NTCOSS asks what will it take to get urgent action on food affordability?

 The 25th Cost of Living Report released today by the Northern Territory Council of Social Service (NTCOSS) focuses on cost of living pressures across the NT – with food costs again in the spotlight.  NTCOSS’s analysis of the NT Government’s recent Market Basket Survey Full Report shows the average cost of food in corner stores is 31% more than in a major supermarket – greater than a decade ago.

“Food costs impact on cost of living issues and directly impact health outcomes with clear links between a poor diet and development of chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and some cancers” stated Mr Jonathan Pilbrow, Policy Adviser for NTCOSS.

The report highlights that in general, remote community stores that are owned by a store group e.g. Arnhem Land Progress Association (ALPA) or managed by a store group e.g. Outback Stores – generally have lower prices for the healthy food basket and greater variety and a better quality of fresh fruit and vegetables. This is evident particularly in the Alice Springs, Katherine and East Arnhem regions.

“Strategies are required that can ensure people on low incomes have greater opportunities to choose to shop at lower cost outlets, such as addressing gaps in regional centre public transport “said Mr Pilbrow.

Raising the rate of Newstart and Youth Allowance payments by $75 per week would make a big difference to household budgets – assisting with public transport costs and managing private vehicle running costs – which would give households more choice about where they can shop.

Other Report Findings

  • CPI overall has remained low in Darwin (0.4%) in the last year under the national increase (1.6%)
  • Automotive Fuel CPI up in the last quarter though down overall by 5.2% over the past year
  • Transport Expenditure increasing at greater rate in Alice Springs than Darwin
  • Lowest available house and unit prices down in Darwin & Palmerston, and generally down in Alice Springs; House and unit prices both up and down in Katherine
  • Newstart payments for recipients with 2 children are not keeping up with cost of living rises, with recipients being around $257 per year worse off than they were a year ago

The report calls for

  • Identification and addressing of gaps in regional centre public transport to ensure low income residents are able to shop at more affordable stores that are not within walking distance of their homes (and provide an alternative to the more costly taxi and minibus services).
  • Provision of capped subsidies for NT Concession Scheme Recipients to use remote private transport services (e.g. Bush Bus and Bodhi Bus) to regional centres to periodically shop for bulk food items and groceries.
  • Improve affordability of access to private vehicles by extending the Motor Vehicle Registration Concessions (under the NT Concession Scheme) to all Centrelink Health Care Card Holders, e.g. Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients.
  • Adoption of ACOSS’ recommendation for the introduction of a ‘sugar tax’ (Federal Budget Priorities Statement to the 2018/2019) aimed at reducing consumption of sugary drinks and bringing down obesity rates, and that revenue raised through the ‘sugar tax’ be aimed at subsidising the cost of freighting healthy foods to halt the rapid growth in healthy food prices and start reducing those prices to affordable levels.
  • NTCOSS again calls on the Federal Government to raise the rate of Newstart and Youth Allowance payments by a minimum of $75 per week.

 FOR MEDIA INTERVIEWS: Contact Jonathan Pilbrow, Policy Adviser, NTCOSS 0403 611 815

Cost of Living Report No.25 download here

Cost of Living Report No.25 Info-graphic download here