Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 04 Hansard (Wednesday, 24 March 2010) . . Page.. 1456 ..
What is critical here is that we do not leave people behind. It is important to ensure that nobody falls through the cracks and that we have a society that is going to ensure that those who are vulnerable, those who are low income earners, are not going to be left to freeze in their homes in winter or not have some sort of cooling during summer.
We can spend effort now, and we have to spend effort now, to reduce higher energy costs in the future. It is very important that we protect those who are most vulnerable. It is quite clear. We know that the ones who will be most affected, who will be disproportionately affected, by rising utility bills will be low income households. They are the most vulnerable to energy price rises. They will be the people who will not be able to continue to afford to pay their energy bills. And they do not have the flexibility in their income to adjust to this change. They will need to have assistance.
I want to go to a report that was done by the Victorian Council of Social Service, called A snapshot of electricity and gas services and their impact on households seeking emergency relief. In the introduction to this report, it says:
Electricity and gas bills can have a significant impact on low income households. A typical quarterly electricity bill of $255 is over:
• 50 per cent of a fortnightly Newstart payment for a single person,
• 44 per cent of a fortnightly single Parenting Payment,
• 41 percent of a fortnightly single Aged Pension,
• 38 per cent of a fortnightly Disability Support Pension payment,
• 22 per cent of gross fortnightly income for a person earning $30,000 per annum; and
• 11 percent of fortnightly full time adult ordinary time earnings.
This list goes from those on very low incomes through to those who would be on full-time adult ordinary time earnings. It reflects that for those on full-time adult ordinary time earnings it is 11 per cent. That is still quite high, but it is more affordable than for someone who is on a fortnightly Newstart payment, where, for a single person, 50 per cent of that payment will go on their utility bills, on their energy bills.
This is why Mr Rattenbury has brought on this motion today—to focus quite clearly on where we need to start in this debate, where we need to start to put in place concrete action, concrete proposals. We do need to start to talk about specifics. We cannot walk away from that. We are not going to be doing it all at once. We need to acknowledge that there will be many households and there will be many more challenges in the years to come. But we have to start somewhere. We need to start to focus on those low income households who are going to be the first to feel the impact of rising energy costs.