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How to sign up for energy bill relief

<p>In the face of rising living costs, thousands of Australians have turned to their energy providers for financial assistance, highlighting the community spirit and support available during these challenging times. Energy companies like AGL Australia and Energy Australia are stepping up to help their customers manage their bills and find relief.</p> <p>AGL Australia has seen a significant increase in its financial hardship program, with 10,000 customers joining in the past year. Energy Australia receives 1,000 calls every weekday from customers seeking bill relief. These numbers reflect the proactive measures Australians are taking to manage their expenses and the readiness of energy providers to offer support.</p> <p>Crystal Noronha, who has worked at the AGL call centre for 11 years, has witnessed firsthand the growing need for assistance. "There's a lot of distress in their voice, there's anxiety," Noronha <a href="https://www.9news.com.au/national/thousands-of-customers-signing-up-for-energy-bill-relief-with-millions-more-eligible/9dc9535b-f94b-42f4-aeaf-6534dc898df2" target="_blank" rel="noopener">shared with 9NEWS</a>. "Some hide away from sharing their difficulties, but we're here to help them."</p> <p>Customers need not face extreme financial hardship to seek help, as everyone is eligible for some form of assistance.</p> <p>Gavin Dufty, from the charity St Vincent De Paul, underscores the commitment of energy companies to support their customers. "Every energy company has a legal obligation to provide support for all households regardless," Dufty explains. The assistance offered varies based on the provider and individual circumstances, ranging from bill extensions and more manageable payment plans to, in some cases, complete debt waivers.</p> <p>Adding to this support, the federal government is taking significant steps to ease the burden on households. Starting July 1, every household will receive a $300 credit into their energy account, providing substantial relief. Additionally, a free government website is available for customers to compare energy plan prices and find the most cost-effective options.</p> <p>These measures reflect a collaborative effort between energy providers and the government to ensure Australians can navigate the financial challenges of today's world. By offering practical solutions and financial relief, they are making a positive impact on the lives of many, ensuring that no one is left to face these difficulties alone.</p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Australia can afford to bulk bill all GP visits. So why don’t we?

<div class="theconversation-article-body"> <p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/yuting-zhang-1144393">Yuting Zhang</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/karinna-saxby-1045932">Karinna Saxby</a>, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p>Being able to afford health care is a <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/media-centre/media-releases/more-people-putting-seeing-health-professionals-due-cost">pressing issue</a> for many Australians. And encouraging GPs to bulk bill is <a href="https://theconversation.com/cheaper-medicines-and-a-new-approach-for-mental-health-care-will-the-budget-make-us-healthier-229612">one measure</a> the government is taking to ease the strain.</p> <p>So what would it take for GPs to bulk bill everyone? In our <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-8462.12553">recent paper</a>, we calculated this is possible and affordable, given the current health budget.</p> <p>But we show recent incentives for GPs to bulk bill aren’t enough to get us there.</p> <p>Instead, we need to adjust health policies to increase bulk-billing rates and to make our health system more sustainable.</p> <h2>How do the incentives work?</h2> <p>In recent years, the government has introduced various incentives to try and encourage GPs to bulk bill (so patients pay nothing out-of-pocket).</p> <p>The most recent has been the “<a href="https://www.health.gov.au/our-work/increases-to-bulk-billing-incentive-payments#1-november-2023-changes">triple bulk-billing incentives</a>” or “triple bonus” for short. These have been in place since November 2023.</p> <p>Under these incentives, GPs in metropolitan areas are paid a A$20.65 bonus if they bulk bill concession card holders or children under 16 years. GPs in rural and remote areas are paid $31.35-$39.65 extra. These bonus payments are in addition to regular Medicare rebates GPs receive.</p> <p>But when we looked at whether these latest incentives are likely to work to boost bulk billing, we found a city-country divide.</p> <h2>City GPs may not be convinced</h2> <p>We worked out the triple bonus will not help most people in metropolitan areas.</p> <p>That’s because in these areas the bonus is much lower than what patients currently pay out-of-pocket. In other words, if GPs did bulk bill these groups, their income would be lower than what they could have charged. So the bonus wouldn’t be enough incentive for them to bulk bill.</p> <p>For example, we found in greater Melbourne, the average out-of-pocket costs for a non-bulk billed GP visit <a href="https://melbourneinstitute.unimelb.edu.au/research/HALE-Hub/data">is about</a> $30-$56 depending on the suburb. This is much higher than the $20.65 triple bonus amount in metropolitan regions. We see similar patterns across all metropolitan areas.</p> <h2>But country GPs may be swayed</h2> <p>The picture is different in rural and remote areas. Here, the average out-of-pocket cost for a non-bulk billed GP visit <a href="https://melbourneinstitute.unimelb.edu.au/research/HALE-Hub/data">varies substantially</a> – around $28-52 in rural regions and $32-123 in remote areas. The highest cost on the mainland was $79 but GP visits on Lord Howe Island were the most expensive overall, at $123.</p> <p>For patients living in areas where their actual payment is less than the bonus amount, the incentive does help. In other words, it would be financially advantageous for GPs to bulk bill these patients, but not where the out-of-pocket costs are higher than the bonus.</p> <p>Our <a href="https://melbourneinstitute.unimelb.edu.au/research/HALE-Hub/data">online map</a> shows where GPs are most likely to bulk bill. The map below shows how out-of-pocket costs vary around Australia.</p> <p><iframe id="SPzgj" class="tc-infographic-datawrapper" style="border: none;" src="https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/SPzgj/" width="100%" height="400px" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <h2>How about bulk billing for all?</h2> <p>The picture is a little more complex when we start talking about bulk billing all GP visits – regardless of location or patients’ concession card status.</p> <p>We worked out this would cost about $950 million a year for all GP services, or $700 million a year for face-to-face GP consultations.</p> <p>This is within reach under the current budget, especially for face-to-face GP consultations.</p> <p>The government has earmarked <a href="https://www.health.gov.au/ministers/the-hon-mark-butler-mp/media/budget-2023-24-building-a-stronger-medicare#:%7E:text=%243.5%20billion%20in%20bulk%20billing,40%2Dyear%20history%20of%20Medicare">$3.5 billion</a> over <a href="https://archive.budget.gov.au/2023-24/bp2/download/bp2_2023-24.pdf">five years</a> for the “triple bonus” incentives. That’s $700 million a year.</p> <h2>We can afford to, but should we?</h2> <p>Introducing free GP visits for all would require careful consideration, as it would encourage more GP visits.</p> <p>This might be a good thing, particularly if people had previously skipped beneficial care <a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/media-centre/media-releases/more-people-putting-seeing-health-professionals-due-cost">due to high costs</a>. However, it may encourage more people to see their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1574006400801675">GP unnecessarily</a>, taking away limited resources from those who really need them. This could ultimately increase wait times for everyone.</p> <p>So providing free GP visits for all may not be efficient or sustainable, even if it’s within the budget.</p> <p>But paying more than $50 for a GP visit, as many do, seems too expensive and also makes the health-care system less efficient.</p> <p>That’s because primary care is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/primary-health-care">often considered</a> high-value and preventive care. So if people can’t afford to go to the GP, it can lead to more expensive hospital and emergency room costs down the track.</p> <p>So we need to strike a balance to make primary care more affordable <em>and</em> sustainable.</p> <h2>How do we strike a balance?</h2> <p>One, concession card holders and children should get free primary care regardless of where they live. This would allow more equitable care to populations who need health care the most. Bulk bulling children is a <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S016726812200292X#:%7E:text=Beside%20the%20benefits%20for%20the,and%20Kuh%2C%202002%3B%20Centers%20for">long-term investment</a>, which may delay onset of diseases, and prevent intergenerational poverty and poor health.</p> <p>Two, the government could also provide free primary care to all people in rural and remote areas. It can do this by lowering the triple bonus to match what GPs currently charge. Over time, GPs and the government can evaluate and <a href="https://www.auspublaw.org/blog/2023/4/the-civil-conscription-sub-clause-in-section-51xxiiia-of-the-australian-constitution-no-impediment-to-reform-of-medicare">negotiate</a> fair prices for GPs to charge. This can be adjusted in line with inflation and other measures.</p> <p>Three, the government can increase Medicare rebates (the amount Medicare pays a doctor for a GP visit) so patients not covered above only pay about $20-30 a visit. We consider this an affordable amount that will not result in more use of primary care than necessary.</p> <p>Four, the government can design a policy to reduce unnecessary GP visits that take away limited GP time from high-need patients. For example, patients currently need to see GPs to get <a href="https://theconversation.com/specialist-referral-rules-havent-changed-much-since-the-70s-but-australias-health-needs-sure-have-144506">referral letters</a> although they already have an established specialist for their ongoing chronic conditions.</p> <p>Five, the government can provide GPs funding needed to improve patient outcomes and reward GPs who provide <a href="https://bmjopenquality.bmj.com/content/10/1/e001127.abstract">high-quality preventive care</a>. The current fee-for-service funding model hurts good doctors who keep their patients healthy because doctors are not paid if their patients do not come back.<!-- Below is The Conversation's page counter tag. Please DO NOT REMOVE. --><img style="border: none !important; box-shadow: none !important; margin: 0 !important; max-height: 1px !important; max-width: 1px !important; min-height: 1px !important; min-width: 1px !important; opacity: 0 !important; outline: none !important; padding: 0 !important;" src="https://counter.theconversation.com/content/230204/count.gif?distributor=republish-lightbox-basic" alt="The Conversation" width="1" height="1" /><!-- End of code. If you don't see any code above, please get new code from the Advanced tab after you click the republish button. The page counter does not collect any personal data. More info: https://theconversation.com/republishing-guidelines --></p> <p><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/yuting-zhang-1144393"><em>Yuting Zhang</em></a><em>, Professor of Health Economics, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/karinna-saxby-1045932">Karinna Saxby</a>, Research Fellow, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, <a href="https://theconversation.com/institutions/the-university-of-melbourne-722">The University of Melbourne</a></em></p> <p><em>Image credits: Shutterstock </em></p> <p><em>This article is republished from <a href="https://theconversation.com">The Conversation</a> under a Creative Commons license. Read the <a href="https://theconversation.com/australia-can-afford-to-bulk-bill-all-gp-visits-so-why-dont-we-230204">original article</a>.</em></p> </div>

