IR CHANGES, STAGNANT WAGES, UNEMPLOYMENT AND INCREASING COSTS MAKE IT HARDER FOR FAMILIES STARTING OUT

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (17:54): In this grievance debate, where we get the opportunity to raise issues of ongoing frustration to our local constituents, I have a number of issues I'd like to put before the chamber tonight. The first is a more general problem, which has been developing since the election of the Abbott government. It's the fact that people in our communities are seeing an ongoing stagnation of their wages, an ongoing level of unemployment and underemployment, and an ongoing level of increasing cost of living. This is putting pressure on individuals, on young couples trying to make a start in life, and on families in general.

In particular, in my region in recent times, I think about the impact of the rising cost of housing and the lack of rental availability. What is available is expensive. The cost of housing has an impact not only on the budgets of people who are on government support payments but also on people who are working and often earning reasonably good wages. They are feeling very squeezed.

If you imagine many of the young families in my electorate, and I'm sure in colleagues' electorates across the country, where both of the couple are working, over the last seven years they've seen no real increase in their wage. In fact the national figures tell us that real wages have gone backwards—so it's not just stagnant; they've gone backwards. They're not seeing an increase in the income coming into the household, yet they've seen increases in their child-care fees, health-care costs and housing costs.

It seems to me that the government has absolutely no plan for supporting young families and young couples to manage this situation. Too many young couples now tell me they've given up on the idea of ever owning a home, and many of them are also now saying, 'We can't even contemplate starting a family.' These are real economic pressures on individuals in our communities that I think should be on the mind of the government. Certainly I'm on the record already as being critical of the government's proposed industrial relations changes, because they'll do quite the opposite: they'll put downward pressure on wages and cause cuts.

There are other areas where the government needs to look and not only act, but be effective in acting on the costs of living for people. Child care is a great example. The government made child-care reforms with the promise and hope that it would bring down child-care costs, but it has actually done exactly the opposite. So, particularly on behalf of young couples and young families in my electorate, I would very much like to put on record to the government that they need to look far more seriously at the realities of household economies in communities. People are struggling more and more each year as these issues are not addressed.

Watch Sharon’s speech here.