Struggling with the cost of living?

The 2012 Poverty In Australia report by the Australian Council of Social Service revealed that 2,265,000 people, including 575,000 children, are still living below the poverty line in Australia.

This was at the height of the mining boom!

Poverty is a crime for which both Labor and Liberal parties in government are responsible. In government, both parties have boosted the incomes of the rich, in a country where the richest 20% already own two-thirds of the wealth and the poorest 20% are left to share just 1% of the wealth.

The situation of the poorest in Australia is desperate but a much wider layer of people are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living. The main reason for this is the ridiculously high — and still rising — cost of housing. If you are a landlord, developer or real estate agent you may be celebrating the news that home prices rose by 2.4% on average over the last three months, but for most people this spells greater rent or mortgage stress.

Even the historically low interest rates are not much of a relief because the banks have been slow to pass them on to people servicing huge mortgages.

On average rents rose by 83.7% in the decade to 2010, and they have continued to rise since then. In the same decade, wages only increased by 34.8%.

More than one in ten of all Australian households and one in four households in the private rental market are in housing stress because they have to pay more than 30% of their income for housing. Some people are paying as much as 58% of their income in rent.

The major parties have helped inflate the giant Australian property bubble. Landlords, developers and real estate agents get public subsidies disguised as measures to relieve housing stress.

Negative gearing, cuts to stamp duty and first home buyers grants, all end up as effective subsidies to these bloodsuckers.

With some households already cutting back on food — even skipping meals — to keep a roof over their heads, recent large rises in electricity, gas and water bills (largely due to privatised utilities passing on the cost of investment in more coal and gas power stations, desalination plants, etc) and rising petrol prices have been crippling.

James Packer, Gina Rinehart, Clive Palmer and the other billionaires don’t feel any of this pain. Indeed our cost-of-living headache might even be another boost to the profit lines of their companies.

The Socialist Alliance calls for:

  • Immediate reversal of all the attacks on welfare payments, in particular restoring the parenting payment for single parents;
  • Newstart Allowance to be immediately raised to the level of the age pension and all welfare benefits to be raised to the level of a living wage automatically indexed to real cost-of-living rises;
  • Massive investment in quality public housing for the 173,000 households on public and social housing waiting list but to go beyond the confines of “welfare housing” to free housing from the market and make it a social right;
  • De-privatising the energy sector under community and worker control so that it can operate as a not-for-profit service run on 100% renewable energy sources within 10 years.

A people-first government that took back the wealth from the billionaires could find the funds for such ambitious but urgently needed programs — which would also create useful jobs.