Pensioner speaks out

ETHEL Batt is not too old to spot an injustice when she sees one and, as far as she is concerned, a recent State Government rebate cut to her utilities bills is unfair.

The 91 year-old former long-time president of Morwell’s Combined Pensioners Association wants to warn other pensioners that, in her words, “what the Federal Government is giving on one hand, the State Government is taking away on the other”.

She is referring to a recently announced cut to a portion of the financial discount concession car holders get from their household utility bills.

Mrs Batt has done her research and claims her information indicates that since the Federal Government has paid an annual $250 sum, as part of its household assistance package, to assist concession card holders with a rise in the cost of living, arising from the carbon tax, the State Government has removed partial rebates from electricity and gas bills.

The Department of Human Services’ website indicates that because the Federal Government’s payment – in the State Government’s estimation – represents a subsidy of $171.60 for electricity across the year, the former State Government concession will not apply to the first $171.60 of a bill.

The website says “this change does not affect the average net position of those Victorians receiving energy concessions”.

Rebate reductions have also been partially removed on gas bills and, given the significant overall rise in utility bills, Mrs Batt disagrees with the State Government statement on the impact of its changes.

She said the State Government made its estimations based on assumptions the Federal Government’s $250 was “just for electricity and gas” but claimed Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester had confirmed with her the $250 was to help with rising costs across the board.

State Shadow Minister for the Cost of Living Lily D’Ambrosio has also claimed the State Government’s “cash grab” was impacting on vulnerable Victorians trying to cope with rising costs of living.

“Utility providers have specified in letters to customers that, as a result of the Federal Government compensation for the household assistance package, the Baillieu Government has decided a portion of the state concession is now ‘unnecessary’ for what the Federal Government’s package now covers,” she said.

State Member for Morwell Russell Northe defended the changes and said the State Government had extended the rebate to a year-round discount instead of the winter-only rebate offered under the former government.

“Obviously when the carbon tax compensation was introduced that has complicated matters with regards to energy prices,” Mr Northe said, but he claimed the rebate and compensation were two separate forms of support.

“The State Government has taken a position that the concession won’t apply to the compensation,this doesn’t mean it is less.”

Mrs Batt is unconvinced and said she had been left wondering “who to vote for these days”.

“I just don’t think they are being very fair and I want all pensioners who own homes and units, and have to pay these bills, to know that they have to fight this,” she said, urging them to contact the offices of their local MPs.