May 2, 2022

Haines slams federal government for inaction on the cost of living crisis in Indi

Helen Haines has blasted claims from the Liberals and Nationals that it has worked to solve the housing crisis across regional Australia, and called on the Liberal Candidate in Indi to outline exactly how his party would lower cost of living for people of Indi if he was elected.

Haines said the Government had been missing in action while cost of living pressures had skyrocketed, especially housing, electricity, groceries and petrol, and its claims of being good economic managers were challenged by the reality on the ground in Indi.

Ahead of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s decision on interest rates on Tuesday, Haines pointed to a UNSW report released last week showing Indi was the highest-ranked regional electorate facing mortgage stress.

“We are facing a major housing affordability and supply crisis. In the last two years, prices are up 33% in Wodonga, 34% in Wangaratta, and 25% in Benalla. In some of the smaller towns it’s even worse. In Mansfield it’s 37%. In Euroa it’s 40%. In Bright, it’s 55%. It is out of control.”

“I recently sat down with one renter who had to submit 170 applications before she found a place to live on the border. Small businesses can’t find workers because there’s nowhere to live.”

“We’ve heard almost nothing from the Liberals and Nationals about what they have done to fix this, or how they plan to fix it now.”

Haines said the Government’s narrow focus on the national unemployment rate showed a complete misunderstanding of the reality of the local economy.

“Unemployment is at 2.9% in Indi, one of the lowest rates in the nation. As anyone who knows our small businesses will tell you, a low unemployment rate does not mean a thriving economy.

“Here we are facing a lack of workforce, especially in the hospitality, health and aged care sectors. With abysmal wage growth and record levels of inflation, everything is just getting more expensive every day for us, especially housing, energy prices and health care”.

Haines criticised the government’s $1 billion National Housing Infrastructure Facility, intended to build the roads, sewerage and water systems, street lighting, and other infrastructure to open up new plots of land to increase housing supply, which could be unlocking housing supply in Wangaratta and Benalla but instead had been essentially mothballed.

“That fund should be working overtime, but instead it’s barely getting money out the door. Right now, North East Water needs approximately $200 million to meet the housing needs of Wangaratta in the future, with $50 m required in the short term.”

“Benalla has a similar problem. It needs $10 million worth of drainage works done in the west and northwest of the town, otherwise you just can’t build more homes there.

“The Federal Government is sitting on their hands. The more the Federal Government does nothing about this in Indi, the worse the problem will get. The last thing households need are local rate rises to pay for this.”

Haines said her policy platform included a series of measures to reduce pressures on the cost of living, that would open up more housing, and bring down power bills.

“I’m serious about action for the people of Indi to reduce pressure on the cost of living. That’s why I’ve developed serious long-term proposals to increase access to affordable housing and bring down power bills,” Haines said.

“Indi needs a member who puts real solutions on the table, not another party backbencher who will try and tell us they’re fixing the housing crisis when they’re in fact sitting on their hands.”

Helen Haines said she had raised housing issues with the Prime Minister and Housing Minister for years in Canberra.

“The last time I met with the Housing Minister, Michael Sukkar, he told me to ‘join the conga line’ of regional MPs complaining about the housing crisis. People’s livelihoods are not a joke.”

Haines’ comments come after new data published by the Australian Energy Market Operator revealed wholesale household power costs soared 141 per cent in the three months to March 31, compared with the same period last year.

“My renewable energy policies would allow for more renewables to be built in regional Australia, keeping bills down and profits in our regional communities. My policies to reduce the cost of batteries and for no-interest loans to low-income households to replace expensive gas-guzzling appliances with efficient electric models would make a real difference to the household budget.”


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