Politics Opinion

Cost of living hardest for those on income support

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

The cost of living crisis is really biting in Australia, so much so that the Government has called ministers to Canberra to discuss the issue before Parliament sits this year.

This action contrasts with the news that real wages are rising and underlines the extent of the crisis that lowering inflation is still a long way from providing any real relief.

Says Angie Adamson on X:

‘I have been using the same email list to shop from all through COVID. It now costs twice as much.’

Says Melissa (on X):

‘Meat and cheese [are] no longer on the menu.’

Supermarket prices are gouging Australian consumers so badly that on the advice of the former head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), Allan Fels, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has announced an investigation into supermarket supply chains for overcharging. This investigation would be the most powerful and wide-ranging inquiry among a range of investigations currently underway into the supermarkets including a review of the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct which will look at the relationship between farmers and the supermarkets.

Supermarkets are being accused of not passing on savings when prices paid to farmers go down. The new inquiry will focus on the impacts on the consumer. The Queensland Government will also hold an inquiry into supermarket prices and will hear evidence from all major supermarket chains.

The cost of living indexes compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show how different costs impact across different groups. Those with mortgages are feeling the most pain when it comes to interest rates but those on the lowest incomes have the least capacity to absorb the continuing spirals in supermarket and rent hikes.

Angie Adamson writes on X:

‘...as you are seeking accommodation due to need not choice, you're not as welcome as you once were. I'm injured and jobless, partner working but had cancer, uncertain future. Currently can't afford to retire, so that's one young person minus a job they could have had.’

Additionally, Jemma writes:

‘When people can't afford to have ongoing pain/disability issues treated, but they're not disabled enough to qualify for DSP, it's a recipe for ongoing trauma and harm as the level of disability you have clashes with the requirements of the Mutual Obligation system.’

The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) wrote to the Prime Minister urging the Government to scrap the Stage 3 tax cuts to help fund relief to those hardest hit by the dual housing and cost of living crises. ACOSS asked the Government to fund increases to income support rather than tax cuts which it has described as ‘wasteful’. ACOSS has asked for a raise in income support from the current low rate of $54 per day to $78, in line with the pension. 

In a press release, ACOSS stated:

‘Stage three is a hand up to society’s wealthiest that will give people with incomes of $200,000 an extra $9,000 per year ($25 per day). Stage three will inject $21 billion into the economy, feed inflationary spending and compound cost of living pain for people with the least.’

Now, with the announcement of Labor's new tax cut plan to aid Australians with the cost of living, the Government has the opportunity to make some real changes to thousands of lives. ACOSS has declared its approval for the decision in a press release.

As a percentage of GDP, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) statistics rank Australia 24th in the world, behind countries including Great Britain and the United States. With more people reaching out to charities for help, St Vincent de Paul revealed a 40 per cent rise in calls for assistance and support during 2023.

A media release from St Vincent de Paul states:

‘Responding to claims that Australia has limited capacity to tackle cost-of-living impacts, the National President of St Vincent de Paul Society, Mark Gaetani, said, “While the Albanese Government acknowledges that many households are struggling, the time to take appropriate action is now, not in a few months’ time when the Budget is handed down”.’

Writes Paul Davis on X:

Watching a lot of media react to the Stage 3 tax cuts, ie “broken promise” BS, is why it's so damn hard to govern in the national interest in this country.


Any flavour government cannot argue and debate policy because the media have gotcha “journalism” dialled to 11.

According to St Vincent de Paul:

‘“A Fairer Tax and Welfare System for Australia” [a research paper published by the ANU’s Centre for Social Research and Methods, commissioned by St Vincent de Paul] shows, for example, how up to 834,000 vulnerable people could be lifted out of poverty by the Australian Government’s adopting one of three affordable reform options.’ 

These options comprise rises to income support ranging from a “low” option of $150 per fortnight to a “high” option of $436 per fortnight. 

Writes Benign-ish on X:

‘I’m lucky enough to be on DSP, but cannot afford access to medical services that I need (including local experienced GPs that could support). A stipulation of DSP eligibility is to be “stable and managed” — that is absolutely impossible.’

Also on X, Marina says:

‘I'm on Carer Payment. I'm stuck on a years-long public health waitlist to see an ear, nose and throat specialist because I can't afford to go the private specialist route. Meanwhile, my related medical issues worsen. Medical is but the tip of the welfare poverty iceberg.’

Lest we forget that it was stated policy aim of the Reserve Bank to force people into unemployment in order to stem inflation, leaving the burden of economic cycles to be borne by those least able to weather them.

As Labor announces lower tax rates for low to middle incomes and a less generous tax rate for the highest incomes, Senator David Pocock sought a fairer tax system and the Greens want the tax cuts axed, citing the inflationary pressures of the cuts returning over $20 billion to the economy. 

Among the howls of protest about broken promises from the Right against softening the tax cuts for the wealthy it is worth remembering it was also a promise of Labor to raise income support to sustainable levels, a promise which it is yet to fulfil.

Rosie Williams is a citizen journalist who runs privacy workshops at rosiewilliams.com.au. You can follow Rosie on Twitter @Info_Aus.

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