Most vulnerable to suffer if energy price rises continue

Parkes MP Mark Coulton.

Parkes MP Mark Coulton.

The Parkes electorate would be hit hard if energy prices continue to rise, federal MP Mark Coulton said.

Energy policy has dominated debate in Canberra in the last week, after Australia’s chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel AO handed his report on the future of the sector to government.

Mr Coulton said many of Dr Finkel’s suggestions had merit, and energy policy needed to balance price and reliability with environmental concerns.

“We need to look at the whole picture, not just reducing our emissions, and I think that was a mistake that was made,” Mr Coulton said.

“In my electorate I have a lot of people who are on lower fixed incomes … whether they be the aged pension, disability support pension, parenting payment, they’re the people that are the most vulnerable.

“They don’t have the ability to just pay for the increased power and we’re finding lots of older people are choosing not to put on the heater, to hide under the doona … it’s a real shame that we have reached the point where our older people can’t spend their later years in comfort.”

His comments follow announcements by Origin Energy, EnergyAustralia and AGL of weekly price rises of up to $6.65 a week for household electricity.

The government has responded to the upwards trend with a one-off, tax-free payment of up to $75 to help pensioners with their energy bills. In Parkes, 32,786 people would benefit, including: Age Pension (20,693 people); Disability Support Pension (7354); Parenting Payment Single (3434); and, veteran’s payments (1305).

The payment is set to be automatically paid over the next two weeks.

Mr Coulton said there had been a lot of discussion in the Nationals and Coalition party rooms since the review’s release, but one thing MPs agreed on was something had to change.

“We are at a critical point and we need to take some strong action,” he said.

The fact Australia was an island meant we had to get our energy mix exactly right, Mr Coulton said, and gas would have to play a role.

“Australian people have clearly shown a propensity to go towards renewables, that’s a good thing … but what we’re seen is once you get up to more than 40 or 50 per cent renewables you get problems with reliability.

“I’m trying to get to the point that we can have a policy that will halt this massive increase in electricity charges … and make sure we’ve got the reliability covered.”