MPI – Payday Loans
Mr PITT: It’s a great pleasure to rise to speak on this MPI. There has been some very good contributions from both sides of the parliament as part of this debate. In my view, this is an industry which I simply don’t like. I really don’t. I don’t like the fact that it exists. I don’t like the fact that it does what it has to. But I know that in places it is necessary. This is not about what I may or may not like, because I do not walk in the shoes of these people. We are in a fortunate position here. We are well paid. We have a position of great privilege and we are here to fight for those people.
In my electorate, we have a per capita net income for the year of just $34,000. It is the lowest in the country and has been for some 20 years. So the people that I represent use this industry. Would I like them to make good decisions at every single opportunity? Yes, I would. Would I like them to not get the big-screen TV and the PlayStation before they get the fridge and the washing machine? Yes, I would. But I also take the point from the member for Mackellar that, on the occasions when they are short of money, when they have a punctured tyre, as the member for Moreton mentioned, and they have no other mechanism by which to pay their rent or power bill, they do take these opportunities. So this is a difficult issue, a difficult issue indeed.
I recognise the contribution of the member for McMillan. It’s not usual that we hear Latin in this place, and I’ve got to say, in my schooling, it wasn’t something that we focused on or had as a subject. But it was a good contribution. But how do we regulate free will? How do we regulate so that people make the right choices? In my view, I don’t think we can. As I said, I might not like the industry or the fact that it exists; however, it is a necessary evil.
So what we must do is ensure we put more money into people’s pockets. There is a better way to deal with this, and that is to ensure that people actually have more available cash. It really is. And, in my view, the simplest way to do that for all Australians is to do what the Minister for Energy said today in his announcements around energy, because one of the biggest cost-of-living issues is the price of electricity. If you are in a low-income household and your quarterly bill goes up to almost $2,000, how do you pay that? I have seen people in my electorate who simply can’t pay. We have one of the highest disconnection rates for nonpayment of electricity bills in the state. What can we do about this at a federal level? Well, the minister made some announcements today about electricity prices. Unfortunately, in my area, every single component of that price is controlled by the Queensland state Labor government—every single one. They have the only retailer in town. They own all of the transmission, all of the poles and wires, and 70 per cent of the generators. They set the price through the QCA. The Queensland Labor government could fix this tomorrow with a single signature. Annastacia Palaszczuk, the Premier of Queensland, could change the price of electricity in those regional areas. But they refuse to do it for one simple reason: they are milking over a billion dollars out of that industry every single year. It is an electricity tax, pure and simple. It is paid for by some of the poorest people in this country, and I think that is unacceptable.
We’re talking about those who have to go to a payday lender to get $50 or $100 to get them through to next week. Do I like it? No, I do not. I do not like the fact (a) that they have to do it or (b) that there are some exorbitant and questionable practices, and I say that on the record. But the best thing we can do for all of them is drive down the cost of living. It doesn’t matter whether it is the water bill, the rates bill or the power bill; we have people who simply cannot pay.
The announcements today by Minister Taylor are very substantial, I think—the proposal that will go to the market to look to build more generating capacity. In Far North Queensland, there is an opportunity to build a hydro power station. I know those opposite are very keen on renewables. Well, this is one that works. It is traditional hydro at Tully-Millstream—600 megawatts at an existing station which will add capacity into the market. Capacity into the market is demand and supply. The more supply you have, the less demand you have, the lower the price. But the Queensland Labor government—
Mr Perrett interjecting—
Mr PITT: And the member for Moreton knows this; he knows this. The price of electricity in Queensland is absolutely 100 per cent controlled by the Queensland Labor government. There is no-one else. There is no other retailer. There is no other provider. There is no-one that sets the price but them. I say again to the Premier: you have an opportunity to help the people of Queensland right now. You have an opportunity to help the people of Queensland and the businesses of Queensland, and those who have to use these types of facilities from payday lenders. You can drive down the price of electricity at the stroke of a pen, and I suggest you do it and do it quickly.