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No energy bill or housing relief in sight, SACOSS warns at price gouging inquiry

South Australians - particularly those on lower incomes - are being disproportionately impacted by rising housing and energy costs, SACOSS has warned the ACTU price gouging inquiry today - and the situation is only expected to get worse.

The Inquiry into Price Gouging and Unfair Pricing Practices, chaired by former ACCC Chairman Professor Allan Fels, is examining the cause and effects of price gouging on the Australian people.

SACOSS Acting CEO Dr Rebecca Tooher told the Inquiry that the most recent available data shows that energy and housing prices are where the greatest stress is being placed on SA households, with people on low incomes and experiencing disadvantage the most deeply affected.

South Australian energy consumers:

  • pay the highest electricity price per unit in the National Energy Market, and the most unaffordable energy of any mainland state - despite having among the lowest average household electricity usage
  • have the largest average residential energy debt in the NEM
  • face the highest extra costs associated with energy network-generated supernormal profits.

The current rental situation in South Australia includes:

  • A third of Adelaide renters in rental stress (spending more than 30% of their income on housing)
  • Average rent prices increasing by 7.1% overall for the 12 months to September - the biggest annual increase in rent prices since December 1990
  • 'Asking rent' prices in regional SA for a single parent on JobSeeker with children being no less than 40% of income in any region. 

Quotes attributable to SACOSS Director of Policy and Advocacy, Dr Rebecca Tooher

SACOSS' research and advocacy highlights that the cost of basic necessities like water, electricity, and housing impact greatly and disproportionately on people on low incomes and experiencing disadvantage.

We know that we are in the midst of a cost of living crisis, but its impacts are not distributed equally. Often, those with the least are paying the most for everyday essentials, with fewer options for relieving the pressure themselves.

People cannot choose to go without electricity. Energy companies, however, can choose how much they charge. The standard advice given to consumers to “shop around” doesn’t cut it anymore: people are running out of options and measures to insulate themselves from skyrocketing energy prices, particularly if they are on low incomes.

These rapidly increasing energy prices come at a time when energy companies are making supernormal profits.

SACOSS estimates for South Australians, It is particularly difficult to stomach these rapidly increasing energy prices at a time when energy companies have been recording supernormal profits, and our regulatory system is failing to adequately protect consumers from price hikes.

For those renters on low incomes, payments towards housing costs constitute not just the largest single household expenditure, but one which impacts on their quality of life and their ability to pay for all other goods and services.  
The consequences of not paying for housing costs – which could result in eviction and potentially homelessness – invariably mean that people have no choice but to sacrifice other household needs in order to keep up with paying their housing costs.

Published Date: 
Thursday, 26 October 2023