I rise today to talk on this matter of public importance because people in my communities are, quite frankly, not coping. The cost of living is skyrocketing, and people are being left behind. I recently held an open office in Queanbeyan. I letterboxed the entire area and said, 'Come down and have a chat—no appointment necessary.' For some people it was the first time they had ever spoken to their parliamentary representative; some of them didn't know where else to turn.
It was a pretty eye-opening day. I spent most of the day meeting with people who had real-life concerns, the vast majority of which centred around rising house prices, rising rents, the lack of affordable housing options and the fact that income just had not kept pace with the cost of living. I spoke at length to a 70-year-old man who lives in Queanbeyan. His mother is in aged care in Yass. He used to visit her at least once a week, if not more. Now, due to the cost of petrol, he's had to reduce these visits to once a fortnight, and even that is a stretch. He was distraught. He was doing everything he could to keep his mother connected to family and to community. He wants to keep visiting her, but he can't afford it.
He was literally at the end of his rope. He told me he didn't want to continue living, and the only reason he was alive was for the sake of his mother. He often has to choose between paying his electricity bill or buying food. He worked his entire life as a carpenter, and now, while on the age pension, he has to make decisions about seeking health care or visiting his own mother in aged care. These are the real-life consequences of the rising cost of living.
Across Eden-Monaro we have some fantastic people who dedicate a huge amount of their time to supporting others. Many of the regions are fortunate to have community pantries set up to help feed families. I've met with generous and kind people who run community pantries, including the Salvation Army in Cooma, Vine Community FoodCare in Yass and Sapphire Community Pantry in Bega. They are telling me that more people are accessing their services than ever before and that people who work full time are now in need of emergency food hampers because their rent, power bills and petrol costs keep going up, and their full-time wage no longer covers the essentials.
People are working hard every day in an effort to get ahead. They work hard to provide for their children, yet the truth is that they are falling further and further behind. When people are in trouble, when they need support, they turn to their government. They aren't looking for charity. They are asking for some acknowledgement that their situation is getting worse, and a government that cares should be willing to make meaningful changes. The government and this Prime Minister have shown this week that they have no plan to seriously address the cost-of-living pressures. Our own Prime Minister said that if you're struggling to pay your rent then you should just buy a house.
That is an insulting slap in the face to so many Australians who are out of the property market. In Eden, property prices rose by 30 per cent over the last year. Across the Snowy Monaro Regional Council area, properties have more than doubled in the last five years. The Prime Minister's comments are out-of-touch comments from a government that has no idea of the pressures on real Australian families, especially those in regional Australia.
This government delivered nothing to deal with the real cost of living. It was a sham. This government's budget, to deal with getting them through the next election, doesn't deal with regional aged care. It doesn't deal with skills shortages. It doesn't deal with the housing crisis. It doesn't deal with job security. And it doesn't deal with trying to increase wages or strengthen Medicare. It's a ploy for an election, not a plan for a better future for anyone. It's a cash splash that had no vision and offered no meaningful change for a fairer Australia and a better regional Australia.
The billions of dollars that are being sprayed around on the eve of an election won't go near to topping up the $3,600 that typical Australian families are already out of pocket because of the skyrocketing costs of living. They need a pay rise, not a bloody patch job. The defining features of this budget and this government are that pay will not keep up with prices, and there will be almost nothing to show for $1 trillion in debt. Put simply, this government can't be trusted. They have failed us, and they have failed regional Australia.