Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) is pleased the government is prepared to take action to protect Queenslanders from the 7.1 per cent regional electricity bill increases announced by the Queensland Competition Authority (QCA).
“We already know that people are making tough decisions between paying for their electricity, or covering the cost of other essentials such as rent, medication, food or uniforms for their kids,” QCOSS CEO Mark Henley said.
“It is good that the government recognises an average bill increase of 7.1 per cent would be too much for regional households to bear”.
Despite the government’s commitment, electricity bills are still expected to increase by 3.3 per cent on average, meaning many of Queensland’s most vulnerable households will continue to struggle to cope next year.
“Despite today’s announcement, many households with higher-than-average energy use will see their bills increase by more than 3.3 per cent,” Mr Henley said.
“This will include many vulnerable households including large low-income families, renters in poor quality housing and people with health issues who rely on air-conditioning or electrical equipment to manage their conditions”.
While any price increases are disappointing, QCOSS acknowledges the government has implemented many positive cost-of-living measures this year, like extending the electricity rebate to Health Care Card holders and asylum seekers.
Health Care Card holders and asylum seekers must apply for the rebate through their retailer before 30 June to get the payment backdated to 1 January 2017.
“Extending the rebate to more groups experiencing vulnerability was a big step in helping to address financial stress, however, not enough people know about it yet,” Mr Henley said.
“We have asked the government to extend the cut-off date for backdating this concession to at least 31 December, 2017 so everyone who is eligible has the opportunity to apply for the assistance they are entitled to.”
QCOSS also considers that more must be done to put downward pressure on electricity prices in the longer-term.
“We encourage the Queensland Government to continue to investigate ways to tackle the drivers of these price increases and ensure we are continuously improving the concessions and assistance framework for low income and vulnerable Queenslanders,” Mr Henley said.
For more than 55 years QCOSS has been a leading force for social change to eliminate poverty and disadvantage. With members from throughout Queensland, QCOSS supports a strong community service sector.