Australia’s economy might look good but Labor wants voters to remember bills are rising, wages are flat, and household savings are dwindling.
In a major economic speech, shadow treasurer Chris Bowen has outlined what he says is the true state of the economy after six years of coalition government.
“The Australian economy isn’t growing as broadly, as strongly or anywhere near as fairly as it should,” he said in the inaugural Chifley Oration in Melbourne on Monday night.
“Too many Australians are being pushed to the margins, ignored by the Liberals in the suburbs, let down by the Nationals in the regions.”
Mr Bowen pitched Labor as the party to restore the economy to focus on people and aspiration, not just helping the rich get richer.
“The first budget I hand down won’t just invest more in schools and hospitals and essential services – it will also contain bigger, fairer tax cuts for 10 million working Australians who earn up to $125,000,” he said.
Mr Bowen said significant changes are necessary after GDP growth slowed sharply to 0.3 per cent, wages growth dropped to record lows, and living standards lifted slowly during the five years of coalition government.
At the same time, electricity prices are up 15 per cent, childcare fees are up 24 per cent and private health insurance is up 30 per cent since 2013 – while household debt is at the “disturbing level” of 120 per cent of GDP.
“In every single Hockey and Morrison budget, the wages growth forecasts have had to be downgraded. … Wrong five years running,” Mr Bowen said.
“Prices racing ahead of wages means more and more families are dipping into their savings just to keep the show on the road.”
A week ago, Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised to create 1.25 million jobs over the next five years and warned a Labor government would lead to an even weaker economy.
But Mr Bowen says the jobs situation is nowhere nearly as good as the government wants people to think, with the headline rate masking a persistent stream of underemployment.
Almost 1.8 million Australians want more work than they have at the moment.
“Simply put, the economy isn’t delivering for ordinary people,” Mr Bowen will say.
“And this isn’t because of bad luck or unfortunate timing. It’s because of the bad policies of an incompetent government.
“For six years, this government has put its short-term political interests ahead of the long-term national interest.”