You are here

Cost of Living

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Wednesday, 21 June 2023

Tags: Marinus Link, Cost of Living

Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens) - More and more, as I listen to the new Independent member for Lyons speak, he makes complete sense and it is very refreshing indeed.

Mr Speaker, I will pick up on some of the comments about Marinus Link. To date - and surely that will change now - there has been absolutely no transparency about the proposed Marinus Link. There has been lots of propaganda and promises that it will help to bring down power prices, which defies belief. How can you have a multi-multibillion-dollar project of the likes of Marinus Link and tell the people of Tasmania with a straight face that it will bring down their power prices, particularly as we now know that even to get on the wait list for the Marinus cable, which is a specialised piece of technology, as we understand it, the state will have to stump up $2 billion to be on a wait list for five years? A $2 billion deposit to get in line for this cable will only do one thing if Marinus is ever built, and that is drive power prices up, not just for everyday power customers who have been slugged with a nearly 10 per cent increase today, but for small businesses and medium-sized enterprises, but probably not for the major industrials because they always get a very sweet deal out of Tasmanian governments of all colours.

Mr Tucker makes some very good points about our membership of the National Electricity Market. We should ask ourselves what is actually in it for Tasmania from a climate perspective? Of course there is value in generating more renewables and having more storage capacity. However, in places like Victoria - which the Tasmanian Government would expect to chip in for Marinus - we are seeing massive battery infrastructure going in. Increasingly there are strong arguments for not being part of the National Electricity Market. We believe it has enormous potential to permanently bring down power prices in Tasmania.

The 120 000 Tasmanians who live in poverty will hear today's news about power price increases and their cortisol levels will go up. They will be extremely stressed. We need to have governments investing in programs that help households, for example, to install rooftop solar with tangible government financial support for households to do that. We need to see a massive rollout of energy efficiency to low- and medium-income households. In the four years that we were in government, we provided 9500 free energy efficiency upgrades for low-income households, community organisations and small businesses. They are bringing down power prices still to this day by $800 per year. There are all sorts of things the Government can do to help with the cost of living.

We acknowledge that more money has gone into concessions but so it should. The price of food is through the roof. We are all very comfortable in here. We do not have to worry about being able to feed ourselves or the people we care about but for people on JobSeeker who got shafted by the Albanese government with an extra $20 week, the price of food now is increasingly out of reach. We were pooh-poohed on this proposal politely by the Treasurer at Estimates when we suggested that public transport be free. For a relatively modest extra subsidy you could unlock enormous human potential by making public transport free. You could diffuse some of the stress that our Metro drivers are experiencing when people who live in poverty and are being smashed by the cost of living struggle to pay their fares. As we know, when there was a free Metro trial last year, the incidence of antisocial behavior on the buses dropped dramatically. It was safer for drivers and safer for passengers - a good investment in people.

Concessions are one thing but we really need to see some action on rents. I am sure that every member of this place is being contacted - and I listened to Ms Finlay's contribution about the stress of her constituents - by people who are getting rent increases of more than a $100 a week. Two-bedroom homes in the northern suburbs of Hobart are now $500 a week. It is just extreme. We hope that the Government will understand that we can have a better rent control system here in Tasmania modelled on the ACT model, which we tried to have passed by this parliament to date with no success. It has maintained a bit of a lid on rents in the ACT. If you want to make an overnight difference you give councils an unrestrained capacity to rein in short-stay accommodation. We were pleased to see Hobart City Council, on Monday night, pass a differential rating policy that would make sure people who own short-stay properties are paying a fair rate to council for what is effectively a business.

During the COVID period, when the island's drawbridge had gone up, and when even about 100 houses went back into the market from short-stay, we saw rents noticeably go down. On this island, rents in the past five years have gone up by 50 per cent. We need Government to take rent seriously, to deliver real cost of living relief.