Territorians doing it tough! NTCOSS talks to Mix 104.9 about the 31st Cost of Living Report.

Mix 104.9 Katie Woolf 00:00
Now we know that NTCOSS has released it’s 31st Cost of Living Report and the results are probably not a huge surprise to most of us. The data from December 2020 to December 2021, reveals that Darwin had the highest increase in price movement for goods and services or consumer price index, ie CPI. Now that is out of all Australian capital cities. Now I say that it’s probably not a surprise. What I mean is the cost of living going up is probably not a huge surprise. But to think that we’re more expensive than other capital cities, is actually a big surprise. And joining me in the studio to tell us more about this is the CEO of NTCOSS Deborah Di Natale. Good morning to you, Deborah.

NTCOSS Deborah Di Natale 00:47
Good morning, Katie. Good morning to your listeners.

Mix 104.9 Katie Woolf 00:50
Thank you so much for your time this morning. Now, in what areas are we seeing some of the
biggest increases when it comes to that cost of living?

NTCOSS Deborah Di Natale 00:58
Probably the biggest take home message in terms of our cost of living report this year, NTCOSS releases a cost of living report, every quarter we’ve moved to do two a year, is that Territorians are just doing it tough across the board. So if you go out and buy fresh fruits and vegetables, those prices have gone up. If you go out to fill your car full of petrol, those prices have gone up. And what you hear people say is, I have really noticed this in my day to day stuff. So the data tells us that there is a reason that people are feeling the pinch. And the reason is that our rents have gone up. So if you have a look across the country, our rents have gone up 8% And the rest of the country, it’s gone up zero 4%. And I think what we always thought was living in Darwin was pretty affordable. But now what we find is actually people living in Sydney and Melbourne they haven’t experienced as big an increase in rents as we have in Darwin. And that’s a pretty big jump in terms of across the country.

Mix 104.9 Katie Woolf 02:05
When you look at the working class, so those of us that have jobs, that CPI is well above really, your wage increases, isn’t it?

NTCOSS Deborah Di Natale 02:13
Absolutely. And I think we’ve heard a lot in the media around wage increases and what needs to happen there. But what we do also know is that the numbers that we rely on in our report, and that CPI relies on are based on prices in capital cities. So we’re looking at places like Melbourne, we’re looking at Sydney, we’re looking at Darwin. But in the Northern Territory,
those prices are really high in Darwin. But let’s remember that if you live in rural or remote, the higher still, yeah, so people are doing really tough in those areas.

Mix 104.9 Katie Woolf 02:49
And that’s, you know, again, that’s for those of us that are working, but then if you look at somebody who’s on a lower income, or who is obviously reliant on, you know, on government payments, it’s even harder, I would suspect.

NTCOSS Deborah Di Natale 03:03
Absolutely. And I’m sure your listeners will be thinking about how is it that people who are on Job Seeker are living on $46 a day, and that they’re able to pay rent, utilities, and day to day living. And it’s even harder, of course, for people who have got children who are thinking, I’ve actually got to try and send their kids to school, there’s extra cost in terms of excursions there is extra cost in terms of medication, I’m not quite sure that I can make ends meet this week.

Mix 104.9 Katie Woolf 03:33
It’s so bloody hard to put it really bluntly for so many families, and then you know, if you’ve got children that are still in childcare as well, the cost of childcare is incredibly expensive. And it just seems as though you know, go to fill your vehicle up. The price of petrol is astronomical. The place that I’ve probably noticed it the most is when you go to do your food shopping. And you know, you’re doing the same shopping that you’ve been doing for the last couple of years. But all of a sudden, it’s costing you a heck of a lot more money than what it used to. Absolutely. So what kind of things can be done to really sort of try to ease what is a massive burden for so many people at the moment.

NTCOSS Deborah Di Natale 04:11
There’s a role for government to play in this. So both the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory Government can do can work together in terms of affordable housing, subsidized rental, targeted, affordable homeownership, and one of the biggest policy positive implementation that the Commonwealth government could do is to raise the rate of job seeker. So what we do when we do that is we generate money into the economy and we enable people to get out of poverty. $46 a day is not enough for people to be able to live a life where there is dignity. So the single biggest thing that they could do is raise the rate not just NTCOSS, but every COSS around the country has been campaigning for that for a number of years now. And some of that some of the concession schemes and increasing affordable housing will all go a long way to making life easier for Territorians who are doing it tough.

