Fee increases a "slap in the face"

Photo: Richard Polden

Photo: Richard Polden

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said the state government has mislead West Australians with the announcement of increased fees and charges.

“The government gave the impression before the election that they would stop electricity prices from increasing and they have done a complete back-flip and mislead West Australians,” Ms Mettam said. 

South West households are set to pay close to $440 a year in bills due to a range of increased fees and charges announced by the McGowan government last week.

Premier Mark McGowan stated that every Western Australian will need to share the burden of repairing the state budget, with the changes taking effect from July 1.

Power bills will rise by 10.9 per cent; while water, sewerage and drainage fees will be raised by 6 per cent. Other increases include vehicle licence charges rise by 5.5 per cent, motor injury insurance by 2.8 per cent and a 1.7 per cent increase for driver's licences. 

Student fares rise from 60 to 70 cents, while there will also be an 3.35 per cent increase in the emergency services levy.

Treasurer Ben Wyatt said tough decisions were needed to help get the budget under control.

“The previous government left behind a budget with increases in household fees and charges, and given the state of finances there is no way the state can afford to stop them,” Mr Wyatt said.

“These changes to household charges have not been taken lightly by this government, but we have no choice but to fix the mess left behind by the previous Liberal government.” 

Member for Warren-Blackwood, Terry Redman said the staggering increases to water, power, licenses and other charges announced by the government would unfairly add to WA householders, putting further pressure on stretched budgets.

However, the state government have made reforms to concessions framework to help those in need. This includes an increase to the Energy Assistance Payment (EAP) to $300 in 2017/2018 (an increase of $66 or 28 per cent from 2016-17). 

This concession is paid annually to about 200,000 households who hold commonwealth concession cards.

The government will invest an extra $16.3 million into the Hardship Utility Grant Scheme (HUGS) over two years. 

The financial counselling program will also be reinstated with $5.6 million allocated. Seniors with concession cards are still eligible to get a 50 per cent rebate for water charges capped at $600 and local government rates capped at $750, but households with only a WA seniors' card these rebates will be capped at $100 each. 

“This is a slap in the face for WA mums and dads, small businesses and pensioners when the Premier has refused to take up,” Mr Redman said. 

“The Nationals’ policy of negotiating an increase to the 25 per cent special lease rental fee paid by BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. The rental charge is not new, the miners have paid it for decades, nor is it a royalty. It is in fact, tax deductible.”

Ms Mettam said seniors and low income households would be the most affected by the recent announced power increases. 

“The power increase has been added to the fixed daily supply charge and therefore there is no way that households can try and minimise the impact by reducing their consumption, which is most unfair.”  

“Whilst I welcome the decision by the government that all seniors over the age of 61 will retain the Seniors Card, self funded retirees will be effected by caps that have been applied.

“WA Senior Card holders will continue to receive a 25 per cent rebate on water service charges and local government rates but for the first time this will be capped at $100.

“This is not about budget repair; the government is simply raising money to pay for unfunded and unaffordable election commitments, Ms Mettam said.

Mr Redman said all West Australian should be demanding the Premier show some intestinal fortitude. 

“It's time Mr McGowan brings the miners to the table and stands his ground on behalf of West Australians who don’t get the option of being asked nicely to pay a bit more to fix the budget,” he said. 

This story WA’s budget pain first appeared on Busselton-Dunsborough Mail.