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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 14 Hansard (11 December) . . Page.. 4698 ..

Mr De Domenico: Do you not personally write that?

MR STEFANIAK: No, I do not, Mr De Domenico. I do not personally write that. I will be intrigued to have a look at that for you, Ms Reilly. Perhaps you could let me know what edition you are referring to.

Electricity Rebates

MR OSBORNE: My question to Mr Stefaniak is about the provision of electricity rebates to pensioners and low-income families. Notice has been given of this question. Minister, as you will be aware, the Government sets the criteria for eligibility and provides the funds that support the rebate scheme, which is administered by ACTEW Corporation on behalf of the Children's, Youth and Family Services Bureau. At present the electricity rebate for pensioners and health care and health benefit card holders is set at a maximum of $5.25 per month, or 50 per cent of the bill, whichever is the lesser - one can guess which is the lesser of those two - with a seasonal adjustment up to the maximum of $18.89 per month for the winter months. The rebate for those on life support machines is a maximum of $7.70 per month, with no seasonal adjustment. When were these rebates last reviewed and adjusted, and how much have they increased over recent years? As the Minister who deals with families in crisis, do you think the low level of these rebates accurately reflects the commitment that your Government has to low-income families in our community? Given that these rebates are so low as to be of little actual benefit to those who are eligible for them, will you agree to review and adjust these rates, so that they provide some real help to those who are struggling to make ends meet? Will you also agree at least to adjust these rebates each year in line with the CPI?

MR SPEAKER: Be careful about announcing Executive policy, Mr Stefaniak.

MR STEFANIAK: That is true, Mr Speaker. I must say I was aware of one of Mr Osborne's points, but there are a few I was not aware of. I will take those as he has spoken about them, Mr Speaker. The Government gives a number of rebates for welfare concession levels, Mr Osborne. As well as the electricity rebate, there are rebates for spectacles, rebates for water, school bus passes and rebates for vehicle registration. There is considerable assistance. I think the general level of rebates went up by well over $1m in the last budget.

The electricity rebate and all the other rebates are reviewed in the budget context. The rebates for electricity were reviewed this year. They will be reviewed again in the context of the next budget. The Government as a whole, the budget Cabinet, looks at these rebates for electricity and indeed all the other rebates. The annual rebate for electricity, Mr Osborne, is about $131.20, I am advised. That is not an inconsiderable amount. The total expenditure on electricity rebates is some $2.4m. That is not an inconsequential figure. Increases in electricity costs as a result of the CPI are considered in view of allowable rebates given and are taken into account by the budget Cabinet. I understand that the previous Government would have done similar things to what we do in assessing, in the context of the budget Cabinet, those rebates along with others.

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