Socialist Alliance candidate: 'Labor rejects real solutions to cost-of-living crisis'

September 20, 2022
Housing activists take to the streets in Geelong in August. Photo: Geelong Housing Action/Facebook

The inflation rate is forecast to exceed 7% by the end of the year and the squeeze on households has never been greater.

The former Coalition government’s refusal to address the housing crisis has now escalated to an emergency, with people defaulting on loans, unable to afford private rentals, and landlords and developers speculating and profiteering on land and vacant properties.

State governments have not initiated any meaningful public housing projects.

There has been no real wage growth for more than 10 years, which has pushed the working class to the margins.

Labor poses as the “party of the working class” with the Prime Minister rolling out the tired old line of growing up in public housing with his single mother, but public housing in the 1960s and 1970s was a very different beast.

It was for low-income working families and it was more available for those who needed it.

Today, public housing stock has been run down, sold off or handed to charities.

Because it is so scarce, hundreds of thousands of people across the country are experiencing homelessness, with no relief in sight.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers, in late July, blamed the international factors and the Coalition. He told us he feels our pain, but then said cost-of-living pressures are only going to get worse before they get better.

He didn’t offer any real solutions beyond some relief via childcare subsidies and vague promises on renewable energy.

The war on Ukraine and the pandemic have led to international supply chains disruptions and food and energy prices are soaring.

While energy and retail sectors remain in private hands, primarily focused on profits, the cost-of-living crisis will continue to spiral.

This is a crisis of capital’s making. And while greedy corporations continue to make mega profits, regular people cannot afford groceries or heat their homes.

Britain, which is in a deeper economic and social crisis, is now implementing caps and freezes on utilities.

At what point will the federal government decide to do the same? There are other measures a real party of the working class could adopt.

It could nationalise the energy sector. It could raise taxes on corporations and the mega rich. It could confiscate windfall profits from companies and shareholders benefiting from price rises, especially in mining, energy, housing, banking and retail industries.

But, since the failed super profit tax in 2010, Labor has abandoned any such ideas. Now, it is pressing on with the Coalition’s tax cuts for the rich.

The tax cuts, which start mid-2024, reduce the marginal rates of tax for those earning $45,000 all the way up to those on $200,000.

It will disproportionately benefit those on higher incomes: those at the high end will receive $9000 in tax cuts.

Women, who still largely make up those in lower-paid and part-time work, will be disproportionately affected by the resulting $243 billion hole in the federal budget.

Labor’s childcare reform will, no doubt, assist people with young children as the fees can be crippling. It is promising to spend an extra $5.4 billion over four years on childcare subsidies, changes that will help many families.

However, there are promises to improve wages and conditions for childcare staff, most of whom earn little more than minimum wage while having to hold various qualifications to gain employment.

That workforce is predominantly female; if Labor were serious about helping women this would be a good place to start.

Child care, aged care, nurse and teacher shortages could be addressed by improving workers’ pay and conditions.

Its refusal to raise the rate of income support, at least to the Henderson poverty line, is a slap in the face to those living below the poverty line.

This measure would ease some of the burden of cost-of-living pressures for the most marginalised.

Labor has raised the rate marginally — by $38.90 a fortnight for a single person — but it’s a drop in the ocean amid the soaring cost-of-living expenses.

The reality is that the so-called party of the working class is throwing the poorest and most dispossessed to the dogs.

[Angela Carr is a community services worker, union delegate, convenor of Geelong Housing Action and a mother of three. She is running in Geelong for the Socialist Alliance in the Victorian elections.] 

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