Grafton Care manager Helen Ellis with a client in the organisation?s Grafton office.
Grafton Care manager Helen Ellis with a client in the organisation?s Grafton office.

Families in Cowper, Page feel pinch in hip pocket

By LEIGH PRITCHARD

ALMOST 40 per cent of families in the Page and Cowper electorates are surviving on less than $500 per week.

This figure did not surprise Grafton Care manager Helen Ellis who assists 28 families each month with food, financial advice and vouchers.

"I'm very aware that we are in one of the lowest socio-economic areas in the state by the number of people who walk through our doors," Mrs Ellis said.

Research from the Parliamentary Library showed 39.8 per cent of families in Cowper and 36.1 per cent of families in Page survive on less than $500 per week.

Cowper had the lowest median family income in New South Wales with $618 per week. Page had a median family income of $656 per week, $281 less than the Australian median of $937.

"It is a mentality almost," Mrs Ellis said.

"That is a bit of a harsh statement, but that is the truth, we have generations of families on welfare.

"That is an aspect of rural communities, not specific to Grafton."

Mrs Ellis said it affected the whole community.

"Businesses would be well aware of it because it affects their takings," she said.

Christian charity organisation Brotherhood of St Laurence criticised Nationals federal MPs Ian Causley (Page) and Luke Hartsuyker (Cowper) for ignoring the plight of their constituents.

"Tax relief in the last two Federal Budgets was skewed towards high income earners, ignoring the families the National Party purport to represent," Brotherhood of St Laurence executive director Tony Nicholson said.

Four out of the five electorates with the highest number of families surviving on incomes less than $500 are held by the Nationals.

Mr Hartsuyker responded to the comments and said he would fight for tax cuts for low income families in the next budget.

He said a range of benefits including the baby bonus, Roads to Recovery and tax benefits, including the goods and services tax, helped families.

"One of the best things we can do for the low income earners is to have a strong economy," Mr Hartsuyker said.

"A strong economy is the best way to create jobs. The best things we can do is to give them jobs."

He said tax relief for high income earners was 'catch-up'.

Mr Causley was unavailable for comment.



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