Affording the basics

A VCOSS guide to what’s being funded, what’s missing out and where the 2019 budget might take Victoria.

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The 2019-20 budget delivers some big ticket items to ease the cost of living, including solar panel subsidies for 700,000 households, a new government-regulated, fair-priced energy deal, and free dental services for primary and secondary school students. VCOSS welcomes these measures, and looks forward to working with Government to ensure they benefit Victorians most in need.

Over the coming years, Victoria can invest in energy efficiency upgrades for people on low incomes, provide extra energy payment support to people with disability or long-term health conditions, and boost financial counselling services to help Victorians struggling with debt, high housing costs and other financial stresses.

 

Positive initiatives

Solar panel and solar hot water subsidies

The Victorian Government will provide solar panel rebates for 650,000 homeowners and 50,000 renters under the ‘Solar Homes’ program. Another 60,000 households will receive solar hot water system subsidies. Rebates are available for low and higher income earners.
Cost: $135.1m in 2019/20 ($545.5m/5 years)

 

A fairer energy market

The Victorian Government will implement sweeping reforms to the energy market, including the Victorian Default Offer—a government-regulated, fair-priced power deal—and bans on energy cold-calling and door-to-door sales. The energy regulator will have stronger powers to crack down on recalcitrant energy companies.
Cost: $6m in 2019/20 ($27.3m/4 years)

 

Power Saving Bonus

The $50 Power Saving Bonus will be extended until 30 June 2019, to encourage people to use the Victorian Energy Compare website to search for a cheaper power deal.

 

Essential support for people seeking asylum

In a warmly welcomed move, the Victorian Government will help prevent destitution among people seeking asylum, who are struggling to survive following the withdrawal of Commonwealth Government income support. People in acute need will receive mental health and trauma counselling, food, clothing, health care and housing assistance while their asylum applications are being determined.
Cost: $3m in 2019/20

 

Specialist family violence financial counselling*

Another 10 full-time specialist family violence financial counsellors will be funded, helping the many women who experience economic abuse as part of family violence.
Cost: $1.3m in 2019/20 ($5.5m/4 years)

 

Specialist rural financial counselling

The Rural Financial Counselling service will continue to deliver free financial counselling to farming and related small businesses facing financial hardship.
Cost: $1.7m in 2019/20

 

Free public wi-fi for Ararat and the Latrobe Valley

People in Ararat and the Latrobe Valley will be able to benefit from free public wi-fi, as part of a bigger package of regional development priority projects across rural and regional Victoria.
Cost: $82.9m in 2019/20 ($91.1m/4 years) (total projects budget)

 

New Foodbank Victoria hubs

The Victorian Government will fund the Fair Share charity kitchen in Abbotsford to collect food and cook meals for Victorians doing it tough. Government will also develop a business case to establish additional Foodbank Victoria hubs. VCOSS looks forward to the timely delivery of two new regional hubs, in line with Labor’s commitment in the 2018 Victorian election.
Cost: $12.5m in 2019/20

 

Further strategies

Affordable-to-run, climate-safe homes for people on low incomes

The Victorian Government could deliver larger bill savings and further reduce emissions by allowing people to spend the ‘Solar Homes’ subsidy on energy efficiency upgrades, such as insulation, affordable heating or cooling, window coverings and draught sealing. ‘Efficiency first’ means a more comfortable home, lower bills, and maximised solar use and export for households with solar panels.

 

Ramped-up financial counselling services

While VCOSS welcomes funding for specialist rural and family violence financial counselling, Victoria needs an extra 90 financial counsellors as a minimum to meet demand. Waiting lists are growing, making people more vulnerable to exploitative payday lenders and ‘debt help’ services. With timely, free support, people can address rental and mortgage stress, energy hardship and debt problems, and get back on their feet.

 

An Energy for Health concession

Health problems and disability can blow out energy bills and cause long-term energy hardship. Victoria can provide more comprehensive payment support to people with health- and disability-related energy needs by introducing a new Energy for Health concession. This would reduce costs for people who need to charge communication and mobility devices, have conditions aggravated by temperature changes, and other energy needs.

 

Affordable, nutritious food for all Victorians

VCOSS welcomes funding for regional food hubs, to help people experiencing food insecurity. The Victorian Government has a key role to play in supporting communities to develop long-term food security strategies, and help people grow, buy and prepare affordable and nutritious food close to home.

 

* Indicates the initiative is also included under other policy areas.

 

More VCOSS analysis
Read the VCOSS media release
Watch the VCOSS Treasurer's Breakfast
Real Spending Changes Table