Money & Banking

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Cancer survivor slapped with $15,000 water bill

<p>An Aussie man has been slapped with a $15,645.86 water bill after the <span style="font-family: Inter, sans-serif; font-size: 16px; letter-spacing: -0.16px; background-color: #ffffff;">Goulburn Mulwaree Council </span>claimed he had used more than 35,000 litres a day over 104 days. </p> <p>Anthony, who lives on his own in the Southern Tablelands, said that his bill is normally around $290 and that he uses about 130 litres of water a day, the average amount a person would use according to Sydney Water. </p> <p>"A 15-and-a-half thousand dollar water bill, they can go and get themselves nicked," he told <em>A Current Affair</em>. </p> <p>"I'm not paying it, no way in the world."</p> <p>The local mechanic is a cancer survivor, but the disease has made it difficult for him to communicate, so he went to a council meeting with his father, Neil, who talked on his behalf. </p> <p>"I couldn't believe it when he showed me the bill," Neil said. </p> <p>"Currently now, we're at this point in stage where we can't get any reasonable common sense from the council.</p> <p>"I said, 'It's got to be the crook meter', and she said, 'We've had a lot of meters tested and they've all come back positive. </p> <p>"And I said, 'What about this meter?' and she said, 'It'll cost you $50 to have it tested but there'll be nothing wrong with it'."</p> <p>Anthony is accused of using more than 3.6million litres of water,  which is equivalent to filling two Olympic sized swimming pools - or having five taps running all-day. </p> <p>He has received multiple emails from the local council asking him to prove his claim. </p> <p>The local mechanic also said that he received an overdue bill notice ordering him to pay it immediately. </p> <p>"I got an email saying I can have a payment plan and all the rest of it... like, get real," he said. </p> <p>"I'm not going to pay it."</p> <p>Anthony uses his own water tank to water his lawn, fill his fishpond and wash his car, and only uses town waters to wash up and shower. </p> <p>He has been asked to prepare a detailed letter of his water usage, which will be presented at a council meeting later this month.</p> <p><em>Image: Nine</em></p> <p> </p>

Money & Banking

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Kochie reveals the simple way to halve your grocery bill

<p>David Koch has revealed the simple trick to help you save big bucks at the supermarket as the cost of living crisis continues to hit hard. </p> <p>Kochie, who is the Compare the Market's economic director, calculated that Aussies can save up to $100 per trip to the grocery shop by making the switch to home brands. </p> <p>According to research of major Australian supermarkets, the average household can save big bucks by choosing not to buy well-known brands, which can lead to a saving of $5,000 per year. </p> <p>"So, when you're doing your supermarket shop, what's in a brand name? Well, let me tell you - plenty," Kochie said in a video posted to the Compare the Market Instagram account. </p> <p>"You are paying plenty more for that loyalty to a brand that you love."</p> <blockquote class="instagram-media" style="background: #FFF; border: 0; border-radius: 3px; box-shadow: 0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width: 540px; min-width: 326px; padding: 0; width: calc(100% - 2px);" data-instgrm-permalink="https://www.instagram.com/reel/C57UwVrvSZ5/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" data-instgrm-version="14"> <div style="padding: 16px;"> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 100px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 60px;"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="padding: 19% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: block; height: 50px; margin: 0 auto 12px; width: 50px;"> </div> <div style="padding-top: 8px;"> <div style="color: #3897f0; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: 550; line-height: 18px;">View this post on Instagram</div> </div> <div style="padding: 12.5% 0;"> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: row; margin-bottom: 14px; align-items: center;"> <div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(0px) translateY(7px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; height: 12.5px; transform: rotate(-45deg) translateX(3px) translateY(1px); width: 12.5px; flex-grow: 0; margin-right: 14px; margin-left: 2px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; height: 12.5px; width: 12.5px; transform: translateX(9px) translateY(-18px);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: 8px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 20px; width: 20px;"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 2px solid transparent; border-left: 6px solid #f4f4f4; border-bottom: 2px solid transparent; transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg);"> </div> </div> <div style="margin-left: auto;"> <div style="width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);"> </div> <div style="width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);"> </div> </div> </div> <div style="display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center; margin-bottom: 24px;"> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; margin-bottom: 6px; width: 224px;"> </div> <div style="background-color: #f4f4f4; border-radius: 4px; flex-grow: 0; height: 14px; width: 144px;"> </div> </div> <p style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 17px; margin-bottom: 0; margin-top: 8px; overflow: hidden; padding: 8px 0 7px; text-align: center; text-overflow: ellipsis; white-space: nowrap;"><a style="color: #c9c8cd; font-family: Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; line-height: 17px; text-decoration: none;" href="https://www.instagram.com/reel/C57UwVrvSZ5/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=loading" target="_blank" rel="noopener">A post shared by Compare the Market AU (@comparethemarket_aus)</a></p> </div> </blockquote> <p>Compare the Market took to a major supermarket and bought 25 items from big name brands, and another 25 similar items from a challenger supermarket selling cheaper home brands.</p> <p>Based on substituting big-brand products for lesser-known labels, grocery bills would fall from $201.19 a week to $103.51, taking the weekly saving up to $97.68.</p> <p>"Now, multiply that weekly shop over a whole year and that's a saving of over $5,000."</p> <p>"Almost three return economy airfares to London."</p> <p>Everyday Aussies are continuing to struggle with the rising cost of groceries, with the price of bread and cereal increasing by 7.3 per cent in the year to March, an official monthly measure of inflation showed. </p> <p><em>Image credits: Instagram </em></p>

