The NSW Labor Opposition has called on the O'Farrell Government to increase assistance for families struggling to pay their energy bills – after new figures revealed household electricity disconnections due to non-payment increased by 25 per cent in 2011/12.
The figures released by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal show the number of households disconnected for not paying their electricity bills increased from 18,561 in 2010/11 to 23,207 in 2011/12 and the number of complaints to electricity retailers increased by 53 per cent.
"A 25 per cent increase in household disconnections shows families can’t cope with the 38 per cent increase in electricity bills passed on by Barry O'Farrell over the past two years," said Opposition Leader, John Robertson.
"The Premier promised to reduce cost of living pressures on families but instead he is exacerbating them – gouging an extra 35.7 per cent from electricity companies in dividends and privatising electricity.
"The O'Farrell Government needs to do more to protect NSW families and give struggling households a helping hand.
"I encourage the Premier to adopt Labor's proposal, announced in my budget reply speech earlier this year, to invest $55 million over the next four years to increase the number and value of energy vouchers available through the Energy Account Payment Assistance scheme.
"Under Labor's plan, more than 8000 additional families would receive up to $640 a year to help pay their electricity bills.
"No child should have to do their homework in the dark and every family deserves the dignity of being able to keep the lights on.
"Increasing funding for energy vouchers would help reduce disconnections by giving families the help they need before the power's cut off."
Shadow Minister for Energy Ron Hoenig said NSW households and businesses have to brace for further increases in the coming years.
"Barry O'Farrell's plan to sell off the State's electricity assets will send electricity bills soaring for families already struggling with the rising cost of living," said Mr Hoenig.
"In South Australia, electricity prices increased by more than 30 per cent following privatisation.
"Before the last election, Barry O'Farrell promised to keep the State's electricity generators in public hands but instead, he is flogging off the State's power stations and putting upward pressure on prices.
"Families across the State are already having difficulty keeping the lights on and Barry O'Farrell's broken promise on electricity privatisation will only make things worse."