Directions for South Australia – Utilities and Cost of Living

“Those on the lowest incomes, who are most vulnerable, often pay more – a poverty premium – because they are poor.” – Kelly Vincent MLC

Introduction:

The essential services of energy, water and telecommunications represent significant cost to the household budget.  Data from South Australia puts it at around 9% of the average household income, or around $107.88 per week.

For those on low incomes, utilities costs account for a much larger proportion of their budget.  Households with less surplus funds available often pay a “poverty premium” for essential services; attracting late payment fees on utilities and paying exorbitant prices for mobile data if unable to afford a plan.

Currently the state government provides an Energy Concession to assist eligible customers; capped at $217.50 per annum.  This rebate is paid regardless of the energy consumption of the household – a single person may receive the same amount as a family – and regardless of lower net energy costs for households with solar power.  While the concession is now indexed to CPI, electricity price increases are outstripping CPI and eroding its value. A percentage based concession will not only keep pace with price changes, but also provide a more targeted and equitable outcome for those most in need.

A Land Tax Concession for residential landlords investing in energy efficient activities has potential to assist our most vulnerable; the more than 25% of SA’s population who rent. Enabling a greater proportion of low income energy consumers to access free energy audits and the introduction of energy efficiency performance ratings for homes at point of sale would also help reduce energy consumption costs.

Wi-fi is particularly important to those on the lowest incomes; with one in five Australians having a mobile phone as their only internet connection.  Given mobile data is the most expensive on the market, expanding access to free public wi-fi would allow those people to retain some level of connection whether or not they have phone credit.

Action:

Dignity Party believe in South Australia we must:

  • Re-visit the energy concession so it is paid as a percentage of the bill
  • Provide a land tax concession for residential landlords who invest in approved energy efficiency activities
  • Provide greater access to free energy audits for low income households and ensure they are delivered by community sector organisations able to manage vulnerability
  • Introduce a residential energy efficiency disclosure scheme
  • Explore ways to assist customers in hardship and to reduce the incidence of water supply restriction
  • Expand provision of free public wi-fi, particularly in areas of disadvantage
  • Make all sa.gov.au websites free (unmetered data) to users.

Dignity Party OPPOSE the “poverty premium” low income households pay for essential services.

Dignity Party PROPOSE introducing better targeted concession distribution and equity of access to essential services.