billion tax cut, Australian workers should not have to settle for a $4000 a year pay cut.


This week Prime Minister Turnbull announced the Government’s plan to invest $2 billion into the Snowy Hydro Scheme. Despite the Snowy Hydro Scheme being jointly owned by the Commonwealth Government and the New South Wales and Victorian Governments, the Victorian Labor Government was not consulted on this decision prior to the announcement. The government has also now revealed they are yet to undertake a feasibility study to assess whether or not this represents a good use of public money. 

The national Resources and Energy Minister, Josh Frydenberg, travelled to South Australia to discuss the Government’s announcement. South Australian Labor Premier Jay Weatherill pointed out the hypocrisy in the Government’s investment when they have spent months criticising the South Australian Government over its use of renewable energy. 

The real issue here is that absent a clear mechanism for Australia to meet its climate change targets, energy investors are on strike. Business is unclear how the rules will work in the future - so they don't invest. This week the Business Council of Australia joined the chorus of business voices asking for a price on carbon. Other groups calling for an EIS or carbon market mechanism include Energy Networks Australia, retailer Energy Australia, electricity provider AGL, the Climate Change Authority, the National Farmers Federation and the CSIRO. 

As my colleague Wayne Swan pointed out, cynical Liberal opposition to climate action has produced a 'lost decade' that Australia could ill afford. The Liberals are now increasingly isolated, as business wakes up to the cost of the Liberals cynical, reckless decisions. 

Its time for the Liberals to admit that their ridiculous war on climate change action has been a complete disaster, and to work with Labor to introduce a long term price signal into energy markets to restart investment, and modernise our electricity system.

In Labor,
Jenny McAllister