Media release: Fuel prices hit low-income households hardest

18 March 2019

Canberra’s high fuel prices are hitting low-income households hardest. This is a key finding from the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) analysis of cost of living data shared in a submission to the ACT Legislative Assembly Select Committee Inquiry into Fuel Pricing.

Ahead of appearing as a witness to the inquiry, ACTCOSS Executive Director, Ms Susan Helyar said today, “Fuel pricing is fundamentally a cost of living issue. Transport is a significant and essential expense for households and fuel makes up a considerable amount of household transport costs in Canberra. Transport is also a social determinant of health. For example, transport disadvantage can exacerbate food insecurity and be a barrier to accessing health services.

“Our cost of living analysis shows that transport is the third biggest cost for low-income households in Canberra after housing and food. Low-income households include those on income support, people in insecure low wage roles and people who want more hours of work but can’t get them. Compared to the average ACT household, low-income households spend a greater proportion of their income on fuel so that they can take their kids to school, drive to work or job interviews, access health services and get groceries.

“The volatile nature of fuel prices presents a challenge for these households that don’t have enough income to cover sudden and substantial price increases in essential items.

“Fuel prices rose by 15% in Canberra over the past year and by 29% over the past decade – this is higher than in any other Australian capital city. At the same time, low-income households have been put under more and more pressure as essential living costs have increased while their income has stayed the same.

“The rate of Newstart hasn’t increased in real terms for 25 years – at just $40 a day there is little room to cover increases in the cost of filling up the car. Last year the ACT Government backed calls to raise the rate of Newstart and we continue to urge the Federal Government to raise the rate of Newstart and Youth Allowance for single people by a minimum of $75 a week.”

Ms Helyar concluded, “Fuel pricing is just one element that needs to be addressed as part of a comprehensive response to transport disadvantage in the ACT. Our submission to the Inquiry into Fuel Pricing identifies the need to improve the fairness and adequacy of transport-related concessions and better understand transport costs and transport gaps for people experiencing disadvantage in the ACT.”

ACTCOSS will say more on ACT Government Actions needed to address transport disadvantage in our submission on the Moving Canberra: Integrated Transport Strategy draft paper released by ACT Government open for community feedback until 31 March 2019.

For more information or comment please contact

Susan Helyar, Director, on 0448 791 987 or 02 6202 7200.

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