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Relief for energy bills loses spark as critics arc up

Jim Chalmers, Anthony Albanese and Katy Gallagher are out spruiking the budget today. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

By Andrew Brown and Kat Wong in Canberra

The $300 of energy relief offered to Australians in the federal budget could be spent elsewhere to better help those in need, critics say.

Anthony Albanese on Wednesday took to the press gallery to defend his government’s third budget, which includes a $300 energy rebate for all households, as well as a price cap on medicines, a boost to rent assistance and cuts for taxpayers that will kick in from July.

Asked if billionaire mining magnate Gina Rinehart needed help with her power bills, he stood by the budget proposal.

“This is the most effective way to deliver support across the board,” he said.

“Gina – if she pays income tax – will get a tax cut, as well as every Australian.

“That is because, right throughout the income scales, there are pressures on that as well.”

More than 10 million households will receive the $300 energy bill rebate, to be paid as a $75 credit on each quarterly bill, while small businesses will get $325.

But the government has come under scrutiny for the proposal.

Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Cassandra Goldie said the billions of dollars spent offering an energy rebate should have been used to increase income support payments.

“Somebody who is on $200,000 plus, who owns their own home, who possibly has an investment property … they will be getting $300 extra when we’ve got somebody in poverty who is unable to feed themselves more than once a day,” she told reporters in Canberra.

Master Electricians Australia executive Kate Raymond says the government could have delivered better bang for its buck if it used the funds on targeted relief for low-income households and incentives for solar and battery systems that could offer long-term relief.

“There’s no doubt that the cost of living is causing a lot of pain right now, but investing in household energy storage would be the gift that keeps on giving, if it’s invested wisely,” she said.

“This would lead to lower wholesale power prices, which would benefit all electricity customers now and into the future.”

Commonwealth rent assistance has also been bolstered by 10 per cent, with those on the payments to receive an extra $19 on average per fortnight.

The cost of medicines will be frozen, with prescriptions for medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme to be capped at $31.60, as well as limits of $7.70 for concessions and pensioners.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has said the coalition will support measures that provide relief but he was still worried about the budget’s impact on inflation.

“This is a smoke and mirrors game going on here and giving $300 to people … is just not going to cut it for the average family,” he told ABC radio.

He accused the government of using the budget to prepare for a federal election.

“They’re trying to buy themselves an interest rate cut before the election and pretend that everything’s okay,” he said.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the primary motivation behind the budget was to help those doing it tough.

Asked why more assistance wasn’t more targeted, he said middle Australia was also feeling hip-pocket pain and noted means testing energy help would be less efficient.

“This relief is delivered via the (energy) retailers – they don’t have information about people’s incomes and so you would have to take a long time and spend a lot of money and effort to design a system … that doesn’t exist right now,” he told the ABC.

Greens leader Adam Bandt said the budget was a betrayal of renters, women, students and mortgage holders.

He said the government was posting an expected $9.3 billion surplus for 2023/24 at the expense of many of those hit by high prices.

“Labor has found billions for the bad guys in this budget, while you are left doing it tough,” he told ABC.

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2 Responses to Relief for energy bills loses spark as critics arc up

David says: 16 May 2024 at 7:05 am

Surprise surprise a budget that favors property investors and does little for single home owners and those forced to rent. People with multiple properties get multiple bites at the pathetic $300 energy rebate, bearing in mind paying part of one energy bill doesn’t go very far and your back to where you were before you realized it. Those forced to rent are seeing their monthly rents go up by more than this and the pain is still there if the rent increased is delayed a month. All the $300 does is make the energy companies not look so bad for the current cost increases and makes it easier to justify the next increase. I wonder who in the Labor party is going to leave politics for a cushy job in an energy company?

On the subject of rent, there is also the 10% increase to support taxpayer funding of property investors. Helping people pay rent is helping them fund property investors with taxpayer money while leaving them in the same position they were in before. Rent is temporary relief for the housing problem and money down the drain for the individual paying it. This is the Federal budget, we need long term solutions to fix what we can call the Chalmers effect. People stuck renting throughout their working lives and then retire without owning a house and then transition into welfare housing.

Nothing to help families currently stuck renting who cannot afford or compete with property investors for whatever houses/building opportunities become available.

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David says: 16 May 2024 at 12:17 pm

Also, remember that when you hear someone going on about not giving money to the billionaires through tax cuts think about these two 2 word phrases. “Discretionary Trust” and “Negative Gearing”. The rich know how to minimise tax and modifying the Stage 3 tax cuts is really hurting the honest wage earners who aren’t playing the game to reduce tax. Are those waving the banners just stupid or treating you as stupid?

Remember we live in a society lucky enough to provide welfare. The level of welfare is dependent on as many people being tax payers as possible. Therefore the high level aim is to encourage as many people to be honest tax payers as possible (reward for effort etc etc) and provide the best welfare to those who need it. The people earning lots of money and actually paying tax are the ones making welfare possible, they are your friends. We need to ensure that when these people stop being wage earning tax payers they are setup to be able to look after themselves throughout their retirement. i.e. they have somewhere to live not requiring tax payer subsidies.

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