Cost of living concessions in this month’s Queensland budget will be increased by $200 million, but tens of millions is going unclaimed because the system has been too hard to navigate, to the peak welfare group says.
The annual budget provision for concessions is based on estimates of how much will be paid out to 500,000 different types of people requiring assistance.
This includes more than $5.5 billion in concessions for seniors, pensioners, veterans and low-income families for electricity and gas bills, textbook allowances for secondary students, travel and accommodation assistance for apprentices and many other forms of assistance.
“We know that there are some Queenslanders who are doing it tough, which is why it’s very important that we give them a hand up,” Treasurer Jackie Trad said.
The total handed out for the past two years has exceeded the budget predictions, even though only about a quarter of 160,000 eligible households this year have applied for one of the concessions — a $341 power bill rebate.
At least $40 million went unclaimed for that rebate this year.
Ms Trad said some people were not yet aware of the state government assistance.
“Whether they’re people with a newly diagnosed disability, whether they’re people who have found it difficult to get work and are now on income support payments from Centrelink, whether they are asylum seekers,” she said.
“So these are new card holders and we acknowledge that we need to do better.”
A “smart savings” website was launched last year for that reason.
Mark Henley from the Queensland Council of Social Services welcomed the budget increase, and urged people to check what was on offer.
“One of the problems is that it’s so hard to navigate the concessions that are out there and find out what is available,” he said.
“This actual website captures all of the concessions and it’s something that we’re strongly encouraging people to do.”
Power lines and trees in silhouette as sun shines at dusk in south-east Queensland. (ABC News: Shelley Lloyd)
LNP to spilt two publicly owned power companies into three
The State Opposition said it would keep the concessions, but would also restructure the electricity sector by splitting the two publicly owned generating companies, Stanwell and CS Energy, into three to reduce their market dominance and increase competition.
That would unwind changes by the Bligh Labor government which consolidated the previous Tarong, Stanwell and CS Energy government-owned corporations into two.
Deputy LNP leader Tim Mander said the Opposition would also order the generators to invest more in renewable energy.
“The Labor Government’s announcement today is a short-term sugar fix that offers limited concessions to just a few people.” Mr Mander said.
“The LNP’s long-term structural changes will lower electricity prices for everybody.”
Ms Trad said Labor was already planning to create a new renewable energy generating company.
“Electricity prices are coming down in Queensland,” she said.
Top 10 concessions currently available