Monday, 5 March 2012

Far Northern families feel pinch of high living costs

Monday, March 5, 2012
© The Cairns Post

What’s in it for us: The Mueller family of Mt Sheridan, (from left) Ellouise, 4, Markus, Aaliyah, 10, Tiarnie, and Isabella, 2, are hoping major political parties can deliver some cost of living cuts. Picture: TOM LEE

FAMILIES feeling the strain of rising living costs could vote with their wallets this state election as the major parties release family-friendly policies in a bid to sway undecided voters.

Cost of living was revealed as a key concern in The Cairns Post’s Your Voice survey, with 88.2 per cent of respondents saying they were watching their expenses more than at the same time last year.

And addressing that worry was a key focus of the official LNP campaign launch yesterday with the party vowing to save Queenslanders up to $330 a year by freezing family car registration for a first term and reforming electricity and water  pricing. 

For local families like the Muellers of Mt Sheridan, the election is a chance to influence the direction of government policies that could directly affect their financial wellbeing. Mum Tiarnie balances the weekly budget for her family, including husband Markus and three daughters aged 10, 4 and 2, and says it is getting tougher to be able to do the things they want.

"It’s a very tight budget making ends meet with even just the cost of food expenses and living,’’ Mrs Mueller said. Mr Mueller said he was keeping an eye on the election campaigns but his vote had been swayed by the 20 years of Labor that he claimed had "eroded so many of our basic rights". 

"It is getting tougher for families to get by, we’ve got three kids and two of them are at a sporting age," he said."You want to encourage them to get involved in sport and recreation but there’s an endless list of expenses that come along,’’ he said.

Of the 1100 people who responded to The Cairns Post and The Weekend Post’s Your Voice survey, 88.2 per cent revealed they were watching expenses more than at the same time last year. Of those, 53.3 per cent blamed the increased cost of living, while 16.5 per cent attributed it to a decrease in their household income.

The survey reflected a growing unease in the community with almost 70 per cent of people "very concerned" about the rising cost of fuel, and 78 per cent citing increases in electricity charges. Expenditures such as eating out, entertainment, clothing, gifts and consumption of water and electricity have all come under fire, with between 70 and 84 per cent of respondents identifying these as areas to cut back on.

And they have good reason. The May 2011 Queensland Council of Social Services Cost of Living Report showed that over the past five years, locals have faced massive increases in everyday costs. While the council’s December figures show a slight improvement, by about $30 a week for a working family, low income earners are still unable to afford a basic standard of living.

The Salvation Army sees first-hand the impact that financial strain can have on families and is recommending that people look closely to see which party is offering the best deal.

David Twivey, north Queensland public relations officer, said the Salvos had seen a significant jump in people seeking to access their financial counselling service since November.

He said that while "big picture" policies were important, it "certainly doesn’t hurt to look at a political party that can actually help people in their own lives". "If it’s an extra tax benefit, or assistance with power, or some state government support that’s going to help the average Joe Blow cope with their life, then that would be well worthwhile," he said.

Labor made its own family friendly pledge yesterday, Premier Anna Bligh announcing that every toddler in Queensland would be eligible for free swimming lessons under a new Labor government.

Ms Bligh said her $77.4 million Water Babies plan would offer 10 free lessons for up to 400,000 Queensland children aged under four over the next three years, with lessons starting by July 1."With this policy we want to give every child a chance at those good foundations in the water,’’ she said.

"We also want to ease the cost of living on young families and encourage further swimming lessons for children." Labor has also promised to make childcare more affordable by delivering free or low-cost kindergarten services to low-income families and expanding support for children with disabilities.

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  1. I'm interested in what Trout has to say - Haven't heard a peep from him since the campaign started and he didn't have the guts to front the public meeting in City Place.

  2. that all there plan, hope enough dislike LABOR to vote them out ,,,an we LNP win by default ,,,if LNP say nothing we cant stuff it up CanDO ,,,can do just more of the same.


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