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Power bills the killer: Vinnies

Friday, 15th July, 2011

HELPING HAND: With winter setting in and electricity costs on the rise, local Vinnie’s Vice President Elaine Davis said the centre had been giving out a large amount of blankets and selling plenty of cheap, warm clothing. HELPING HAND: With winter setting in and electricity costs on the rise, local Vinnie’s Vice President Elaine Davis said the centre had been giving out a large amount of blankets and selling plenty of cheap, warm clothing.

The St Vincent de Paul Society has called on the Federal Government to provide more relief from the rising cost of electricity when distributing its carbon tax compensation. 

The society’s National Council Chief Executive, Dr John Falzon, said direct financial assistance would be more beneficial to families than tax breaks.

Power bills are expected to rise by around $170 per year as a result of the new legislation.

“We believe that the Government is making a genuine attempt to address climate change. We also believe that the Government is genuine in its attempt to ensure that most households are appropriately compensated,” Mr Falzon said.

“The current compensation package should be improved by allocating part of it through a direct compensation component on power bills rather than exclusively through the tax transfer system.”

Dr Falzon said analysis by Gavin Dufty, Vinnie’s Victorian Manager of Policy and Research, showed that the Government’s compensation package failed to capture some of the variations between households, such as utility billing cycles, household location, household type and household needs. 

“Some households will therefore be over-compensated while others stand to be under-compensated under the proposed model,” said Mr Dufty.  

“We are particularly concerned about very low-income households living in rental accommodation. These families have absolutely no room to move when it comes to choices about energy consumption, and little ability to manage the price shock of higher utility bills.   

“Lump sum payments do not help households pay energy bills that arrive regularly though the year and are not as effective or helpful for struggling households. 

“Life for these households is already a daily battle for survival. Compensation delivered through a percentage offset on energy bills would be more timely and efficient.” 

The pain of rising power costs continues to be felt locally, and Vinnie’s Broken Hill Vice President Elaine Davis said the centre was often having to provide financial help.

The local branch handed out $71,100 in power bill assistance in the 2009-2010 financial year, and distributed more than $72,600 to struggling families between 2010-2011.

“Some of them come in with very high bills. They don’t even know how they got that high,” said Ms Davis. “We see some very needy customers.”

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