Soaring inflation hits retiree hip pockets

Pensioners, low income earners struggle to survive as consumer prices soar

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SHOPPING SHOCK: Consumer prices have gone up more than 5 per cent in a year. Image: Shutterstock

SHOPPING SHOCK: Consumer prices have gone up more than 5 per cent in a year. Image: Shutterstock

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Increases in the costs of food, transport, health, housing and education drove up quarterly and annual rises to levels not seen since the introduction of the GST.

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Pensioners, other retirees and low income earners already know their dollar is not buying nearly as much as it did last year - a fact confirmed by newly release Consumer Price Index figures

Prices rose by 2.1 per cent in the first three months to March, taking annual inflation to 5.1 per cent.

Increases in the cost of food, transport, health, housing and education drove up quarterly and annual rises to levels not seen since the introduction of the GST.

Main contributors to the rise in food prices included vegetables (+6.6 per cent), waters, soft drinks and juices (+5.6 per cent), fruit (+4.9 per cent) and beef (+7.6 per cent).

The rise for the food group was softened by voucher programs in Sydney and Melbourne, which reduced out of pocket costs for meals out and takeaway foods. The grocery component of the group, which excludes meals out and takeaway foods, rose 4.0 per cent in the March quarter.

Prices for other grocery items, such as non-durable household products which includes products such as toilet paper and paper towels, also rose in the March quarter.

The figures have prompted an immediate reaction from welfare group St Vincent de Paul Society which said more than three million Australians living in poverty desperately needed additional support to survive as the surging inflation rate puts household necessities out of reach.

St Vincent de Paul national president Claire Victory said ballooning household costs come during an election in which the most vulnerable people in the community have largely been forgotten.

"This neglect was shown by the brutal decision of both major parties to leave JobSeeker at $46 a day, which holds recipients well beneath the poverty line and exposed to rising cost of living pressures.

"Expecting people to survive on $46 a day is cruel. It demonstrates a lack of understanding, or care, for people doing it tough and the growing challenge of making ends meet as prices for basic goods surge.

"Whichever party wins government next month will be forced to urgently address this issue unless they want to preside over a ballooning poverty crisis."

Ms Victory said caution from both parties about increasing the national debt was understandable, which is why the St Vincent de Paul Society had commissioned modelling to demonstrate budget-neutral options available to fund changes that would release Australians from poverty en masse.

"Our research shows Australia can easily fund a significant boost to JobSeeker, alongside an increase in Commonwealth Rent Assistance, by making simple and affordable changes to our tax and welfare system. The only problem is we lack political leaders with the courage to countenance such a plan," Ms Victory said.

"Our modelling shows you could release over a million Australians from poverty through minor changes to capital gains tax and superannuation tax that would only marginally affect the very highest income-earners. Australia contains both incredible wealth and heartbreaking poverty. Our incapacity to fix one with the other is a failure of politics, not a budgetary restraint."

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