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Health risks for old, poor after power price hikes: MP

Thursday, 22nd April, 2010

The health of the elderly and low-income earners will be at risk due to the NSW Government's decision to approve a rise in electricity costs, according to MP John Williams.

Country Energy customers will pay up to 64 per cent more for their electricity by 2013 under increases announced by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) last month. The increases will allow energy providers to increase investment in infrastructure and improve network security and reliability of supply in line with new licence conditions imposed by the NSW government. But the Member for Murray-Darling condemned the State Government for allowing IPART to approve such increases. "This is absolutely devastating for the pockets of NSW residents, particularly in rural areas where jobs and incomes are limited and we have an aging population," Mr Williams said. "The Premier has used the excuse that these residents will receive rebates and vouchers but any increase in these costs is money these individuals simply do not have." New energy rebates will be available for one million residents but Mr Williams said the discounts won't cover the entire increase with those ineligible for a rebate left hundreds of dollars out of pocket. He said the increases would also hit many charity groups, small business owners and irrigators struggling from the drought and recovering from a string of natural disasters. "Staff from local not-for-profit community services have already alerted me that more and more families and individuals are struggling to cover the cost of utilities and so this increase is very disturbing," Mr Williams said. "The resources of these groups that assist those who are financially disadvantaged are going to see a huge increase in the number of people coming forward for help, and they do not have the capacity or means to assist these residents. "People should not have to choose between buying food or keeping warm. "Small business owners will close solely due to this increase because they can not run at a loss, it's as simple as that." The MP said the fact that energy companies had given over $11.4 billion in dividends and taxes to the Government over the past 15 years explained the NSW Government's decision to lift the cost of electricity.

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