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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 10 Hansard (19 September) . . Page.. 3667 ..

Energy Efficiency (Cost of Living) Improvement Amendment Bill 2019

Debate resumed from 15 August 2019, on motion by Mr Rattenbury:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR COE (Yerrabi—Leader of the Opposition) (3.39): The opposition will not be supporting the bill that is before us. At a time when many families are struggling, we should not be increasing the cost of electricity, increasing the cost of living in the territory, through such regulation.

The scheme put forward in this legislation effectively increases the electricity bills of every Canberran to provide a rebate to a small number of households to replace systems, appliances, items and now insulation with more energy efficient products. It is worth remembering that the government once had schemes that involved replacing dryers with new dryers, and it was not too long ago that gas was in vogue and electricity was out. This government also had schemes that were all about replacing electric heaters with instantaneous gas heaters. There are all sorts of anomalies with this scheme and with past schemes. We are very concerned about the impact that this is going to have on the cost of living in the ACT.

What is being proposed is not a full rebate; instead, it requires a co-contribution from the participant, which could still be thousands of dollars. The scheme targets priority households who are already under pressure with rates, fees, taxes and charges, all of which have been imposed by this ACT Labor government. Once again, we have a government that is treating the symptoms rather than treating the cause.

Where the scheme is unaffordable, the government will step in, apparently, and give households a loan, a loan that could further trap these households in debt. How responsible is it for us as legislators to be giving out a loan to people who are financially doing it tough? We have to ask these questions, because if we are not careful, we will end up perpetuating that difficult situation that they are in.

In effect, to participate in this scheme, a low income household will be paying thousands of dollars that they probably cannot afford on new appliances to perhaps save a few dollars, perhaps a hundred dollars, on their bills. Meanwhile, every Canberran will be paying more for their electricity. Meanwhile, every single Canberran will feel a further impact on the cost of living in the ACT, including low income earners who are supposedly the target of this scheme.

Those who are doing it toughest will end up paying twice. They will pay through the additional levy, which is embedded in their electricity bills, but they will also have to make a co-contribution, which could be a huge amount of money. Interestingly, the scheme is not for the purchase of essentials like fridges and freezers, but it includes items like televisions. I do not believe it is in line with community expectations that every household in Canberra could be paying for a government scheme to replace TVs.

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