Alarmingly 510,260 Victorian residential customers have fallen behind in paying their electricity and gas bills and have not set up payment assistance plans or deferrals, the latest Essential Services Commission report has found. A further 33,457 residential customers, who are already on payment plans, say they cannot pay for ongoing electricity or gas usage.
The report also identified that since the end of Victoria’s second lockdown, a staggering 3,454 Victorian homes and small businesses have had their electricity or gas disconnected because they have not been able to pay their bill.
Just last year, Labor’s Energy Minister said that “…we know Victorians are doing it tough and affordable and reliable power is more important than ever”. If this were true, why is the Andrews Labor Government allowing electricity and gas to be disconnected from struggling households and small businesses?
With the start of winter only six weeks away, Labor’s Energy Minister must guarantee that no more households or small businesses will be cut off from their electricity or gas supply.
Labor’s Minister must urgently consider extending protections for consumers who are still recovering from the economic impact of COVID-19. This could include extending the period of a moratorium on disconnections and requiring power companies to offer greater support for those not able to pay bills.
It’s also clear that the Andrews Labor Government’s poorly advertised $250 Power Saving Bonus has been as effective as an ashtray on a motorbike. Labor’s Energy Minister must immediately review this payment with a view to increasing and expanding its reach.
The time for empty words has now ended. Victorian households and small businesses need the Andrews Labor Government to step up and guarantee that their household and business power won’t be switched off.
Victorian Labor needs to do the right thing by struggling Victorians and they need to do it now.