18 April 2024

Lui admits freight subsidy not working for Cape and Torres grocery bills

| Lyndon Keane
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Member for Cook Cynthia Lui, pictured during a recent visit to Napranum, says her own government’s remote freight subsidy is not reducing cost of living pressures for Cape York and Torres Strait residents. Photo: Facebook (Cynthia Lui MP – Member for Cook).

Member for Cook Cynthia Lui is calling for an increase to her own government’s freight subsidy scheme after admitting it is not doing enough to help Cape York and Torres Strait residents at the supermarket checkout.

In 2023, the Queensland Government announced the five-year, $64 million subsidy as a move that would reduce cost of living pressures for those living in the northernmost part of the state.

The subsidy equates to a 5.2 per cent saving at the cash register, and only on “essential goods” like fruit and vegetables, fresh meat and dairy, and frozen goods.

While Ms Lui has been one of the subsidy’s biggest advocates since its inception, she said she now acknowledged the meagre discount was not making a difference to remote grocery bills.

READ ALSO Stunt should not detract from seriousness of remote food cost: KAP

“The $64 million package was announced at the cost of living summit on Thursday Island, and the intention was that it would assist people living in the Northern Peninsula, Torres Strait and Gulf regions over the next five years,” she said.

“A few months into the program, when I am out listening to our community, I am hearing that there is more we can do to help people at the cash register.

“That’s why I am calling on the government to increase the freight subsidy scheme discount.

To further compound the failure of the scheme, Cape York Weekly understands only a small number of local supermarket retailers have applied to the State Government to access the subsidy, which is then meant to get passed onto consumers.

Katter’s Australian Party leader and Member for Traeger Robbie Katter has previously slammed the efficacy of the subsidy program, telling Cape York Weekly last month he believed the government needed to act on the link between access to cost-effective nutrition and overall health outcomes.

“The remote areas of the Gulf and Cape York must be the most depressed at times in grocery pricing, with direct links to health outcomes,” he said in March.

“[Government] has to link it directly with health outcomes, and we have some pretty big health budgets there that could be better justified as direct subsidies to make basic groceries cheaper.”

READ ALSO Much-anticipated freight subsidy a flop for remote residents

Ms Lui used the example of a tub of margarine as evidence the subsidy scheme was failing to make a genuine impact.

“In remote communities, people are paying more than $6.50 for a product that costs $4.50 in Cairns – around 30 per cent more for 500 grams of margarine,” she said.

“When you are paying almost 30 per cent more than people in the city for a basic food item, a 5.2 per cent discount does not help much.”

The Member for Cook added she had launched a petition to call for greater cost of living relief, and that she wanted the minister responsible for the scheme – Minister for Transport and Main Roads Bart Mellish – to rethink the size and delivery of the subsidy.

“I am calling on the Minister for Transport, Bart Mellish, to reconsider the way this scheme is delivered, and to make changes to ensure it provides meaningful cost of living relief for people in the Northern Peninsula Area, Cape York and Torres Strait,” Ms Lui said.

After being implemented at the start of 2024, the Queensland Government’s $64 million freight subsidy scheme is making little difference to the cost of groceries in the northernmost part of the state. Photo: Lyndon Keane.

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