How the Albanese Government is fixing the cost of living crisis

I am soon going to enter the curious world that is TikTok.

Don’t worry, I won’t be embarrassing myself too much, I’ll be promoting the world of disability and all the amazing things that are trending and emerging in Australia and around the globe.

TikTok is a strange place, though.

This week, two Aussie Woolies customers went viral on the social media site after posting a video about the skyrocketing price of iceberg lettuce.

Mason and Mai, who are the TikTok-ers behind the account @savingforboba posted a clip titled “How to flex in an Australian supermarket”.

They placed a lettuce in a bag and put a sign on it that read “Lettuce Vuitton”. Absolutely brilliant.

But forget the designer lettuce for the moment, a friend was recently aghast that the price of green beans was more than $40/kg.

They may be sometimes known as the French bean, but $40/kg is astronomical.

Skyrocketing inflation has led to the cost of goods and services ballooning in recent months.

First, we were hit with petrol price hikes, then our food bills soared, now Australians on the east coast have been faced with an energy crisis over recent weeks.

The former Liberal government, under then embattled Energy minister Angus Taylor, now shadow treasurer, hid price rises from consumers during the election campaign as one of the presents for the incoming Labor Government.

The impact this will be having on Australian families cannot be understated and I think the work the Albanese Government has done in its first weeks must be commended.

Minister for Climate and Energy Chris Bowen has taken the reins and has worked with the States and energy market amid the price hikes, threats of blackouts and the need for a transition to renewable energy sources to meet our climate commitments as a nation.

The reason for rising energy prices can be traced back to a number of market forces, including rising fuel costs.

The war in the Ukraine has contributed.

Closer to home, a decade of denial and inertia from successive Coalition governments has left a leadership vacuum in all things climate related.

On June 6, my colleague, Treasurer Jim Chalmers, wrote to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission about the Government’s concerns regarding the impact of price increases on households, as well as the competitiveness of our domestic industries and the viability of some energy retailers.

The Treasurer’s letter asked the ACCC to use its role as the consumer watchdog to monitor and report on prices in the National Electricity Market, as well as prices and supply of gas to domestic and international markets.

This week, the ACCC said it would keep a closer eye on the market.

The Government used its authority to maximise the ACCC’s monitoring of the market to ensure there’s no dodgy behaviour going on and so it can recommend any regulatory changes based on the information it collects.

It’s a very good thing the ACCC has responded to the Treasurer’s request to investigate price hikes in the energy sector. While there are a number of factors driving these price rises, the ACCC plays a critical role in monitoring and reporting on electricity and gas markets and it’s important to have transparency about what has been happening.

If any bad behaviour is found, it will not be tolerated.

Australians are switched on enough to know there are a range of reasons that inflation is on the move upwards.

This Government is focused on tackling the spiralling cost of living that is making life tough for too many Australians.

As well as ensuring energy prices don’t spiral out of control, we must get wages rising again and make health care, child care and housing more affordable, while we work to grow the economy.

We know that this task won’t be simple, and we won’t be able to fix it all overnight.

We have inherited an economy a trillion dollars in debt, declining productivity, wages going backwards and the highest level of inflation in 20 years.

The Albanese Government has fast-tracked agreements with State and Territory energy ministers on the way forward, including an integrated national energy plan and development of a capacity mechanism so we have reliable power available when we need it.

And, in tough times, it’s always good to keep your sense of humour so I’ll be keeping an eye on TikTok.

This opinion piece was first published in The West Australian on Wednesday 22 June 2022.