Originally published in The Guardian on October 26, 2023

Inflation is being driven by things unaffected by interest rate, so there is no reason for the RBA to raise rates in November

The latest CPI figures showed inflation grew 5.4%, down from 6% in the June quarter and almost a third below the peak of 7.8% at the end of last year. And yet commentators seem desperate for the Reserve Bank of Australia to raise interest rates next month to show it is tough on inflation. But raising rates now would not be tough, it would just be cruel.

The annual growth of inflation is falling quite quickly – down from 7.8% at the end of last year. But because the quarterly growth of inflation rose in the September quarter, a numbe rof commentators and economists have been suggesting that the Reserve Bank should raise interest rates in two months.

But when you examine the drivers of inflation in the September quarter, there is little that would have an impact from higher interest rates.

Automotive fuel prices accounted for 20% of the growth in inflation in September – that is completely unaffected by rate rises given that it was all due to higher world oil prices due to OPECD restricting supply. Similarly rental prices, electricity, property rates and charges, insurance, tobacco and beer prices have nothing to do with interest rates. Even the cost of building a new home is driven mostly by the increased cost of construction materials from overseas.

Crucially in the September quarter the cost of “non-discretionary item” rose 1.4% while the cost of “discretionary” item rose just 0.7%. Non-discretionary items are things which you cannot avoid paying (at least in the short-term). In effect those price rises have the same impact on consumer spending as do rate rises – they reduce the ability of people to spend money on things in shops and on discretionary services.

Had the RBA raised interest rates more in the September quarter there would have been negligible impact on the main drivers of inflation, raising them in November due to these latest figures would just be cruel and hurting people whose real wages continue to fall.

You might also like