The cost-of-living crisis was always going to catch up to Scott Morrison.
Despite all we have heard from the government about the strength of the economy, the lived economic experience of Australians is all about the high cost of living.
The reality hits us every time we approach a petrol bowser or supermarket checkout.
Everything is going up. Except your pay.
Indeed, while inflation is climbing at an annual rate of 3.5 per cent, growth in pay packets is up only 2.7 per cent. That means that in real terms, we are all going backwards.
As much as it hurts, we should not be surprised. Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg actually want growth in pay to lag growth in the cost of the daily essentials. It is their policy.
In 2019, former finance minister Mathias Cormann said low wage growth was "a deliberate design feature of our economic architecture''. So when you cringe next time you pay your supermarket bill, remember it was the Morrison government that went out of its way to keep a lid on your pay packet.
It is as though they see Australians as inert units in some kind of economic game, rather than as mums and dads and families trying to make ends meet or even get ahead.
It doesn't have to be like this. We don't have to choose between company profits and pay rises for workers. If we make our economy more productive, we can have both.
For nearly a decade of Liberal-National government, productivity growth has been sluggish in this country. Instead of implementing policies that make the economy more productive, the conservatives measure their success as economic managers by maintaining growth in profits at the expense of wages.
If Labor is successful in the May election, we'll take a different approach.
Our starting point will be an understanding that we need businesses to prosper and be profitable so they can create jobs for Australians. However, we should also be looking for ways to make the economy more efficient, so everybody can get a piece of their success.
One way to boost productivity is to increase workforce participation. That's partly the reason why a Labor government will make childcare more affordable for Australian families. We want more parents to work full-time if they choose.
Making childcare more affordable for families will allow people to earn more and get ahead. But it will also make the economy more productive. We can produce more with the same resources.
Skills investment also boosts productivity. We'll create 465,000 free TAFE courses to ease Mr Morrison's severe skills shortage, which is preventing businesses and individuals from reaching their full potential.
Productivity also improves when we cut red tape to reduce the cost of doing business.
To do this, the federal and state governments should be working together to remove duplication and waste in our regulatory system.
As transport minister in the previous Labor government, I worked with my state counterparts to reduce the number of transport regulators from 23 to three. This created savings to business worth more than $30 billion over 20 years.
The current government has no productivity agenda. And Mr Morrison, who abolished the vehicle for regulatory reform - the Council of Australian Governments - seems to thrive on picking arguments with state governments rather than working with them in the national interest.
Australia needs a government prepared to lead collaboration across the community - with business, unions, other governments and councils - on economic reforms that boost our productivity.
That would be my approach if Labor is successful in May. But it will take time to re-energise growth in pay packets.
In the short term, a Labor government will use other measures to ease pressure on family budgets.
The childcare reforms will help. So will our plans to increase the use of renewable energy, which is not only clean, but also cheap.
Labor's Powering Australia Plan will create 604,000 jobs and trigger more than $50 billion in private investment in clean energy projects. We'll also make electric vehicles cheaper and strengthen Medicare to keep pressure off the family health budget.
Together, these measures will provide some relief for families, until we can bury Mr Morrison's deliberate policy to suppress pay rises once and for all.
Labor understands that it is private enterprise that generates jobs and economic growth - not governments. But we also see a role for governments to implement policies that help businesses to be so successful that their success flows through to the pay packets of their employees.
By contrast, Mr Morrison avoids working with other states on economic reform and relies on market forces to somehow make everyone a winner.
That's an approach that isn't working.
Since the Coalition took office in 2013, wages before inflation have increased by 18 per cent. But living costs are up, including rises of 22 per cent for childcare and 44 per cent for health care.
That's the economic reality for Australians.
Australia deserves a better future.
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