Money & Banking

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"There's no way": Man receives $52 billion tax bill

<p>An American man has been left confused after receiving a letter from the government claiming he owed $52 billion in unpaid taxes. </p> <p>Barry Tangert got two letters in the mail from the state of Pennsylvania, opening the first to find a refund check from the federal government for over $900.</p> <p>His joy was short-lived though as he opened the second letter to find the income billing notice from the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue claiming that he owed a jaw-dropping $52,950,744,735.28 ($34,576,826,561.47 AUD).</p> <p>“I knew it was an obvious blunder. I don’t even make over $100,000 a year, so there’s no way I could owe anywhere near that,” Barry Tangert told local outlet <em>News 8</em>.</p> <p>The total sum was so large it didn’t even fit on a single line on the document.</p> <p>Tangert immediately knew it was a mistake, with the astonishing number being more than triple the $11 billion America’s richest man Elon Musk says he owed the government in 2022.</p> <p>How the error made it all the way to his doorstep is still a mystery to Tangert.</p> <p>“I don’t know if it was a computer glitch in the transmission or if it was an input error from my tax preparer,” Tangert said, noting that his tax preparer filed an amendment after noticing an error on his 2022 return.</p> <p>He reached out to the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue’s customer service line, which also provided little help to the baffled man.</p> <p>“The first thing he said was, ‘You had a good year.’ And I said, ‘I wish,’” Tangert said.</p> <p>Fortunately, the state department has since resolved the issue, which it chalked up to wrong numbers simply being put into the system.</p> <p><em>Image credits: WGAL News 8</em></p> <p> </p>

Money & Banking

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Tourist slapped with $225k bill after simple mistake

<p>An American tourist has revealed the moment he was charged with a $US143k (AU$225k) bill after a short holiday to Switzerland. </p> <p>Rene Remund and his wife Linda went on the trip last September.</p> <p>Prior to their travels, Remund made sure to inform his mobile phone provider, T-Mobile, that he was going overseas and as a customer of 30 years, he was told he was “covered”.</p> <p>So, with no worries at all, the tourist shared photos of his moments in the Swiss countryside with friends and family via photo messages. </p> <p>Imagine his surprise when he came home to a six-figure bill, after he racked up thousands and thousands of dollars in daily roaming costs. </p> <p>“I get this T-Mobile bill and it doesn’t bother me very much because I was reading $143,” he explained, adding it wasn’t until he went to pay the bill that he realised a few more zeros were involved.</p> <p>“I look at the bill and I say, ‘excuse me’,” he said.</p> <p>“$143,000 … are you guys crazy?”</p> <p>According to the bill, Remund had racked up 9.5 gigabytes of data while in Europe, which cost him thousands of dollars each day. While it wasn't a huge amount of data, not being covered by roaming fees will cause a user to run up a huge bill very quickly. </p> <p>“I called [T-Mobile] and the girl put me on hold for a while,” he explained.</p> <p>“She said let me check this out and I’ll get back to you. She gets back and says, yeah this is a good bill.</p> <p>“I said, ‘what do you mean it’s a good bill?’ And she says ‘well, this is what you owe’.</p> <p>“I said ‘you’re kidding me … you’re crazy’.”</p> <p>After confirming that his bill was in fact  AU$225,000, Remund hired a lawyer to argue the fact that he was covered for international roaming. </p> <p>His lawyer issued a letter to the president of T-Mobile, and they only received a reply a few days ago. </p> <p>The letter from T-Mobile allegedly said that the service provider was “sorry” for the charges, and that Remund would receive a “credit” to eliminate the entire bill. </p> <p>In an email shared to local media <em>Scripps News Tampa</em>, the mobile phone provider said that customers should always “check the travel features of their plan, such as international data roaming, before departing”.</p> <p>“If a customer is on an older plan that doesn’t include international roaming for data and calling, they’ll need to make sure they’re using aeroplane mode and wi-fi when using data to be certain the device doesn’t connect to an international network.”</p> <p><em style="box-sizing: inherit; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-size: 16px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #323338; font-family: Figtree, Roboto, 'Noto Sans Hebrew', 'Noto Kufi Arabic', 'Noto Sans JP', sans-serif; background-color: #ffffff; outline: none !important;">Images: ABC Action News</em></p> <p> </p>

Travel Trouble

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Millions of Aussies set for power bill relief

<p>Millions of Aussies are set for some financial relief, with electricity costs set to drop by up to 7 per cent in the coming months. </p> <p>The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) and Victoria's Essential Services Commission (ESC) both released their draft default market offers - the maximum energy retailers are allowed to charge customers - for the 2024-25 financial year. </p> <p>Under the AER draft, residents in Sydney, Newcastle and the Hunter on the default offer will pay between 3 and 3.4 per cent less for electricity starting from July 1. </p> <p>The biggest drop is set for Victoria, with the ESC proposing a 6.4 per cent decrease. </p> <p>Those in Western Sydney, the Illawarra, and South Coast, will see their electricity bills decrease by 1.9 to 7.1 per cent. </p> <p>South Australians will receive a drop between 0.5 and 2.5 per cent. </p> <p>A number of small business customers will also benefit from lower power bill costs with 9.7 per cent for Sydney, Newcastle and the Hunter; 4.4 per cent for Western Sydney and the South Coast; 0.3 per cent for South-East Queensland; 8.2 per cent for South Australia; and 7 per cent for Victoria.</p> <p>Energy Minister Chris Bowen welcomed the news of lower power bill costs, but acknowledged that it will continue to play a part in the cost of living challenges faced by many Australians. </p> <p>"This is encouraging news," he said.</p> <p>"Encouraging for those small businesses and families who will receive lower energy bills as a result.</p> <p>"But nobody should suggest that there aren't real cost of living pressures around the world and in Australia, and energy prices are of course part of that and will continue to be."</p> <p>Not everyone will see a drop, with customers in the rest of regional NSW to get a small increase of 0.9 per cent, while the default offer for South East Queensland will increase by up to 2.7 per cent.</p> <p>While not all households are on the default offer, Bowen said that the AER's decision will also affect those not on the offer. </p> <p>"This either impacts directly or indirectly your energy bill," he said.</p> <p>"Directly for those on the default market offer. For those who aren't on the direct market offer, indirectly - the energy companies have to benchmark themselves against this, tell their consumers how they compare to this, and it provides very real pressure on them to match it.</p> <p>"If they don't, consumers will know about it and will make choices accordingly.</p> <p>"It's partly about those on the default market offer, but it actually impacts on all our bills indirectly."</p> <p>AER chair Clare Savage said that the cost of living crisis was the main contributor for their draft decision. </p> <p>"We know that economic conditions have put pressure on many Australians and the increases in electricity prices over the last two years has made energy less affordable for many households," she said. </p> <p>"In light of this, the AER has, in this decision, placed increased weight on protecting consumers." </p> <p>The draft decision is not final, with both the AER and ESC to receive consultation and feedback from stakeholders before confirming their default market offers in May.</p> <p><em>Image: Getty</em></p>

