Social services advocates have called for more help for young Western Australians to face high electricity costs, despite treasurer Ben Wyatt stating there would be a less severe increase than in previous years.
Western Australian Council of Social Services (WACOSS) CEO Louise Giolitto said young Western Australians would continue to be the hardest hit regardless of the size of the price rise, with low income earners continuing to be severely affected.
“The treasurer announced last week that they don’t expect that the increases sort of the utility costs and electricity prices would as severe as they have been in the last couple of years,” Ms Giolitto said.
“There was 11 per cent in the first budget and I think 4 or 7 per cent in the second, so it amounted to a huge increase.”
“So we’re still expecting an increase but it won’t be as large.”
“Any increase is going to hit young West Australians.”
Ms Giolitto claimed households with young people were not being protected from rising costs of living as low income earners.
“We know through our data and our information that there’s more people doing it tough,” she said.
“The stress on financial counsellors, wages have pretty much stagnated, there’s more people underemployed and unemployed than what we’ve had before.”
Ms Giolitto said the government needed to exempt young people future increases while taking into account the budget “so they’re not charging them in the first place.”
She said the fight would continue to make sure they were not severely affected.
“We’ll keep advocating to try and ensure that those who are on the lowest incomes aren’t hit any further by the price increases.”
Her comments came after Mr Wyatt revealed in late September that WA was headed towards a surplus earlier than expected.
The government had planned to use a portion of the surplus to reduce the cost of electricity.
Mr Wyatt said he expected a lower cost increase than in previous years.
“We will be in the position to not have to increase power bills by the way they have been by in large over the past decade,” he said.
“I think we’re in a position now where we’re nearly at cost reflectivity on both power and water.”
However, financial experts are concerned if power prices should be the main spending focus of the surplus.
Australian Bureau of Statistics census data revealed weekly domestic household fuel and power spending, including gas and electricity only resulted in 2.7 per cent of the household budget.
Curtin University instructor and certified financial planner Elson Goh said the state government’s decision to help reduce power costs through the budget surplus was a benefit to households.
“Any efforts to keep any kind of costs down is a good thing,” Mr Goh said.
“WA households need some form of help.”
However, he said household spending on electricity was a relatively small cost compared to other cost of living increases.
“There are a lot of other areas that are big ticket items in terms of things like housing, food and transport. So these are the three biggest items,” Mr Goh said.
“There are also other items that have increased quite tremendously over the last few years.
He said it raised concerns over whether a surplus should be used to lower prices.
However, he said there needed to be discussions about what was important to Western Australians.
“What are some of the things that we are facing, what are some of the concerns that we are facing,” Mr Goh said.
“Then have a frank discussion of how we can tackle all those areas that is most important to us.”