Both sides have some work to do

COST of living. Expect to hear this phrase numerous times during the next seven months.

It’s going to be the catch cry of the 2013 federal election campaign as Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition leader Tony Abbott gallivant around the nation.

Middle Australia is under pressure on many fronts with increases in basic services such as electricity – blamed on the carbon tax – childcare, due to a lack of places and the cost of basic supermarket items, which have all tightened casual spending.

It’s hurting most in Labor heartland – working families who give plenty and ask few favours.

Expect these voters to become fertile ground for the Coalition in the lead-up to September poll. It clearly believes everyday Australians have been short-changed by Labor through increased spending, broken promises and more taxes.

Evidence across the economy provides a strong endorsement of the Coalition’s attack. Retail is struggling and the Reserve Bank has presided over a series of interest rate cuts in an attempt to stimulate the economy which, in reality, has been remarkably resilient despite an obvious dip in consumer confidence.

The Coalition’s plan to reduce pressure on families and business is simple: they’ll dump the carbon tax.

It’s one of the few certainties associated with the Opposition, which has few costed policies. Before the 2010 poll, Tony Abbott was hurt by revelations that his team’s costings were billions of dollars wrong, seriously denting his party’s economic credentials.

The debate surrounding the costing of policies will be just as important in political circles as the debate about the cost of living will be in voter land. 

Of the possible outcomes, most likely Australians will see policies which involve high taxes or cuts to public service jobs and services. 

The Coalition isn’t home free because it is yet to convince anyone of the numbers, and the government must change the perception that its policies are the impetus for financial pressures on the family budget.

That’s a lot of convincing required between now and September.