Money & Banking

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Papa Swift vs Paparazzi: Taylor Swift's dad accused of assault

<p>In the midst of celebrations marking the conclusion of Taylor Swift's Eras tour in Sydney, an unexpected and troubling incident has emerged involving her father – Scott Swift.</p> <p>The 71-year-old has been accused of assaulting an Australian photographer, Ben McDonald, in the early hours of Tuesday morning at a Sydney wharf in Neutral Bay.</p> <p>According to reports confirmed by NSW Police, the alleged altercation occurred around 2:30am, following Taylor Swift's final performance in the city.</p> <p>It's said that Taylor and her father had been enjoying post-show festivities when the incident took place, tarnishing what should have been a joyous occasion.</p> <p>McDonald, who serves as the chief executive of Matrix Media Group, recounted the events to <a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-13128721/Taylor-Swift-father-Scott-assault-photographer-Sydney-wharf.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>Daily Mail Australia</em></a>, shedding light on the confrontation. He stated that Taylor and Scott arrived at the wharf after travelling from Homebush on a luxury superyacht named <em>Quantum</em>.</p> <p>McDonald claims that after they disembarked, Scott allegedly 'charged' at him. McDonald originally thought that it was a security guard, and was surprised when he realised it was Taylor's dad.</p> <p>"In 23 years of taking pictures, I have never seen anything like it," he told the <em>Daily Mail</em>. "He probably decided he needed to defend his daughter, for some reason... She got off the boat, she walked towards security guards who were shoving umbrellas in our faces, and then he charged."</p> <p>Footage capturing the moments leading up to and following the alleged assault has surfaced, providing some insight into the incident. <a href="https://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-13128721/Taylor-Swift-father-Scott-assault-photographer-Sydney-wharf.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The video</a> shows Taylor and her father walking up from the wharf, shielded by large umbrellas held by security guards. Amid the commotion, McDonald attempted to capture the scene, and was obstructed by the guards protecting Taylor and her companions, including Mr Swift.</p> <p>In the aftermath, McDonald reported the incident to authorities. He did not sustain serious injuries, though he described experiencing discomfort and soreness on the left side of his face.</p> <p><em>Images: YouTube</em></p>

Legal

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AusPost customer faces extra charge for using cash

<p dir="ltr">As conversations continue about moving to a cashless society, an Australia Post customer was outraged after being slapped with a charge for using cash. </p> <p dir="ltr">Brisbane resident Gerrie Hoogland shared her outrage after hearing about the supposed cash charge through a friend, who claims they were charged $2.20 for wanting to use cash to pay a bill. </p> <p dir="ltr">Hoogland recounted the story on X, formerly known as Twitter, to share the story, while asking if anyone else had encountered anything similar. </p> <p dir="ltr">She wrote, “A friend of my husband’s went to pay a bill at the Post Office last week. He gave them $82.00 in cash and they said they would have to charge him $2.20 for using cash.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“He refused to pay it after telling them cash is legal tender, and then he left without paying the bill at all. Is anyone else hearing more of this?”</p> <p dir="ltr">A number of Aussies took to the comments to call out Australia Post for being “shady”, with some calling the fee a “scam” and a “disgrace”. </p> <p dir="ltr">However the outrage towards Australia Post may be misplaced. </p> <p dir="ltr"><em><a href="https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/australia-post-customer-charged-220-for-using-cash---but-is-the-outrage-warranted-025519571.html">Yahoo Finance</a></em> has contacted the national postal service and understands the fee is set by individual billers, rather than Australia Post themselves.</p> <p dir="ltr">The fee relates to bills paid in person at an Australia Post outlet via Post Billpay and can apply to both cash and card transactions, and whether or not the fee is passed onto the customer will depend on the individual biller. </p> <p dir="ltr">In recent years, a number of billers charge an additional payment fee for bills paid in person, with some notable examples include telcos Telstra, Optus and Vodafone.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Shutterstock</em><span id="docs-internal-guid-934db778-7fff-f88e-e460-f8550a0ce109"></span></p>

Money & Banking

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Radio host mourns passing of wife after 30-year marriage

<p>Queensland radio host Bill McDonald is mourning the loss of his wife following her "courageous battle" with cancer. </p> <p>He and Julianne had been married for 30-years before her tragic passing on Wednesday and share four sons together. </p> <p>Their eldest son, Jordan, shared the sad news on Facebook, with a heartbreaking photo of him holding his mother's hand on the hospital bed. </p> <p>“On behalf of the McDonald family, we are deeply saddened to share that Mum passed away early this morning after a courageous battle with cancer,” he wrote. </p> <p>“We love you and will miss you dearly.”</p> <p>McDonald took some time off his new role as Ray Hadley's Brisbane <em>4BC radio </em>replacement following the devastating news.</p> <p>His colleague Gary Hardgrave covered for him and broke the news to 4BC listeners. </p> <p>“Gary Hardgrave here in the chair this morning for Bill McDonald. Look, I have some sad news to share with 4BC listeners this morning,” he said. </p> <p>He then explained the situation and shared Jordan's Facebook post, before adding: “We are thinking of Bill and his four sons at this dreadful and difficult time.”</p> <p><span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">McDonald </span>and Julianne share four sons together, Jordan, Hamish, William, and James.</p> <p><span style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">McDonald</span> was  Channel Seven newsreader for Brisbane before he took over Hadley‘s radio slot on 4BC, after Hadley's long-running morning program was discontinued.</p> <p>McDonald was named the new host of the 9am-noon slot on weekdays in September. </p> <p><em style="font-family: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, 'Segoe UI', Roboto, Oxygen, Ubuntu, Cantarell, 'Open Sans', 'Helvetica Neue', sans-serif;">Images: Facebook</em></p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p> <p> </p>

Caring

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"My unexpected $223,000 overseas bill"