Mix 104.9 Katie Woolf 05:12
Now, what about, you know, that’s obviously on the federal scale. And then when you look at on the territory scale, you’ve spoken about that land release or affordable housing. How about you know, with those petrol prices, I know that we have spoken a lot over recent weeks and months about, despite the fuel excise the cut to the fuel excise. And despite the fact that the terminal gate price sort of ebbs and flows goes up and down. We don’t really see it going down too much, either. I mean, is there more ressure that could be put on some of those petrol companies and things like that as well?

NTCOSS Deborah Di Natale 05:42
Absolutely. There are a number of measures that we could implement. And some of those would be having government lobby to those petrol companies to say that could people who are doing it tough? What measures can you put in place in terms of running a responsible business to ensure that people can still afford petrol, get in their car, go to work every day, or drop their kids off to school every day?

Mix 104.9 Katie Woolf 06:07
What’s gonna happen if we don’t see some action in this space?

NTCOSS Deborah Di Natale 06:11
Well, if we don’t see action, we’re going to drive people further into poverty. We know that when you live in the Northern Territory, you’re 12 times more likely to be homeless than if you live in any other part of the country. And what we’re going to see more people sleeping rough, and we’re going to see huge pressure on social services. They’re already at capacity, but we will see people trying to access food bank and trying to access homeless shelters. And that is not a good place for us to be. So let’s think about this. And let’s try and implement the policy so that we can avoid what will be a catastrophe for people who are living in poverty.

Mix 104.9 Katie Woolf 06:52
some of those support services are already at capacity. Have you got that? Are there some examples of of how it’s going for some of those services at the moment?

NTCOSS Deborah Di Natale 07:02
Well, we know that food bank, for example, is saying to us that we have had have had more people come through their door than ever before. They the demand was so high, they opened up in Alice Springs in their warehouse was empty within days. And we have to remember that food bank is for a very particular cohort of Territorians, who can’t afford to go to Woolies, we’re
here talking about the prices of groceries having gone up at our local Woolies or the local IGA. There are people that are locked out of that particular grocery list for let’s just say for the next few years to come. And that the only place that they get access, really good fresh fruit and veg they can afford to do it is at food bank. Now Food Bank is already at capacity. So what do we do
if we already have more people that are lining up at the door?

Mix 104.9 Katie Woolf 07:59
Yeah it makes it really tough. Deborah one of the other things that I always worry about when you talk about the cost of living here in the territory and it being so high at that present time is, you know, we’re also really trying to fill a lot of jobs in the Northern Territory. We’re trying to push our workforce we are trying to grow the territory. How big an impact do you think that this cost of living has then on trying to fill those workforce shortages and trying to boost the population?

NTCOSS Deborah Di Natale 08:26
It has an enormous impact. So you think about when people actually are employment seekers, and they are looking for jobs, what they need is they need a phone that has got a phone card that’s completely charged, so they can take those calls and organize the interviews. They need to be able to have money to put petrol in the car so they can attend the interviews. And if you
are living in poverty, it is absolutely impossible to be able to put yourself on an equal playing field when there are jobs advertised.

Mix 104.9 Katie Woolf 08:57
Well, Deborah Di Natale, it’s always really interesting to speak to but I think this cost of living report that has been released. It’s it makes for some pretty tough reading, I think. But as I said at the start, I know it’s probably not surprising for a lot of people listening this morning, how high the cost of living is right now. But to think that we’re more expensive than some of those
major capital cities is quite unbelievable.

NTCOSS Deborah Di Natale 09:19
It’s a real, it’s a it is a huge concern. And I’m sure your listeners who are paying rent are certainly feeling the pinch because the rents have gone up. And without the wage increase. We know that this is why people are feeling like they’re doing it tough because they are.

Mix 104.9 Katie Woolf 09:35
Well Deborah Di Natale, the CEO of NT cos lovely to speak with you this morning. Thanks so much for your time.