A POLITICAL candidate has proposed a cap on utility bills after labelling the cost of living a crisis.
Nationals candidate for Buninyong Sonia Smith said she would put a cap on further price increases across the state to bring it in line with the consumer price index.
She said the cost of living was the single biggest concern raised with her on the campaign trail.
To combat this she said she would introduce a private members bill into parliament to make the change if she was elected in November.
“Capping key utilities to CPI is not unreasonable,” she said.
She also plans on hosting a cost of living summit at M.A.D.E on November 16 to raise awareness of the issue.
“They (residents) can’t say no to these companies, they are being held over a barrel effectively.
“Businesses describe utilities as a killer.”
Ms Smith said she had seen bills where the cost had risen by as much as 700 per cent over the past 10 years.
“It is a crisis and something has to be done. It is crippling our farms, it is crippling our businesses and it is crippling our households,” she said.
“I am taking it seriously and I am going to do something about it.
“I will campaign for it and I would like to introduce a private members bill.”
Ms Smith said she believed support for the idea could come from both parties given the widespread nature of the problem.
However, Ballarat East MP Geoff Howard questioned the summit saying it was “way too late” to host such an event and then form policy from it.
“What has the National Party got to say on this?” he said.
“What people want to know two weeks out from the election is party policies.
“All party policies by then should be out there and very clear.”
Liberal candidate for Buninyong Ben Taylor said in principle the idea sounded good, however, more time was needed to find out what the repercussions would be to the community and government.
Energy Retailers Association of Australia chief executive Cameron O’Reilly said the energy market was highly volatile and retailers also provided hardship programs to customers struggling with payments.
“Energy prices have risen sharply – and more than CPI – in recent years due to cost increases in networks, wholesale costs, as well as green schemes,” he said.
“This accounts for about 85 per cent of your bill.
“Retailers have not driven the price rises, but as the billing agent for the entire industry value chain, retailers receive much of the consumer backlash over rising energy costs.”