More Federal intervention? John Howard might have done it but Rudd and the Queensland Labor government will just talk
In one Queensland community, a packet of pasta costs $4, a kilo of tomatoes is worth almost $9 and deodorant is sold for more than $10. But the food is often out of date and the store is unclean.
In a damning submission to a federal parliamentary inquiry into indigenous community stores, Lockhart River residents say people have fallen ill after eating poor-quality food from a local store. The submission - compiled by Royal Flying Doctor Service employees on behalf of Lockhart River residents - accuses the community store of stocking "mouldy" bread, "rotten" fruit, frozen vegetables which have been defrosted and refrozen and meat that tastes like "cardboard" when cooked. The submission complains about a lack of healthy quick meal options, no pricing on some goods and a filthy store environment.
A comparison of prices shows Lockhart River residents pay up to seven times more than shoppers in Cairns for some common items. Tomatoes, for example, cost $2.45 kg in Cairns, but $8.66 kg at Lockhart River. The cheapest pasta in Lockhart River costs $4.02 for a 500g packet, but the same product could be bought in Cairns for 59c.
A submission from the Kowanyama community on Cape York says its store also sells out-of-date foods with prices up to three times those in Cairns. It says complaints are generally ignored. Supporting those submissions, the Australian Red Cross has told the inquiry such "exorbitant" prices are unjust. "The poorest people in the country are forced to endure the highest prices in the country," the submission says.
According to the Red Cross, the situation has directly contributed to malnutrition and chronic disease in Australia's indigenous population. The inquiry will hold public hearings in the Northern Territory this week.
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