Page 3234 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 16 August 2011

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Community concessions

MS PORTER: My question is to the Chief Minister. Could the Chief Minister please advise the Legislative Assembly of the steps she is taking to monitor and consult on the adequacy of concessions for the ACT community?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Ms Porter for this very important question. The ACT government concessions program promotes equity in our standard of living and access to essential services for our local community. As a community we accept that concessions foster access and affordability of those essential services and are targeted to individuals and households meeting certain eligibility criteria.

The ACT government’s concessions IDC has been operating for some time now and has resulted in a couple of significant increases in concessions regimes across the ACT. But their work continues and they are focusing on a whole-of-government approach to concessions. As part of this, they monitor and consult on the adequacy of the concessions regime.

The government, through the work of the concessions IDC, has consistently worked to ensure the adequacy of concessions, keeping pace, and also whether there is any need for new initiatives. The energy concession was increased by $20 in the budget before last and we also introduced the home haemodialysis rebate, which was a great community initiative that was lobbied for for those who are dialysing at home. That was introduced in November 2010. We believe that these are examples of targeting concessions to those with greatest needs, including those who have requirements, in relation to the haemodialysis rebate, to use more water than most households in order to live comfortably at home.

The ACT concessions website has been developed, ensuring that accessible concessions information is available to low income individuals and households. The portal includes a concessions finder, and this was in response to feedback that we were getting that the concessions regime, because it was managed across directorates, was hard to navigate. Now inquirers can enter the name of their concession card and then find out what concessions they may be eligible for.

We have increased the energy concession. There have also been increases to the taxi subsidy scheme and the introduction of the utility concession in this budget. The previous two budgets have both increased the energy concession to meet the increasing cost-of-living pressures associated with utilities. For example, in 2009 the energy concession was $194.87. This was increased in the budget before last and is now $214.87. The energy concession was further raised by $51 from $214.87 to $266.20. The 2011-12 budget also introduced a new utility concession which provides an additional $80 rebate to eligible concession holders. The rebate is paid through existing energy concession mechanisms and it recognises, amongst other factors, that increase in water bills and seeks to offset the rise in basic utility costs. So since 2009 the energy utility rebate has increased by 77 per cent to $346.20. We believe that this is going a long way to meeting some of those cost-of-living pressures for those households.

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