The rising cost of living should be taken seriously by our political leaders

Contributed by Ben Wilson

New data from Vote Compass shows that Australians are worried about making ends meet as the cost of living starts to rise more than is has since Jhon Howards imposed the Goods and Services tax. Major causes are the continuing rise in the cost of housing, and the massive petrol price rise, which is putting up the cost of transport and just about everything we buy. Petrol prices have recently risen 22 percent and are now 60 percent above where they were in the middle of 2020.

But the rising cost of living hurting most Australians has hardly featured in the present election campaign.

The budget delivered few weeks ago did feature cost of living and promise to do something about it. The reality is that it was mostly smoke and mirrors, covered with a once of and inadequate handout. It did nothing to ease the burden. The matter was buried the next day.

Inflation is the measure of the rising cost of living. This has gone up by 5.1 percent over the last year and expected to go considerably higher during this quarter. In an article recently (published in the Guardian 28 April 2022), Greg Jericho that the latest inflation figures “…over the past 12 months means three things: the budget figures are already wrong, an interest rate rise in the next week is very likely, and last, workers have seen their real wages absolutely smashed”.

Inflation data for the March quarter, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday, underscored the rising cost of housing. According to available data from the Reserve Bank of Australia, within a year average housing mortgage payments could rise, up to $500 a month. Already stressed households will be in crisis.

With the continuing fall in the value of real wages, the cost of living is starting to bite even harder, and rising interest rates will make it all the worse. They will push prices up even further and put an extra cost on those paying off mortgages on their homes.

The rising cost of living is still being sidelined in the election campaign. This till does not prevent Scott Morrison from getting on the hustings and proclaiming his government good managers of the economy.

Reality contradicts this. Being good managers means being able to bring about stability. It means being able to protect Australians who are hurting. The Morrison government has failed on both counts.

Labor still must convince Australia that it has a clear alternative. But if the matter remains on the periphery of the election campaign, this is not going to be easy. The rising cost of living should be issue number one.

Regardless of who wins the election, Australia will face a continuing fall in average living standards, and this is going to reflect badly on the new government, unless it manages to steer a way out of the mess.

The longer-term need is for Australians to campaign for an alternative economic policy.

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