Catholics Reveal Real Election Stakes


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The parishioners of Holy Spirit Carnes Hill, in the federal seat of Werriwa, gather for morning tea after the 10 a.m. Sunday mass. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

As Australians prepare to go to the polls in the May 21 federal election, The Catholic weekly met families in south-west Sydney who are pleading with major political parties to do more to ease the crippling financial pressures they face amid a spike in the cost of living in recent years.

Over morning tea after the 10 a.m. Sunday Mass at Holy Spirit Parish in Carnes Hill, families agree that the time they spend at Mass each week is a welcome relief to distract them from the daily pressures they fight because of record gasoline. grocery costs and bills, and fear of an impending interest rate hike in the coming months.

In the federal constituency of Werriwa, once held by former Labor leaders Gough Whitlam and Mark Latham, Carnes Hill parishioners say they are bitterly disappointed in what they see as a blatant failure of both sides of politics to be set aside bickering and working together to deal with the cost of living crisis.

For the young couple, Mario and Frances Isaac, the weekly struggle to balance their household budget on a single income in suburban Sydney has definitely gotten worse this year.

Mario is a teacher with pupils with special behavioral needs in Penrith and his weekly petrol bill has doubled from $60 to $120 every week, not to mention the $87 a week he pays in tolls to work on the M7 motorway.

“A year ago we were paying around $150 for our weekly groceries, compared to easily $250 now for the same basket of goods.”

Frances is at home looking after their two young children, Isabel and Emmanuel, and she said that, like many families, they are struggling with the recent spike in grocery prices.

“You leave the supermarket with three or four bags of groceries and it will easily cost you $200,” she said. The Catholic weekly.

“A year ago we were paying around $150 for our weekly groceries, compared to easily $250 today for the same basket of goods.”

The sharp rise in the cost of groceries and other consumer goods is due to the biggest inflation growth in 20 years, as flooding in northern New South Wales drives up the cost of products, coupled with the economic uncertainty triggered by the war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic.

While inflation has soared to 5.1%, wages are not keeping pace and many Australian families believe they are financially set back.

Cartoon: Paul Dorin
Cartoon: Paul Dorin

“As teachers, we are asking for a 2% salary increase, but if inflation is 5%, we will continue to decline until the government intervenes to remedy it,” said Mario Isaac.

In its federal budget at the end of March, the Morrison government cut fuel excise duties in half until September 28 in a bid to ease pressure on consumers.

But lingering inflationary pressures and ongoing conflict in Ukraine are leaving some families skeptical about longer-term gas prices, regardless of who wins the May 21 election.

Holy Spirit Carnes Hill parishioner Muldoon Tofele has struggled with only sporadic work since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and said he was lucky to get a full-time job in as a traffic safety worker less than a month ago.

The uncertainty has left his wife Bianca as a breadwinner since the start of the pandemic, financially supporting their three children, Eric, Carolina and Olivia, who attend local Catholic primary and secondary schools.

“Our errands have gone from $250 to at least $350 a week and yet I only got a one and a half percent pay raise last year, which was my first pay raise in five years.”

Bianca Tofele, who works as an account manager at a learning centre, said pay rises have not kept pace with the soaring cost of living.

“Standard products like milk and bread have increased significantly and the price of vegetables has doubled,” says Ms. Tofele.

“Our errands have gone from $250 to at least $350 a week and yet I only got a one and a half percent pay raise last year, which was my first pay raise in five years”.

“I plan ahead for the future and sacrifice 10% of my salary in extra pension contributions because you can’t rely on a pension to get you through in your old age,” she adds.

“Mandatory retirement should increase and companies contribute more to anticipate the future”.

Mario and Frances Isaac with their children Isabel and Emmanuel. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Carnes Hill, like many western and southwestern suburbs of Sydney, is made up of many families in mortgage difficulty.

Census data from 2016 showed that approximately 43% of residents of the Werriwa Federal Electorate had a mortgage on their property and 28% paid rent on their property.

The high rate of inflation is fueling growing speculation that the Reserve Bank will announce a number of official interest rate increases over the coming months, which will put additional financial pressure on families.

Some economists are predicting a 1% rise in interest rates over the next few months, which could add around another $480 to the monthly mortgage for a median house in Sydney.

Holy Spirit Carnes Hill parishioners Joji and Rintu Jacobs have a mortgage on their property and are worried about the prospect of rising interest rates as they balance the cost of supporting their two children who attend the local Catholic schools, Abam and Merisa.

“As we move away from fossil fuels to meet emission reduction targets, I think the cost of fuel will only continue to rise.”

Mr and Mrs Jacobs say the switch to hybrid working arrangements has helped reduce their travel costs each week, as they both work several days a week from home, avoiding the two-hour train journey to their CBD offices.

But Mr Jacobs thinks the high cost of petrol is likely to be a problem for some time, regardless of any changes governments make to fuel excise duties.

“As we move away from fossil fuels to meet emission reduction targets, I think the cost of fuel will only continue to rise,” he said. The Catholic weekly.

Mr and Mrs Jacobs believe both sides of politics should do more to support families struggling with the high cost of living who want to ensure their children can access and enroll in a good Catholic education. sports and other weekend activities.

Bianca Tofele said the escalating cost of living has forced her family to cut back on their children’s recreational activities in order to balance the household budget.

“My two daughters used to play netball and indoor football every week but we had to cut that down to just playing football and likewise my son was playing football and rugby league and he now plays football too because the registration fees were just too high for us”.


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