Energy stressed Victorians are turning off heaters or going without food to cope with winter bill blowouts.
Welfare agencies expect a big spike in financial help requests from this month as mammoth costs flow through.
Vinnies spokesman Gavin Dufty said the shock of heating bills left some on low incomes choosing between keeping warm and eating.
“Some go to shopping centres to try to keep warm, others go to bed early and wrap themselves in a doona, or cut back on food or don’t get prescription medicines filled so they can afford winter energy bills,” Mr Dufty said.
“Others in extreme cases use open fireplaces to cut down on costs but this can pose a safety risk if their chimney flue has not been cleaned or is left unattended. Others don’t have the cash to service gas heaters which exposes them to carbon monoxide poisoning risks or means going without heating.”
Mr Dufty urged people to check whether they were getting concessions or a utility relief grant if they were entitled.
Gas bills should be half the current price under the terms of its Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism (ADGSM) agreement between the gas cartel of BHP, Exxon, Santos, Sheel and Origin and the federal government.
The Australian spot price is $8Gj and contract price $10Gj when it should be $4.50Gj under the ADGSM.
That would also cut electricity prices by around 30% over time.
Maddeningly for Victorians, they are a large gas surplus state producing very cheap gas from Bass Straight at around $1Gj. Yet it is now sold for $10Gj to the gas-fired power firms that dominate VIC marginal prices, owing to the QLD gas exporters buying up all of the spare gas from SA and QLD.
If Australians had any brains and spine they would warm themselves by the fire of a burning Canberra on this issue.