Question Time Response - Cost of Living
Ms Coker, Member for Corangamite: My question is to the Minister for Communications. What is the Albanese Labor government doing in the communications portfolio to support Australians with cost-of-living pressures? What approaches have been rejected?
Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland:
I thank the member for her question and I particularly acknowledge her tireless advocacy for the highest-quality broadband for her constituents. In 2024, staying connected is an essential part of life, whether it's to keep in touch with loved ones, to log on for work, to study or to engage with government. The communications sector supports us all to stay connected, but when it comes to covering the bills, we know that many Australians are doing it tough. That's why today the Albanese government announced that it will become mandatory for telcos to provide financial hardship assistance to all customers experiencing difficulties paying their phone and internet bills, including prioritising keeping customers connected. The new industry standard on financial hardship will also ensure that telco staff are appropriately trained and that systems are in place to proactively identify and support consumers who are experiencing financial hardship. The new rules will come into effect in March and will ensure telcos do all they can to avoid disconnecting Australians who might be struggling with cost-of-living pressures. These rules are the result of a direction given to the regulator by the government, and we acknowledge the industry for its engagement with this process.
We're also delivering cost-of-living relief to Australian families who do not currently have an internet connection at home, which we know is so essential today for all school students. The School Student Broadband Initiative has now been extended for another two years, beyond our initial 12-month commitment. We know how important it is for every child to have access to the internet beyond the school gate. Today more than 6,500 disadvantaged families without broadband at home previously have been connected to free internet, and over 40 per cent of those families are in our regions. Any Australian family can contact the national referral centre on 1800954610 to check their eligibility and get assistance to set up their free connection.
Importantly, the workers who deliver these critical communications services will also benefit from Labor's new tax cuts. A telco technician earning $100,000 will benefit from around $2,179 in tax cuts, nearly double what they would otherwise have received. The postie or the transport worker delivering your parcels, earning $70,000, will receive $1,429 in their pocket under Labor's plan. These are the workers who deliver for Australia, and they deserve to keep more of what they earn. This government is here to make a difference, and our measures across the communications portfolio are doing just that.