"Cost of living" is in this context a misnomer. The more accurate term is "cost of consumption choices". This is about Australians' expectations that their expensive lifestyle choices will be supported by governments. Actual poverty, where the cost of living has real, everyday consequences, won't feature in the campaign. There are no votes in addressing poverty. This is about telling middle-income Australians that their high-consumption lifestyles are a matter of legitimate public policy focus.What I find so interesting is that the rhetoric behind these so-called "cost of living" policies pretends that we have an economic system that would ever actually regulate the market to such an extent. (Although when details are requested both Gillard and Abbott carefully shy away from stating this directly). It is no wonder that people get so confused about the nature of our economic system.
I remember when I was in my last year of law school I had a friend who worked on ACCC phone lines. A woman called up one day and asked why they weren't doing anything about the cost of bread. "They can just charge anything they like," she complained. "That's communism!"
On a similar note, I remember being taught in Constitutional Law that around 90% of a large surveyed group of US citizens in the 1990s thought the phrase "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs," was from the US Constitution. And they do far more political education in High School than we do.