The long road that leads away from Struggle Street

7 Dec 2011 has today published the results of its exclusive Cost of Living survey, and the results are a major eye-opener. The take home message is this: a huge number of us say were struggling.


No kidding, this is ridgy didge, fair dinkum the street next to the
real Struggle St in the outback. Pic: Google maps.

Reading the survey, which was taken by 30,000 Australians, you wouldnt know that were one of the worlds 10 wealthiest nations in raw GDP per capita terms. Neither would you think we managed to surf out the worst of the global financial crisis. Or crises. Or whatever.

The national breakdown is as follows. Forty-eight per cent of us say we are “managing to get by”, 28 per cent of place ourselves on “Struggle St”, 17 per cent are “barely coping” while 7 per cent of us are on “Easy St”.

These results are brilliantly captured on a postcode by postcode basis on the main graphic on the site. And guess what. Its often the residents of the leafiest old money suburbs who feel theyre doing it toughest. You read it right, residents of suburbs like Melbournes Toorak and Sydneys Rose Bay actually say theyre struggling.

In a sense, thats understandable. High end property is always the canary in the coalmine in times of market jitters. The more you earn, the more you spend, the more you The Adso lose and all that.

But the really interesting findings, from The Punchs point of view, are lower down. In a graph headed WHO DO YOU BLAME FOR THE COST OF LIVING PRESSURE, over 55 per cent of respondents named the government.

Piechart 1

Help me Obi Wan ke-Julia!

Were broke and apparently its Julias fault. This finding is given further fuel by the following graph, which shows that people believe the coalition has twice as much chance as fixing things as the ALP.


Its official. Weve all got NFI.

But the even more revealing section of that graph is the dark blue section. Half of all survey respondents believe “no one knows what to do”.

We all know our economy is a two speed economy. We also know, from map, that we live in a two-tier community. But overall, the cost of living pressures affect all of us, especially the vast majority who either rent or have hefty mortgages.

The question is, is it the guvmint wot dunnit? Can they fix it? And if so, how? Well have a quick weigh-in, then over to you.

Daniel Piotrowski says

The figure that stands out the most is that 55 per cent of Australians blame government policy for cost of living pressures. The question is: what government policies?

Despite the Opposition rattling on about how the carbon tax will destroy the way you live for the past year, its not the carbon tax thats hurting people. For starters, it isnt enforced until July 2012. And calculations by the consumer group Choice have found that consumers most affected by the marginal cost of living increase that the carbon tax will cause will be adequately compensated by the government.

The CEO of St Vinnies, Dr John Falzon agrees. He says that while were feeling the pinch in our energy costs, thats not because of the carbon tax.

“Let me make it clear, this has got nothing to do with any proposed price on carbon. This is something to do with the energy industry itself, particularly the retail end.”

The other place were hurting is in the housing market, where Dr Falzon says we are feeling massively overextended and the government should intervene.

Its something that hasnt been on the national agenda of late, but it definitely should be.

Tory Shepherd says

Struggle St is one of Australias most popular addresses, with many people wanting to claim it as home.

Most of them should lower their sights and aim for a place on Therell-be-no-Veuve-at-Christmas-but-were-OK St.

The perception of a cost of living crisis is disproportionate to reality, partly because the Government uses the “crisis” as a way to sell their policies to families, partly because people always want more, partly because of media coverage, partly because there really is a housing problem, and partly because people have a tendency to compare their situation to their friends and colleagues, rather than the wider population.

The poor really are suffering. People on pensions, the Octomums, the disabled, the long-term unemployed, those with chronic health problems. And families in areas where housing prices are out of control. They are on Struggle St.

But others just think they are because their investment overstretching means they wont get an overseas holiday this year, or their share portfolios are looking limper than they have in a while.

Its no surprise that people are blaming the Government, but theyve got it slightly skewiff. Blame the Government for letting the bottom 10 per cent of society languish, blame the Government for intergenerational unemployment, blame the Government for a lack of opportunities and motivation for people to pull themselves out of the mire. Dont blame the Government because you cant afford the house of your dreams just yet.

All those who do not fit into the categories above, who can still afford two cars and a PlayStation and new clothes and Ikea furniture and premium mince meat but who consider themselves hard done by, can blame the Government if they like, but it would be more effective for them to take a look at their own expectations and realities.