Australian decentralisation – lip service

I just did a little regional/capital city cost-of-living comparison test.  Entering your postcode into a certain bed retailer’s website brings up the price locals are charged. The average mattress (not a bulky bedframe, just a mattress), costs Townsville customers $200 more than a Sydney resident.

Are these mattresses made in Sydney? Maybe they are – but I doubt it.  They probably sailed past here on a ship, on the way south.  In any case, does it cost $200 to bulk transport mattresses from Sydney to Townsville?  Well it’s like this; for around $300/$350 I can get a removalist to go to a specific NSW address to pick up one piece of bulky antique furniture, wrap it and cart it 2-3,000km north.  So would a truck jammed full of a job-lot of flat-packing easy-to-transport mattresses end up costing $200 per mattress?  I don’t think so!  We’re getting ripped off, big time.  And most people seem completely unaware of it.

Townsville is Australia’s largest city north of Brisbane.  Yes, bigger than Darwin and Cairns and anywhere else you care to mention in what is more than 50% of the Australian continent.  Townsville has a huge business catchment, which extends into the eastern side of the Northern Territory, right up Cape York and down to Mackay.  This includes more than a million people.  It has a busy port, with many cargo ships unloading/loading daily.  A huge amount of export dollars flow out of Townsville port, in the form of a range of minerals and agricultural produce.  It’s time more distribution centres for imported goods were located up this end of Australia, instead of passing us on the way south then returning by road/rail taking several days.

Everyone in Australia pays GST.  I like the GST because unlike the ridiculously complicated and iniquitous wholesale sales tax system it replaced, the GST applies to everyone and almost everything (thus catching tax-avoiding cash income earners).  And at 10% it’s easy to calculate.

But the downside of the GST is that the higher the cost of standard living expenses, the higher the amount of Goods & Services Tax you’re paying.  A Townsville resident is paying an extra $20 GST every time they buy a bed mattress, and  paying more on a huge range of other items, simply because of the snowballing effect of higher prices, largely related to freight costs.

But living in a large town like this, it is at least easy to economise buy purchasing at retail sales and buying secondhand.  And we are at least getting more government services provided in return for our tax dollars.  But people living in remote areas?  Very few services are available in return for their taxes, yet payment is top dollar for everything.  Yes outback residents can also buy online or by phone when sales are on, but a remote resident is also stuck with freight to their nearest town, then the cost of driving to pick their goods up.  More GST paid.

Does the Federal Government want everyone crowding into Sydney?  Though lip service is paid to encouraging decentralisation, and encouraging population growth in Northern Australia, absolutely nothing is actually happening.  Today’s newspaper spelled out that a North Queensland local has to wait 2 years to see an arthritis specialist.  Whereas in Sydney, the average wait is just 2 weeks.  When I asked about speech pathology services for a child several years ago, I was told the wait was so long (2+ years) they were no longer adding names to the waitlist.  (My only other choice was to fly more than 1,600km south to Brisbane, or further afield.) The taxes from all Australians pay for the training of medical professionals.  So why are these high-earners being trained at great public expense then allowed to settle into a lifetime career in already over-serviced capital city areas, rather than regional areas in desperate need?

And why has no Federal Government bitten the bullet and put serious thought into upgrading the Remote Area Tax Rebate or ‘Zone Tax Offset’ Scheme, which would at least partly alleviate the far greater amount of GST paid by regional and remote residents?

Previous blog posts concerning this once-useful tax rebate paid to regional & remote residents to compensate for the higher cost of living:

Federal and State Governments yapping on about building more big dams in northern Australia are pointless wastes of hot air.  Tackle some of the fundamental issues first.  Add to the list, the extortionate rates of home and business insurance payable by North Queenslanders.  Plus the fact we’re paying a much larger amount of insidious State Government Stamp Duty, via much higher insurance premiums.

Tags: , ,