When Prime Minister Anthony Albanese touches down in Perth today before jetting off to India, one issue above all others is on the minds of Western Australians.
What is his government’s plan to ease our cost-of-living pressure?
Few could have imagined how rapidly things would change for many WA households.
In May last year, the cash rate was just 0.10 percent. Today it is 3.35 percent.
And, this morning, we will hear if the Reserve Bank of Australia will increase interest rates for the tenth consecutive time.
A betting person would put their money on a further rate rise of 0.50 points, bringing the cash rate to its highest level since April 2012.
The pain is very real for many thousands here in the West.
It was revealed early this year that there are 880,000 fixed rate mortgages shifting to variable rate across Australia this year – in WA that number is about 120,000.
A household that took out a mortgage with a fixed rate of 2.5 percent were paying $2,060 a month in repayments on a $450,000 loan.
Interest rate rises mean they will now be paying at least $2,900 a month, based on a variable rate of 5.85 percent.
That is an increase of $840 a month, or $10,080 a year.
And it is getting harder for people to find the money to meet these further costs, with modest wage increases being eaten away by inflation that reached a 20-year peak of 7.8 percent late last year.
ACTU Secretary Sally McManus has conceded real wages are going backwards by a “shocking” 4.5 percent and that the wage rises of 2022 and early 2023 have now been “eaten up by price rises and interest rate rises”.
And nobody needs reminding about our experiences at the supermarket checkout.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that, in the last three months of 2022, prices for breakfast cereals rose 13 percent, bread 10.5 percent and fruit and vegetables 16 percent.
And the ABS ‘Selected Cost of Living Index’, released last month, showed the cost-of-living for pensioner and self-funded retiree households was up 7.4 percent on last year.
For households with employees, the cost-of-living was 9.3 percent higher.
It is the same story for renters, with rents tipped to rise 11.5 percent this year by Westpac economists.
And these challenges are not just being felt by WA families.
Western Australia’s charity and non-profit sector is meeting unprecedented demand as it supports those falling between the cracks.
The head of Anglicare WA has warned many will face the threat of homelessness, and that financial counsellors will soon be “overwhelmed” by families trying to budget for increased mortgage repayments and the rising cost of food and other necessities.
This increased demand comes at a time when many charities, and especially their volunteers, are still recovering from assisting Western Australians through natural disasters and COVID19.
Current economic conditions are causing both reduced donations and higher operating costs for charities – combined with soaring demand, it is a brutal cycle.
A recent Australian Community Sector Survey highlighted what is being asked of our charity and non-profit sector.
44 percent of the almost 1,500 respondents said their main service had experienced increases in the numbers of clients they were unable to support.
Only 3 percent said their community service organisation could always meet demand.
Anthony Albanese campaigned on relieving cost-of-living pressure, promising we would be better off under Labor.
We are not.
Cost-of-living is now the last thing the Prime Minister wants to talk about – when he last visited WA, he mentioned it only once.
Western Australians have had enough of Prime Ministerial visits to WA whose purpose is merely to showcase the Government.
On his tenth visit here, the time is long overdue for Mr Albanese to deliver us a meaningful plan to deal with inflation and provide cost-of-living relief to WA households.