<p>Jeffrey Yates had just embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday with his wife to celebrate their wedding anniversary.</p> <p>Instead, he ended up racking up a whopping $223,255 bill, the biggest claim his insurance company had seen during 2017.</p> <p>The 71-year-old from Western Australia said the pair’s much-anticipated trip had started off well.</p> <p>“The trip was a particularly special one as it was our 50th wedding anniversary, so it was something we’d been looking forward to for quite some time,” Mr Yates told <strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><a href="http://www.news.com.au/travel/travel-advice/health-safety/my-unexpected-223000-overseas-bill/news-story/94cd850899f9e1367bf6f3fb49621307">news.com.au.</a></span></strong></p> <p>“We started in Dubai, and then went over to Athens. From there, we jumped on a cruise from Athens to Barcelona.”</p> <p>But things soon took a turn when Jeffrey was struck with a series of illnesses while in Italy.</p> <p>“We were only a week in when my health started to deteriorate,” he said. “I contracted legionnaires’ disease and pneumonia which led to me discovering that I had emphysema on the trip.</p> <p>“The experience was quite scary and my wife and our two friends had to leave the cruise early to assist during my recovery.”</p> <p>He ended up in hospital for more than a month.</p> <p>“Within three days they’d dropped us off in Naples to see a specialist hospital, which led to 16 days in intensive care. This was followed by an extended stay in hospital.</p> <p>“All up, I was out of action for 47 days. After all was said and done, the total came to well over $220,000 … It was an extremely difficult situation.”</p> <p>Jeff says that while the couple always take out travel insurance, it was more for his wife who has ongoing health issues. He hadn’t anticipated he would need it.</p> <p>“It’s not something you think about, especially given how quickly those transportation and hospital bills can add up,” he said.</p> <p>“Of course, we were disappointed that such a long-awaited trip had been cut short, but we are grateful that it wasn’t worse and that we weren’t left out of pocket.”</p> <p>He says his experience show that all travellers need to protect themselves when travelling – as you really never know what could happen.</p> <p>Jeff still has ongoing health issues that he is being monitored for, including breathing issues for which he still requires oxygen.</p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

Travel Trouble

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How to avoid mobile phone bill horror stories when travelling

<p>"I'm sorry, calls to this number are not allowed, please try again later". This. Again. At 1am standing outside what I thought was our Galway Airbnb, but instead was a popular alley for Irish revellers to relieve themselves. Brilliant.</p> <p>After begging a convenience store manager, borrowing a phone and stealing some local wi-fi, we made it to bed before 3am (one-star rating for the Airbnb host, naturally). Such was the power of the phone company when you're on holiday, I still got pinged far-too-high amounts for calls and data used to attempt a check-in at the Irish abode.</p> <p>A reader recently contacted me wanting to avoid such a conundrum by asking for the best SIM cards available in Europe. Thankfully, EU law has recently shielded travellers from harsh cross-border roaming charges by ruling that providers cannot charge excessively for access to rival networks in fellow EU nations.</p> <p>You'll see the kiosks hawking pre-paid SIM packages at many major airports. If you want the dependability a SIM provides, assess your needs and shop around. </p> <p>Better yet, get to know your smartphone better and use the whole range of mobile apps that will soon make international call and text roaming redundant. Organising hotels, taxis, tours, dinner reservations as well as calling home and making your friends and colleagues jealous with holiday snaps can all be done with a wi-fi connections, which are readily available and far cheaper (if not free).</p> <p><strong>Avoid phone bill shock when you're away</strong></p> <ul> <li>Contact your mobile phone company rep about your destination and length of stay to see what add-ons and spending caps may be best.</li> <li>Only purchase local SIMs if you're in the country more than a week, have an unplanned itinerary or will have no free wi-fi at your accommodation.</li> <li>If you're on a per-day bundle, choose a few days to be on-the-grid and turn off your mobile data on other days.</li> <li>Go wi-fi only, in North American, Asian and European cities it's readily available.</li> <li>Embrace apps like Uber, Gett, WhatsApp, OpenTable and TripAdvisor to book taxis, call home and book restaurants and tours using hotel wi-fi and thus limiting calls.</li> </ul> <p><em>Image credit: Shutterstock</em></p> <p><em>Written by Josh Martin. Republished with permission of <a href="http://www.stuff.co.nz/" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Stuff.co.nz</span></strong></a>.</em></p>

Travel Tips

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Energy bill relief to benefit just one Aussie demographic

<p>Nearly half a million older Australians will receive hundreds of dollars in energy bill relief as the federal government looks to battle rising power prices.</p> <p>Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth revealed that all Commonwealth seniors health card holders will be given up to $500 per household.</p> <p>The 490,000-plus recipients will include an extra 16,320 people granted access to the card after the federal government introduced higher income thresholds for eligibility in November 2022.</p> <p>The new income limits are $90,000 for singles and $144,000 (combined) for couples.</p> <p>The government claimed this would benefit 52,000 older people by 2026-27.</p> <p>Rishworth explained the energy relief would be available from July 2023.</p> <p>The Australian Energy Regulator (AER) released its final determination on May 25, with a revised price increase higher than the March draft that saw a 20 to 22 per cent rise.</p> <p>AER chair Clare Savage said it had been a “difficult decision” but high wholesale energy costs continued to hike up retail prices.</p> <p>“No one wants to see rising prices, and we recognise this is a difficult time, that’s why it’s important for consumers to shop around for a better deal,” she said.</p> <p>Following the AER’s announcement, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton appeared on <em>Today</em> and said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had “lied” to Australians about energy prices.</p> <p>“Let’s be very clear about it, he promised on 97 occasions your bill would go down by $275,” he told <em>Today</em> host Karl Stefanovic.</p> <p>“I think the government’s completely underestimating how much families and small businesses are hurting at the moment.”</p> <p>The bill comes shortly after the Australian Energy Regulator revealed electric prices were set to increase by 25 per cent for about 600,000 customers across three states from July 1.</p> <p>The federal government’s latest budget committed to $3 billion in financial support for those struggling to pay their power bill.</p> <p><em>Image credit: Shutterstock</em></p>

Money & Banking

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1 in 4 households struggle to pay power bills. Here are 5 ways to tackle hidden energy poverty

