Pensioners hit hard by living costs

By NEELIMA CHOAHAN

PENSIONERS are not getting a slice of the nation's wealth, a senior support group claimed yesterday.

Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association president Don Worth said the cost of living was too high for most seniors.

"Pensioners are behind the eight ball," Mr Worth said. "The ones that are really worse off are single or widowed pensioners."

Mr Worth said the aged-care pension did not keep up with rising prices.

"I believe the pension should increase by $50 a week for all pensioners," he said.

Richmond MP Justine Elliot agreed, saying new data released confirmed that many local families and seniors faced cost of living pressures well in excess of that implied by average consumer price growth.

"Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows that living costs for working families increased by 3.1 per cent over the past 12 months one percentage point higher than growth in the Consumer Price Index (CPI)," Ms Elliot said.

"Our seniors, many of whom are on a fixed income, are struggling to keep up with bills, and increased health costs." Ms Elliot said over the past five years the CPI increased by 14.5 per cent, but according to the recently released ABS data, living costs increased by 15.8 per cent for age pensioners.

"Over the same five-year time frame, prices for many household essentials have skyrocketed," she said.

"Fruit and vegetable prices have increased by 41.9 per cent, health costs have increased by 31 per cent, fuel has increased by 45.5 per cent and housing costs have increased by 20.6 percent."

Apart from these steep increases, one of the reasons why cost of living pressures are outstripping the CPI is because the CPI excludes mortgage interest repayments.

Ms Elliot said that the new data reflects the impact on household budgets of Mr Howard's broken interest promise, following nine rate rises despite his promise to keep rates at record lows.

Ms Elliot said the rise in the cost of living was an indictment of Prime Minister John Howard's bad policies.

"This is yet more evidence that Mr Howard has fallen deeply out of touch with the realities of many household budgets," she said.

"Federal Labor is acutely aware of the financial pressures facing many families and seniors and is committed to practical solutions to help ease the cost of living pressures."

Establishing a National Rental Affordability Scheme to help create 50,000 new affordable rental properties across Australia, and strengthening the role of the ACCC to monitor supermarket prices, were among a host of new measures promised by Labor.

Other proposals include directing the ACCC to conduct a National Grocery Pricing Inquiry, and creating a% national Petrol Commissioner with responsibility to monitor and investigate price gouging and collusion.



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