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CHOICE survey shows cost of living concern eases as budget debate moves on

Consumer outlook remains cautious as bills increase for 87% of households

22 October 2014

CHOICE's latest national Consumer Pulse Report has found an across-the-board easing in cost-of-living concerns from June through to September, although bills continue to increase.

The proportion of households saying they find it difficult on their current income fell from 31% to 27%, while those saying they live comfortably rose from 23% to 29%. Australians reporting they cut back on essentials also reduced significantly from 46% to 34%, while reports of non-essential cut-backs fell from 62% to 52%.

“Some of the deep anxiety we saw in June has lifted, including worries that were at the centre of the Federal Budget debate like government spending cuts, GP costs, university fees and fuel,” says CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland.

“This perhaps reflects that political debate has moved on to more international issues, while a number of the measures announced in the budget have not yet been passed by the Senate,” Mr Kirkland says.

Despite this easing, the big picture for Australian households remains anxious, with 87% reporting an increase in bills and expenses over the last 12 months, and electricity remaining at the top household expense concern for eight in ten Australians, barely moving since June.

“There is still a high degree of caution, with the majority of households saying they responded to financial pressure with cut-backs on non-essentials, and one-third on non-essentials. This is consistent with retail sales over recent months, which remain fragile and in some areas have gone backwards,” [1] Mr Kirkland says.

The national consumer survey also found that two months after the repeal of the tax, 59% of consumers believed it had made no difference to their household expenses.[2]

In the areas of biggest carbon tax impact—gas and electricity prices—one-third of customers said the savings were less than expected. A similar number of households also said savings to food and grocery bills fell short of expectations.

“So far, the impact of the carbon tax repeal has failed to meet the expectations of many Australian households, despite evidence that savings are being passed on, particularly on electricity and gas bills,” Mr Kirkland says.

[1] For analysis of retail turnover see Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘8501.0 - Retail Trade, Australia, Aug 2014’.

[2] The survey was designed and analysed by CHOICE with fieldwork by GMI/Lightspeed Research conducted with 1012 consumers aged 18-75 years between 18 and 24 September 2014. Final data has been weighted to ensure it is representative of the Australian population based on the ABS Census 2011.


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