Households and industry are facing massive increases to their energy bills, which will create disastrous consequences for those most at risk.
Wholesale electricity prices are now five times higher than at the start of the year. This has been driven by Australian coal and gas producers taking advantage of high international prices, diverting their resources to export rather than the domestic market.
The Federal Government’s October Budget forecast a further 56 per cent increase in electricity prices and 40 per cent increase in gas prices. Meanwhile, energy producers are announcing record profits. Santos, for example, has recorded a 300% increase in its underlying profit.
The Australian Workers’ Union (AWU) has tens of thousands of members working in energy-intensive heavy industries. The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) is the national advocate supporting people affected by poverty, disadvantage and inequality. The people we both represent will be disproportionately affected by further increases to their energy costs.
We respect and appreciate the Government’s interest in tackling this issue, however, the urgency cannot be overstated. If action is not taken before the end of the year, businesses will close, jobs will be lost. Many people on low incomes are already being forced to make the choice between paying rent, putting food on the table and paying their energy bills.
That is why we are urging the Federal Government to place a price cap on domestic gas wholesale prices at the five-year average spot price of $8-10/GJ. This will provide certainty to the market, prevent demand destruction from industry closures, and provide relief to people on low-incomes.
Any measures must also include price caps on coal and electricity, be complemented by commitments to encourage energy efficiency for households and industry, and consider the broader tax arrangements applying to resources companies to ensure this crisis is not repeated.
The choice is now in the government’s hands: help workers and people in financial distress, or help turbocharge the super-profits of multinational energy exporters.
Australian Workers’ Union
|Dr Cassandra Goldie
Australian Council of Social Service