Federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen will meet with his state and territory counterparts on Wednesday to formulate measures aimed at assisting people to cope with rising energy costs.
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has urged the federal government to provide an emergency energy debt relief payment of up to $1,000 for households on low fixed incomes, arguing that more than 250,000 people are already in energy debt in the wake of the pandemic.
ACOSS has also suggested that the government could look at bringing forward the scheduled indexation of pension and unemployment payments.
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From The Guardian:
The Acoss climate and energy program director, Kellie Caught, said the current crisis was “sadly predictable” and those on low and modest incomes were suffering.
“People on low incomes pay four times more of their income on energy bills,” she said.
“We know there are more than 250,000 people already in energy debt coming out of Covid and rising prices will mean either people turn off their heaters and hot water to avoid energy debt, at risk to their health, or go without other essentials like food and medicine.”
Already, data from the regulator shows the average debt among customers in the retailers’ hardship programs increased 21% to $1,584 in 2020-21.
Acoss noted another option was to bring forward the scheduled indexation of pension and unemployment payments, which is not due until September.
Charmaine Crowe, the program director of social security at Acoss, said that would “deliver some short-term gain, but ultimately not address the real problem, which is the need for a real increase to base rates of income support”.
This policy treats the symptoms, not cause, and will make the energy crisis even worse.
The Albanese Government can stave off soaring energy prices by simply enforcing domestic gas and coal reservation, thereby decoupling Australia from the global energy shock. This would end the energy cartel’s war profiteering at no cost to taxpayers.
By contrast, subsidising users’ energy costs will pay the cartels for war-profiteering. It will reward them for bad behaviour and encourage more of the same. It would also add more fuel to the inflationary fire, resulting in higher interest rates and smashing both households and the economy.
Treat the problem at its source, Albo, and take down the energy cartel. 20 million voters will reward you.