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Election sweeteners a family affair

  • 21 February 2019


After a tumultuous 2018 for the federal Parliament, the early months of 2019 are likely to move into hyperdrive as the major parties begin positioning themselves for the upcoming election.

Each of the major parties has access to a war chest to fund their many promises. Labor's funding will come primarily from proposed tax changes. The Coalition is relying on additional tax receipts from a bumper year of company profits. Both will make big spending promises while pledging to bring the budget back to surplus.

The cooling of the housing market in Sydney and Melbourne will make Labor's capital gains and negative gearing policy changes tricky to implement. Talk of a US recession and some uncertainty around the Chinese economy may affect the government's expected tax receipts beyond 2019, making the Coalition's likely tax cuts and budget surplus harder to deliver.

Despite the softening housing market in Sydney and Melbourne, house prices there are still more than ten times the average salary. For those families renting, the news is no better. Rent in these cities remain high, with the average rental price for a house in Sydney sitting at $540 per week — or just over $28,000 per year.

Despite a $51 billion Christmas spending spree, up almost three per cent on 2017, many Australian families remain anxious about cost-of-living pressures, especially those in Sydney and Melbourne who are also facing a slide in the value of their homes. Wages growth remains relatively low, which is exacerbating a sense of financial unease for many Australian families. For those families on welfare or with single incomes, the outlook for 2019 may be even bleaker.

The problem for many families is that they have no capacity to increase their earnings. We have almost 1.8 million Australians without work or looking for more work. Despite strong profits, businesses are yet to share the spoils of the recent gains with their employees.

Disturbingly, the Fair Work Commission, our independent industrial relations body, accepts that its 2018 National Minimum Wage (NMW) decision will leave some NMW and award-reliant employees in poverty. Single-income families dependent on a NMW or award-reliant employee are experiencing working poverty.


"As the election nears, our politicians will bring forward a raft of sweeteners aimed at securing their base and encouraging others to move their vote. Let's hope they include relief for low-income households with children."


While the Fair Work Commission concedes that the minimum wage is not a living