<p><a href="https://energyconsumersaustralia.com.au/news/how-increases-in-energy-prices-are-impacting-consumers#:%7E:text=Energy%2520affordability%2520is%2520not%2520just,in%2520the%2520past%252012%2520months.">One in four Australian households</a> are finding it hard to pay their gas and electricity bills. As winter looms, <a href="https://www.aer.gov.au/news-release/default-market-offer-2023%25E2%2580%259324-draft-determination">energy price rises</a> will make it even harder. Cold homes and disconnections resulting from energy poverty threaten people’s health and wellbeing.</p> <p><a href="https://www.acoss.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2023/03/ACOSS-cost-of-living-report2-March-2023_web_FINAL.pdf">Income support for welfare recipients</a> and retrofitting homes to make them more thermally efficient – by adding insulation, for example – can ease the burden. And when homes are not too cold or hot, <a href="https://theconversation.com/fuel-poverty-makes-you-sick-so-why-has-nothing-changed-since-i-was-a-child-living-in-a-cold-home-201787">people’s health benefits</a>. This in turn <a href="https://apo.org.au/node/319556">eases pressure on the public health system</a>.</p> <p>However, many people are missing out on assistance as programs often do not recognise their difficulties. Their energy vulnerability is hidden.</p> <h2>What forms does hidden energy poverty take?</h2> <p><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629623000737">Our newly published study</a> has revealed six aspects of hidden energy vulnerability. These are:</p> <ol> <li> <p>underconsumption – households limit or turn off cooling, heating and/or lights to avoid disconnections</p> </li> <li> <p>incidental masking – other welfare support, such as rent relief, masks difficulties in paying energy bills</p> </li> <li> <p>some households disguise energy poverty by using public facilities such as showers or pooling money for bills between families</p> </li> <li> <p>some people conceal their hardship due to pride or fear of legal consequences, such as losing custody of children if food cannot be refrigerated because the power has been cut off</p> </li> <li> <p>poor understanding of energy efficiency and the health risks of cold or hot homes adds to the problem</p> </li> <li> <p>eligibility criteria for energy assistance programs may exclude some vulnerable households. For example, people with income just above the welfare threshold are missing out on energy concessions. Energy retailer hardship programs also ignore people who have voluntarily disconnected due to financial hardship.</p> </li> </ol> <h2>5 ways to help these households</h2> <p>Our studies suggest trusted intermediaries such as people working in health, energy and social services can play a vital role in identifying and supporting such households.</p> <p>First, energy efficiency and hardship initiatives may be <a href="https://www.rmit.edu.au/about/schools-colleges/property-construction-and-project-management/research/research-centres-and-groups/sustainable-building-innovation-laboratory/projects/care-at-home-system-improvements">integrated into the My Aged Care in-home care system</a>. Energy poverty risk identification, response and referral could be built into the national service’s assessment form. This could leverage existing client screening processes.</p> <p>The system’s front-line staff could connect at-risk householders with energy counsellors. These counsellors could help people access better energy contracts, concessions, home retrofits and appliance upgrade programs.</p> <p>A new Commonwealth “energy supplement” could help pay for essential energy-related home modifications. This would help avoid My Aged Care funds being diverted from immediate healthcare needs.</p> <p>Second, general practitioners and other health professionals could help identify energy vulnerability among patients with medical conditions of concern. They could also provide letters of support emphasising renters’ health-based need for air conditioners or heaters.</p> <p>Third, energy providers could use household energy data to identify those that seem to be under-consuming or are often disconnected. They could also identify those that are not on “best offer” deals. They could be proactive in checking struggling householders’ eligibility for ongoing energy concessions and one-off debt relief grants offered by states and territories.</p> <p>Energy providers could also make it easier for social housing providers to ensure concessions for tenants renew automatically.</p> <p>Fourth, local councils could use their data to identify at-risk householders. They might include those with a disability parking permit, discounted council rates or in arrears, on the social housing waiting list, Meals on Wheels clients and social housing tenants. Maternal and child health nurses and home and community care workers making home visits could call attention to cold or hot homes.</p> <p>Councils could employ in-house energy counsellors to provide assistance and energy literacy training. Council home maintenance teams could develop bulk-buying, insulation and neighbourhood retrofit programs.</p> <p>Strategies to reduce vulnerability to energy poverty should be part of municipal public health and wellbeing plans. Under these strategies, net-zero-carbon funds set up by states and local councils to reduce emissions could finance targeted housing retrofits.</p> <p>We also suggest setting up a central helpline to improve access to energy assistance via local referrals.</p> <p>Fifth, residential energy-efficiency programs could become more person-centric. For example, we already have <a href="https://www.homescorecard.gov.au/">Residential Efficiency Scorecard</a> audits to assess the thermal quality of a home. These audits could also explore whether concessions and better energy deals are available to the household.</p> <h2>Building capacity at all levels</h2> <p><a href="https://cur.org.au/cms/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/tackling-hidden-energy-final.pdf">Capacity-building strategies</a> are needed at all levels – individual, community and government – to overcome the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629623000737">challenges</a> of reducing energy poverty. Current obstacles include the competing priorities of service providers, lack of time and resources, and <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2214629622003553">poor co-ordination between siloed</a> programs and services.</p> <p>Access to essential energy services should be part of state and local governments’ strategic health plans. Housing, energy and health departments could work together to include housing retrofits in preventive health programs.</p> <p>A comprehensive approach is needed to overcome hidden energy poverty. It must include public education, integrated services and well-funded energy-efficiency programs. Regulatory reforms and ongoing funding are both needed to improve the availability of energy-efficient, affordable homes for tenants.</p> <p>Our suggested strategies start with improving the skills and knowledge of trusted intermediaries. Doctors, social workers, housing officers, community nurses and volunteers can play a central role. Using these front-line professionals to help identify and act on energy poverty offers a novel, cost-effective and targeted solution.</p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/1-in-4-households-struggle-to-pay-power-bills-here-are-5-ways-to-tackle-hidden-energy-poverty-204672" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Images: Getty</em></p>

Home Hints & Tips

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Why are electricity prices going up again, and will it ever end?

<p>Households and businesses are set for more hip-pocket pain after regulators on Wednesday released draft details of electricity price rises in four Australian states.</p> <p>The Australian Energy Regulator <a href="https://www.aer.gov.au/news-release/default-market-offer-2023%E2%80%9324-draft-determination">revealed</a> residential customers on standard plans should brace for price increases of up to 24% in the next financial year. The price rises apply to households in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.</p> <p>The Victorian regulator <a href="https://www.esc.vic.gov.au/media-centre/victorian-default-offer-2023-24-draft-decision">also flagged</a> an electricity price hike of up to 30% in that state.</p> <p>It’s another blow in an already difficult financial situation for many, as interest rates continue to rise and inflation soars. Consumers are justified in asking: why is this happening? And is there an end in sight?</p> <h2>The basics, explained</h2> <p>The regulator released a draft of what’s known as the “default market offer”. It’s basically the maximum amount energy retailers can charge customers on default energy plans.</p> <p>So what’s a default energy plan? It’s the standard plan you’re on if you didn’t negotiate a special deal with your energy retailer, or if a deal you were on has expired.</p> <p>According to the ABC, <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-03-15/australian-energy-regulator-default-market-offer/102094290">around one million</a> electricity customers in the four states mentioned above are on default market offers.</p> <p>Many consumers are on default plans because they don’t have the time or inclination to engage with their electricity retailer to negotiate a better deal. Others, quite understandably, find the whole process too confusing to navigate.</p> <p>That’s why default market offers were introduced. Both the federal and Victorian policies were developed <a href="https://www.esc.vic.gov.au/electricity-and-gas/inquiries-studies-and-reviews/electricity-and-gas-retail-markets-review-implementation-2018">after</a> <a href="https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/accc-releases-blueprint-to-reduce-electricity-prices">reviews</a> found competition in retail electricity markets was not leading to lower prices for households or small businesses.</p> <p>The Victorian default offer began <a href="https://www.esc.vic.gov.au/electricity-and-gas/inquiries-studies-and-reviews/electricity-and-gas-retail-markets-review-implementation-2018">in 2019</a>. The federal measure <a href="https://www.aer.gov.au/retail-markets/guidelines-reviews/default-market-offer-prices-2023%E2%80%9324">was applied</a> <a href="https://www.aer.gov.au/retail-markets/guidelines-reviews/default-market-offer-prices-2020%E2%80%9321">in 2020</a>.</p> <p>The regulators release a draft determination ahead of a final decision, expected soon.</p> <h2>So why the price hike?</h2> <p>Your electricity bill comprises several different charges. The biggest ones are:</p> <p>- <strong>wholesale energy costs</strong>: the price generators such as coal and gas plants charge your retailer for the electricity delivered to you</p> <p>- <strong>network costs</strong>: the price charged by companies that own the “poles and wires” – transmission lines, transformers, electricity poles and the like – needed to get the electricity to your home</p> <p>- <strong>retail costs</strong>: the total amount needed by an electricity retailer to operate – such as issuing bills, providing customer service, marketing themselves – as well as to make a reasonable profit.</p> <p>Regulators calculate the default market offer by considering each of these price components.</p> <p>The increased default market offers are mostly due to increases in wholesale prices.</p> <p>Wholesale prices increased in recent months almost entirely as a result of sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. It led to a global shortage of natural gas. This was exacerbated when Russia <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-05-31/russia-to-cut-gas-exports-to-shell-orsted-over-rubles-dispute">withdrew gas</a> supplies from the European market.</p> <p>Even though the energy shocks were happening half a world away from Australia, it affected domestic gas prices here. Why? Because most of Australia’s east coast gas is exported, which means its price is largely determined by the global price.</p> <p>This could have been avoided if the federal government has a mechanism to keep some of that gas for the domestic market – in other words, if it had a so-called “gas reservation policy”. But the current and previous governments have <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/business/companies/it-s-ridiculous-architect-of-wa-policy-calls-for-national-gas-reservation-20220616-p5au8q.html">refused</a> to implement this.</p> <p>The federal regulator said the planned retirement of AGL’s ageing Liddell coal-fired power station in the NSW Hunter Valley contributed to its decision. Liddell is one of the biggest coal-fired generators in the national electricity market, and the closure is likely to lead to a short-term tightening of supplies.</p> <p>Another factor affecting the regulators’ decision relates to a strategy electricity retailers use to protect themselves against volatile wholesale prices in future. The strategy, known as hedge contracts, <a href="https://www.aemc.gov.au/energy-system/electricity/electricity-market/spot-and-contract-markets">fixes the wholesale price</a> retailers pay for electricity over a long period – up to several years.</p> <p>The price set in hedge contracts struck over the past year or so was influenced by Australia’s <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1467-8462.12492">domestic gas crisis</a> in 2022, which caused massive rises in wholesale electricity prices.</p> <h2>What to expect down the track</h2> <p>Australian Energy Regulator chair Clare Savage on Wednesday said the price increases <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-03-15/australian-energy-regulator-default-market-offer/102094290">could have been much higher</a>, if not for intervention by the Albanese government late last year to cap prices in Australia’s gas and coal markets.</p> <p>Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen says those price caps have saved households between A$268 and $530.</p> <p>The caps are likely to cause further falls in the default market offer in coming years. But the policy appears to be only an interim measure until the global supply shortage eases.</p> <p>In the longer term, renewable energy offers a ray of hope.</p> <p>The federal government has set a target of 82% renewable electricity by 2030. But of course, a few significant <a href="https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/understanding-whats-next-for-australias-main-electricity-market/">complementary measures</a> – such as more investment in transmission networks and energy storage – are needed.</p> <p>This investment would support the transition to a zero-emissions electricity sector. Importantly, it would also insulate long-suffering consumers from volatile fossil fuel prices.</p> <p><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p> <p><em>This article originally appeared on <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-are-electricity-prices-going-up-again-and-will-it-ever-end-201869" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>

