Australians are holding out hope for hip pocket relief after the prime minister fast-tracked the start of the political year for cost-of-living discussions.
Since the end of the COVID-19 lockdowns, prices have surged for everything from rents to the weekly grocery shop as a confluence of domestic and international events fuel inflation.
In response, Anthony Albanese has summoned his colleagues to Canberra for a caucus meeting on Wednesday, about two weeks before parliament resumes in February.
Mr Albanese says the MPs will look at advice on how the government can take pressure off the cost of living without putting pressure on inflation.
“We’ll continue to look for ways to assist people,” he told Sky News on Monday.
“If we can find ways to put extra dollars in people’s pockets, particularly those lower-middle income earners who are doing it tough, then we’re prepared to do so.”
Though some critics have accused the government of charging taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to ferry politicians to Canberra, Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth rebuffed the jibe.
“(It is) important that MPs do get together and actually put their views forward,” she told Nine’s Today show.
“Labor MPs didn’t get elected to sit home and twiddle their thumbs, we want to contribute to the national debate.”
The prime minister has commissioned Treasury and the Department of Finance to put together proposals for cost-of-living relief, but when asked if any measures would be introduced before the end of the week, Health Minister Mark Butler said it was a matter for Mr Albanese.
“We’re proud of the measures that particularly the prime minister and Treasury delivered over the course of 2023 but recognise there’s more to do in this global inflation shock that is hitting Australian households hard,” he said.
The government is also trying to address accusations of price gouging at the supermarkets through its review of the Food and Grocery Code of Conduct, a senate inquiry and a potential consumer watchdog investigation.
“What is not understandable for Australians at the checkout is: how is it that farmers are getting less for their produce, but that’s not flowing through to lower prices?” Mr Albanese said.
To the relief of many, recent economic data has pointed to softening inflation.
Earlier in January, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported the monthly consumer price index for November had slowed to 4.3 per cent, its lowest level since January 2022.
Meanwhile, the ABS’s jobs data released on Thursday revealed the labour market had also begun to cool off.
Monthly business turnover data, expected to come out on Tuesday, will also provide another indicator of the economy’s strength.
If the data remains promising, borrowers can hold out hope when the Reserve Bank of Australia delivers its first interest rate decision of 2024 in early February.
(Australian Associated Press)