Labor eyes campaign to explain power bills

POSTED May 24, 2012

THE federal government is working on plans to include an insert with household electricity bills later this year to explain the impact of the carbon tax.

Copies of a working version of the insert seen by The Australian say the tax contributes 9c out of every extra dollar in the power bills, retail 20c, wholesale electricity 20c and poles and wires 51c. The insert would explain that Treasury estimates the tax will raise power bills by $3.30 a week on average and households will receive $10.10 in compensation.

The decision is likely to counter mooted state government moves to include information detailing the exact cost of the carbon tax to each retail customer.

Climate Change Department official Brad Archer told a Senate estimates hearing the department had been talking to electricity retailers about the proposal since late last year. He said a small insert would be included with bills, and the plan relied on the "good will" of the electricity retailers.

Under a draft agreement seen by The Australian, the costs of printing the inserts and distribution to retailers' mailing houses will be borne by the government. The Climate Change Department would also set up call-centre support and website development and maintenance. But the electricity retailers would be expected to bear their own costs, such as postage. The inserts would be posted to households after the carbon tax started on July 1.

"We would like to have the insert . . . provided at a time that coincides with a bill which contains the carbon price impact for the bulk of the period to which the bill relates," Mr Archer said.

The draft agreement says the insert would be distributed for three months following the introduction of the carbon tax.

The department's deputy secretary, Steven Kennedy, told Senate estimates the information to be provided was already publicly available.

"We are trying to explain to people how the carbon price effects the electricity price (generally)," he said.

Dr Kennedy added that the proposal was still under consideration and the federal government was yet to make a final decision on the inserts.

Labor last week launched a $36 million advertising campaign to spruik its household assistance package.

Sid Maher (The Australian, May 22 2012)