Home Hints & Tips

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“Divorce him!” Man refuses to pay for wife’s epidural

<p dir="ltr">A man has outraged the internet after refusing to pay for half his wife’s medical bills from the birth of their child, after she had an epidural which he considers a “luxury”. </p> <p dir="ltr">The new mum took to Reddit to ask if she was being unreasonable for wanting to split the $8,000 bill with her partner of over a decade. </p> <p dir="ltr">The anonymous woman explained that everything was going well after giving birth until the hospital bills arrived. </p> <p dir="ltr">She explained that she originally planned for an unmedicated birth, but after a gruelling 24-hour labour, decided to get the epidural. </p> <p dir="ltr">Her husband was seemingly supportive of her decision at the time, but when the bills arrived, refused to foot half the bill for her pain relief. </p> <p dir="ltr">She wrote, “When the bill came, he brought it to me to pay all $8,000, after insurance from my personal savings.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“I asked why, and he said, ‘You’re the one that couldn’t hold on for a few more hours and jacked up the bill with all your meds and an extra night’s stay,’ and he shouldn’t have to pay for all extra requests.”</p> <p dir="ltr">She explained that he said that if she wanted “luxury” she should be the one paying for it. </p> <p dir="ltr">The “luxury” that he is referring to include a lactation consultant, blood tests, postpartum supplies and an epidural, so not exactly anything fun. </p> <p dir="ltr">She went on to explain that they had argued about halving the costs, to which he called her a “princess” for expecting him to pony up the cash. </p> <p dir="ltr">She added that she ultimately paid the birth bill but is now questioning her entire marriage.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I feel disrespected. Do I have the right to feel this way, or is it just the hormones?” she wrote.</p> <p dir="ltr">Outraged commenters were quick to tear the man to shreds, urging the woman to leave her man as quickly as possible. </p> <p dir="ltr">One person wrote, “He should have paid the whole bill! She’s already paid with her body.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Another said, “Divorce his a**!” while another said, “I'd be absolutely DONE if my husband pulled this shit. His kid too, his cost too.”</p> <p dir="ltr">One person put it simply, “Holy s**t. Throw the whole man out.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

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"I'm lovin' it": McDonald's face public outcry over unfortunately placed ad

<p>McDonald's has faced the wrath of angry locals in Cornwall, UK, after a poorly placed advertisement was called out for being "tasteless". </p> <p>The advertisement in question was for the fast food franchise's new McCrispy burger, which was placed in a prime position on the side of a bus stop. </p> <p>However, what the company didn't realise was that the sign right next to it pointed to Penmount Crematorium across the road, in an unfortunate yet humorous coincidence.</p> <p>Local media outlet <a href="https://www.cornwalllive.com/news/cornwall-news/mcdonalds-remove-tasteless-sign-opposite-8133444" target="_blank" rel="noopener"><em>CornwallLive</em></a> was the first to report on the poorly placed ad, and asked local residents if they thought the sign should stay or go. </p> <p>"Fell off the chair laughing," one commenter who saw the picture online said.</p> <p>"I'm lovin' it," wrote another, in reference to the popular McDonald's slogan.</p> <p>"I only recently lost 2 loved ones &amp; to be honest if I'd seen that sign near the crematorium I would have smiled. I don't find it offensive at all," said another.</p> <p>"My parents are in this crematorium. My old man had a brilliant sense of humour, so I'm sure he would have chuckled at this!" another added.</p> <p>One concerned local said, "I think how funny it is will probably depend on how long ago you followed the crematorium sign wearing a black tie."</p> <p>One woman, who's mother-in-law was cremated at the crematorium, said, "Although I can see the funny side, it is tasteless and I'm sure some grieving family members won't like to see it when visiting Penmount for the funeral and cremation of a loved one."</p> <p>Cornwall Council, who are in charge of both the crematorium and the bus shelter, have yet to comment on the matter, while McDonald's are taking the concerns about the ad seriously. </p> <p>A spokesperson told <em>CornwallLive</em>, "We were unaware of the road sign in the vicinity of this bus stop. However, in light of the concerns raised by CornwallLive, we have asked for our advertisement to be removed."</p> <p><em>Image credits: Twitter</em></p>

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Dad’s horror at six-year-old’s massive bill

