Labor’s Shadow Minister for Finance, Jim Chalmers MP, is in Wollongong today and will hold a roundtable with local community sector organisations to discuss the impact of rising cost of living pressures.

Cost of living is growing across the Illawarra with increases to housing costs, electricity price rises and the Turnbull Government’s cuts to family and household benefits.

Mr Chalmers said house prices across the region had nearly doubled since 2005, which was leading to growing rental and mortgage stress among local families.

“While Turnbull and his Liberals are busy pandering to the top end of town with tax cuts for big business, local families here in the Illawarra are struggling,” he said.

Sharon Bird said her recent electorate survey about cost of living pressures had shown that many people in Wollongong were really struggling.

“I had almost 1,000 responses to my survey and a staggering 85 per cent of people found it difficult to make their income stretch over their pay period – with almost 30 per cent of people saying this was always the case.  Three quarters of respondents indicated that they had had no real change or a decrease in their income.

“Decreasing wages and increasing cost of living pressures are really hitting the most vulnerable people in our community.  Malcolm Turnbull continues to attack these people in our community through cuts to penalty rates, social services and health care – all while giving massive tax cuts to big business.

“The survey results really showed just how many financially vulnerable people there are in our area.  They are vulnerable to unscrupulous payday lenders who prey on desperate families trying to make their income stretch across their pay period.  Stephen Jones and I have met with local organisations such as the Illawarra Legal Centre who support clients who experience the fallout of the payday lending industry practices.”

Member for Whitlam, Stephen Jones MP, said in November 2016, the Turnbull Government had promised reforms to payday lending but had failed to introduce legislation to address this issue.

“Malcolm Turnbull is being held hostage to the special interests in his party room on this issue.

“His Government promised to act but has failed to deliver.

“The community has very clearly told us this is something which needs to be addressed and should be done so, without delay.”

“Labor has introduced its own Private Member’s Bill to reform payday lending and rent-to-buy laws which is an identical copy to the draft legislation released by the Government.

“It’s now time Malcolm Turnbull show some leadership, stand up to the special interests in his party room and support Labor’s Bill before the Parliament to ensure these practices are stamped out.

“While Government doesn’t control the price of everything, it does have a direct influence over the price of Private Health Insurance, rate of Medicare rebate, higher education costs and consumer practices. In every instance, the Liberals have made decisions which have incurred costs and made life harder for low-income and working families.”