- McGowan Government announces changes to household fees and charges
- Concession programs improved to minimise the impact on those in most need
- Annual Energy Assistance Payment increased to $300, a $66 increase from 2016-17
- Increased funding for the Hardship Utility Grant Scheme and financial counselling
- No new changes to WA Seniors Card eligibility, with improved targeting of some payments to improve the State's financial position by $84 million across the forward estimates
Every Western Australian will need to share the burden of repairing the State Budget, with increases to household fees and charges announced today.
The charges form part of the 2017-18 Budget, with the changes taking effect from July 1, 2017.
Since taking office, the McGowan Government has embarked on a significant budget repair program to bring the State's finances back under control and to fix the mess left behind by the Liberal National Government.
Householders will also need to contribute to budget repair in 2017-18 with increases in the representative basket of household fees and charges of 7.7 per cent - an increase that could not be avoided given the increases already built into the Budget by the previous government.
The changes include:
- An increase of $169 to the fixed charge component of electricity bills, or 10.9 per cent for the 'representative household';
- A six per cent increase in water, sewerage and drainage charges;
- Changes to public transport fares, which include a 1.8 per cent increase in public transport standard fares (rounded to the nearest 10 cents), student fares increasing to 70 cents (from 60 cents), and a five per cent reduction in the discount offered to SmartRider fares (to 20 per cent for Autoload and 10 per cent for other re-load);
- Vehicle licence charges will increase by 5.5 per cent, an increase of 2.8 per cent for motor injury insurance, and a 1.7 per cent increase for a driver's licence; and
- A 3.35 per cent increase in the emergency services levy.
The McGowan Government also recognises that it needs to support those in most need, which is why it has made some important reforms to the concessions framework.
Firstly, the Government will increase the Energy Assistance Payment (EAP) to $300 in 2017-18 (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 also overhaul the Hardship Utility Grant Scheme (HUGS) after it was underfunded by the former Liberal National Government.
The McGowan Government will add an additional $16.3 million into the program over two years including $5.1 million in 2016-17 and $11.2 million in 2017-18. This will meet both an increase in demand for the program and increase the annual HUGS grant limit from $538 to $581, and $891 to $962 for those living above the 26th Parallel.
The financial counselling program, which was scrapped by the former Liberal National Government will also be reinstated with $5.6 million allocated to the program across the forward estimates period. This is in addition to the Government's election commitment to provide additional financial counselling services for victims of domestic violence.
This Government recognises that since the financial councillors program was cut the number of people accessing the HUGS program has more than doubled.
In an effort to repair the Budget, the Government will focus its concessions to those Western Australians that need them the most.
For seniors' households with Commonwealth concessions cards, the Government will continue to provide the 50 per cent rebates for water service charges capped at $600 and local government rates capped at $750, and a 50 per cent rebate on the underground electricity connection charge.
However, as of July 1, 2017, for households with only a WA Seniors Card, these rebates will be capped at $100 each.
This measure will save an estimated $84 million across the forward estimates period.
All other rebates are unchanged and WA Seniors Card holders can continue to access a range of other benefits and discounts, including the Cost of Living Rebate and free off-peak public transport.
The changes to the household fees and charges and concessions are expected to improve the State's net debt position by about $238 million over the forward estimates period.
In addition to these changes, the Government will review the effectiveness of existing concession programs that will inform 2018-19 Budget considerations.
Comments attributed to Treasurer Ben Wyatt:
"Over the last three months, we have embarked on a program of budget repair that is fair.
"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.
"We have had to make tough decisions to help get the Budget under control and unfortunately the burden of those decisions need to be shared across the community.
"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 National Government.
"This Government takes the State's financial challenge very seriously, with the State heading to more than $42 billion in debt by 2020, and an operating deficit of about $3 billion in 2016-17 - all the legacy of the Liberals and Nationals.
"With our GST share at ridiculously low levels and Treasury forecasting a further $2.6 billion revenue write down since we were elected, fixing the mess we inherited will take time."
Treasurer's office - 6552 5900