<p>A young boy from Michigan has learned a tasty lesson in money management.</p> <p>Six-year-old Mason Stonehouse had been playing on his dad’s phone when he discovered his soon-to-be favourite app - food delivery service Grubhub. </p> <p>After putting his son to bed, Mason’s father Keith was shocked to find delivery drivers began to frequent their doorstep, one after the other leaving something behind. Keith likened the strange evening to a<em> Saturday Night Live</em> skit, and in doorbell camera footage he could be heard asking one of the drivers “what the hell is going on?” </p> <p>A look at his phone confirmed that Mason had pulled off a parent’s nightmare - the boy had ordered almost $2,000 (AUD) of food from restaurants all across their town. </p> <p>Speaking with <em>TODAY.com</em>, Keith explained that the two were having father and son time in front of the TV when Mason asked to use Keith’s phone. Mason often uses his dad’s phone to play educational games, so Keith thought nothing of it, allowing Mason 30 minutes with the device. </p> <p>Keith recalled how Mason made his way downstairs to play, and went to bed without a fuss when his half hour was up. </p> <p>“A 6-year-old going to bed is not normally an easy thing but he was surprisingly really good,” he said. “There was no fight, no ‘I’m hungry’, or making up stuff to stay up. He just went to bed, and I was like, ‘Wow, this is amazing, I wish Mom was here to witness this’. And all of a sudden I hear the doorbell.”</p> <p>To various news outlets, Keith has mentioned how it was “car after car” that kept “coming and coming” to the family’s home in Chesterfield Township. In his own Facebook post about the incident, he shared Mason’s shopping list, telling his friends “if you’re hungry and you’re in the mood for 5 orders of jumbo shrimp, salad, grape leaves, rice, 3 hanis, several orders of chilli cheese fries, chicken shawarma sandwiches, and plenty of Ice cream - swing on by SMH.”</p> <p>Keith saw Mason’s delectable adventure to an end when his bank declined an order of $635 (AUD) for pepperoni pizza. As he told <em>Good Morning America</em>, this “would’ve been on top of the $1,000 worth of food that was piling in my kitchen.”</p> <p>This wasn’t even Mason’s first order of the evening from the same establishment - Happy’s Pizza for a happy Mason - with a sizable jumbo shrimp delivery already having made it to their doorstep. </p> <p><em>MLive.com </em>heard from Keith that he tried to speak to Mason about what had happened, but soon discovered that their priorities weren’t exactly aligned, “I was trying to explain to him that this wasn’t good and he puts his hand up and stops me and says, ‘Dad, did the pepperoni pizzas come yet?’”</p> <p>“I had to walk out of the room. I didn’t know if I should get mad or laugh,” he admitted. </p> <p>Whether the entire situation prompted more amusement or exasperation from the Stonehouses, they assured everyone that none of Mason’s bouncy went to waste, with the food going to their neighbours, and their phones well away from Mason’s sneaky shopping. </p> <p><em>Images: Facebook </em></p>

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Why Peter FitzSimons has defended Prince Harry

<p>Outspoken journo and author Peter FitzSimons has defended Prince Harry in the wake of the slew of intimate bombshell revelations the young royal’s memoir <em>Spare</em> has presented to the public. </p> <p>Mr FitzSimons, who is the husband of Lisa Wilkinson, responded firmly to a Twitter commenter who branded the prince a “sook” and a “weak man” who was effectively being “controlled by a manipulative woman” – stating that Harry’s wife Meghan Markle was in fact the direct cause for him “knifing his own family” with the release of <em>Spare</em>, and that “this is her revenge…using him to do the dirty work.”</p> <p>“That is way too simplistic, in my view,” wrote FitzSimons in response to the Twitter user.</p> <p>“His broad point is, "They have leaked against me and my wife for years. I am not leaking, I am putting my name to my views, and this is what happened." And to me he sounds credible.” </p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr" lang="en">That is way too simplistic, in my view. <br />His broad point is, "They have leaked against me and my wife for years. I am not leaking, I am putting my name to my views, and this is what happened." <br />And to me he sounds credible. <a href="https://t.co/S0owBdBiMP">https://t.co/S0owBdBiMP</a></p> <p>— Peter FitzSimons (@Peter_Fitz) <a href="https://twitter.com/Peter_Fitz/status/1612380697603473408?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 9, 2023</a></p></blockquote> <p>Prince Harry has recently defended his actions in revealing family secrets in the biography during interviews with UK and US TV networks, saying that he was simply retaliating against being leaked against by other royals – including his stepmother Camilla Parker Bowles.</p> <p>FitzSimons appears to agree with this stance, continuing: “As to the notion that he shouldn't tell family secrets, his equal point is that everyone else in the Royal Family has been leaking to the press for years. They have told several books worth, courtesy of the tabloid press. So, for once, he can tell his own story.”</p> <p>In response to a different Twitter user who asked why an “intelligent man” would waste time thinking about the royal family, FitzSimons further revealed his reasons for defending Prince Harry, suggesting that the fallout between the young prince and the rest of the royal family would almost certainly have implications in the Australian republic debate. </p> <p>“One reason is, the whole imbroglio speaks to the republic. The notion that this is a special family - put there by God to be so much better than the rest of us, that they must reign over us - is wearing a bit thin, yes?” he tweeted.</p> <p>Despite having stepped down as head of the Australian Republican Movement last October, FitzSimons continues to lobby for Australia to dispense with heads of state that lie within a royal family. </p> <p>On Tuesday morning Jan 10, Bill Shorten – Minister for Government Services for the Albanese government – also pushed for Australia to become a republic by saying on the Today show: “It's a shame to see a family bust-up but perhaps at the deepest level, why do we need to keep borrowing a dysfunctional British family to be the Head of State of Australia? </p> <p>'It's gossip but scintillating. To me it just shows there's a lot of damage and trauma but at another level this is just family gossip.</p> <p>“And it reminds me that this family are the head of state of Australia, so it really puts a question mark around our government structures, where we've got a feuding family on the other side of the world who seem to really not like each other very much - they're actually the head of Australia.”</p> <p><em>Images: Instagram </em></p>

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Aussies set for power bill relief just before Christmas

<p dir="ltr">The Albanese government has introduced a bill to help battling Aussies feel some relief during the ongoing cost of living crisis by bringing down the cost of unsustainable energy prices. </p> <p dir="ltr">Treasurer Jim Chalmers says Australians need “urgent, targeted, meaningful action” to take some of the sting out of the increasing power costs, which will be addressed through a new energy package to give households and small businesses some relief.</p> <p dir="ltr">MPs and senators were recalled to Canberra for a special session of parliament on Thursday to debate the government’s package, as it will now sail through both houses after Anthony Albanese secured the Senate support of the Greens, David Pocock, and the Jacqui Lambie Network. </p> <p dir="ltr">Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has confirmed the Coalition will not support the Bill, saying it would be “catastrophic” for Australian economic policy.</p> <p dir="ltr">Once passed, gas prices will be capped at $12 a gigajoule for 12 months, which the government says will slash power bills by about $230. </p> <p dir="ltr">The Queensland and NSW governments will also enforce a cap on coal for the same amount of time, at $125 a tonne.</p> <p dir="ltr">The package also includes $1.5 billion of additional relief to small businesses and some households.</p> <p dir="ltr">In introducing the Bill in the House on Thursday morning, Dr Chalmers said without urgent market intervention, retail gas prices were tipped to increase by a further 20 per cent and electricity prices by 36 per cent in the next financial year.</p> <p dir="ltr">“That’s why urgent action is needed … And when we vote today, every member of this place will make a choice,” he said. </p> <p dir="ltr">“To help Australians with rising energy bills – or to make it even harder for them.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“To save Australian jobs – or to surrender them. “</p> <p dir="ltr">“We choose to protect households and small businesses. We choose to defend our local industries. And we choose to save local jobs.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image credits: Getty Images</em></p>

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