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Cost of living pressures mount on first cabinet meeting

The prime minister is calling cabinet colleagues to Canberra weeks before parliament resumes to tackle mounting economic and cost of living issues.

Everyday pressures facing Australians are expected to be discussed at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, which some MPs say is routine.

A Senate inquiry is examining supermarket grocery prices after shoppers and farmers complained big retailers were taking advantage of rising prices.

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Inflation has pushed interest rates substantially higher since the COVID-19 pandemic, while energy costs have climbed due to domestic and overseas factors.

Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth told reporters in Adelaide on Saturday that tackling inflation is a constant focus of the government.

“We need to see inflation coming down and so finding cost of living relief that doesn’t add to the challenge – the inflation challenge – is something our government’s been very focused on,” she told reporters in Adelaide on Saturday.

“I don’t think it’ll be over in one meeting or a couple of meetings.

“This has been a constant role that our government’s played and we’re seeing impacts.”

Rishworth dismissed suggestions of immediate measures to reduce energy costs, citing the government’s capping of gas and coal prices in December 2022.

“We’ve also implemented our energy rebates which are flowing through to consumers now, so that is the short-term action we’ve taken,” she said.

The minister said new figures showed one million people had benefited from the government’s increased rent assistance.

This was an example of a measure that eased the cost of living without adding to inflation, she said.

The Albanese government also faces its first major test of public opinion in 2024 when the Mornington Peninsula by-election is held on March 2.

The by-election was triggered by the death in December of sitting Labor MP Peta Murphy after a long battle with cancer.

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