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McGowan Government to ease soaring power bills

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Premier Mark McGowan has given West Australians an early Christmas present — a commitment that the years of soaring power bills are over.

Just days from announcing a Budget surplus of more than $500 million in 2019-20, he revealed his Government would not proceed with a planned 5.6 per cent electricity price hike.

Instead, Mr McGowan said households could expect “more affordable” bill rises, hinting at an increase closer to inflation, currently about 2 per cent.

He said WA’s improved financial situation meant the forecast hike was no longer needed.

He ruled out a freeze on bills, but promised future increases would be far lower than the 11 per cent and 7 per cent hikes of the past two years.

The WA Council of Social Services last night called for a freeze on charges for the most disadvantaged.

The announcement will be welcomed by WA families who have seen their power bills rise by more than 100 per cent over the past 10 years.

“I accept that the rises have been difficult and hard for people to bear,” Mr McGowan said. “Power (increases) have been significantly higher than CPI (the consumer price index). So that’s the area we will look at most.”

The Sunday Times understands Thursday’s mid-year review of State finances will show a Budget surplus in 2019-20 of between $500 million and $1 billion.

There will also be a slight reduction in projected State debt levels.

“It will be a substantial surplus in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” the Premier said.

Mr McGowan for the first time signalled what he intends to do with the first Budget surplus in six years — attack power charges.

“We will try and make it as affordable as possible because we understand that these increases in price have not been made easy,” he said. “I live in Rockingham and I mix with lots of people who are hard up.”

WACOSS bossLouise Giolitto said any person on a concession card should not receive any additional increase in power charges.

Shadow treasurer Dean Nalder said given the change in financial circumstances, any power increases should be aligned to the CPI.

Mr McGowan also said the surplus now allowed the Government to tackle State debt, which had risen from $3.6 billion in 2008 to $34 billion.

“It was appalling the condition that WA was allowed to get into, but by getting the State back into surplus we can get the debt under control and get debt headed downwards, which is my intention,” he said.

“I am not going to be the Premier who finishes paying off the debt created by the Liberals and Nationals, but I want to be the Premier that starts it.”
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