It’s been described as a crisis: the continuing interest rate rises coupled with the surging cost of housing, transport, education, healthcare and keeping the power on.
How the ACT Government can address this for Canberrans on low to moderate wages will be the focus of a new Select Committee which will deliver its findings to inform the 2023/24 Budget to be delivered in June.
The Canberra Liberals introduced the motion in the Legislative Assembly to examine the cost-of-living pressures locals face, what its drivers are, how the government has responded to the crisis so far, and what measures could ease the cost of living.
Liberals Leader Elizabeth Lee said it was about time.
“When you have stats that are really, really scary – one in ten Canberrans living in poverty, including 9,000 children – it’s absolutely obvious that whatever the ACT Labor-Greens government is doing isn’t working,” she said.
“We hear every day from struggling Canberrans that they are so fearful this is just the tip of the iceberg, that things are going to get worse.
“This is a first small step.”
However, Ms Lee was left disappointed by amendments to her motion, which changed the focus to be on cost-of-living pressures faced by low to moderate-income households that currently aren’t being alleviated by ACT or Commonwealth assistance programs rather than on how increased prices have impacted such people.
As such, the Select Committee would consult “on policy measures to further support low and moderate-income Canberra households to manage cost-of-living pressures”.
Other changes included identifying longer-term recommendations to inform future budgets and having the Select Committee headed up by a member of the Greens rather than a member of her own party.
Ms Lee argued this showed the Greens were putting their political alliance with the Labor party ahead of the community.
“I have attempted multiple times this term to get support from Labor and the Greens to work with the Canberra Liberals on how we can address cost-of-living pressures facing thousands of Canberrans,” she said.
“How can Canberrans have any faith that a committee chaired by members of the Labor-Greens government act in the best interests of the community when they have been the driving force of the policy agenda for over 20 years, and we have not seen things improve for our vulnerable Canberrans?
“The fact is that Labor and the Greens have been brought kicking and screaming to act on cost-of-living pressures because even they can no longer ignore the plight of thousands of Canberrans.”
The Select Committee will be chaired by Greens MLA Johnathan Davis, who said improving the lives of vulnerable Canberrans was an issue close to his heart.
“I understand what it feels like to be broke in a rich city,” he said.
“I grew up in public housing, I’ve been homeless, I’ve worked multiple minimum wage jobs at one time to make ends meet, I’ve put off medical procedures because I couldn’t afford them.
“Based on these experiences, I am committed to this important work which has the power to deliver real outcomes for Canberrans doing it tough.”
Experts, key stakeholders and members of the community have all been encouraged to take part in the inquiry to ensure all voices are heard.
The Select Committee will deliver its final report by Thursday, 11 May.