Power bill relief all round as major parties launch Victorian election campaigns

Labor promised Victorians another $250 cash handout, while the Coalition pledged to quarantine gas supplies

Bringing down the cost of power bills was a central theme at both Labor and the Coalition’s Victorian election campaign launches, with the premier, Daniel Andrews, pledging another $250 payment for households, while the opposition leader, Matthew Guy, vowed to temporarily scrap supply charges and reserve new gas supplies.

With two weeks of electioneering to go, the first to address party faithful on Sunday was Guy, who announced the Coalition would restrict newly discovered Victorian gas from being exported overseas or interstate.

“Victoria must turbocharge gas production and availability – not turn it off,” he told supporters in Port Melbourne.

“A guaranteed supply of natural gas means we can keep the lights on and keep energy affordable while we transition to a clean energy future.”

Guy acknowledged the plan would “take time to work through the energy market”, so in the interim, the Coalition would cover electricity supply charges on power bills for the first six months of 2023, saving households an estimated $235.

“I would have liked to provide this for longer, more than 12 months if we could, but the state of Victoria’s finances after eight long years under Daniel Andrews means we simply can’t afford to do it,” he said.

Within an hour, the policy was trumped by Andrews’ announcement that, if Labor is re-elected, each Victorian household that seeks a better power deal will be able to claim another power-saving bonus of $250 off their electricity bills from March 2023.

“Private energy companies rely on people not getting the best deal on their power. In fact, they bank on it. It will mean more money in your pocket now plus savings, each year, every year,” Andrews said.

“Because that’s the difference – while some value profits, we value people.”

Labor’s campaign launch, at the Cranbourne Community Theatre in Melbourne’s south-east, largely focused on its announcement it will revive the publicly-owned State Electricity Commission (SEC).

Andrews on Sunday announced 6,000 of the 59,000 jobs expected to be created by the SEC’s revival would be dedicated to apprentices and trainees, while local content requirements on state-owned and supported renewable energy projects – worth at least $5bn by 2035 – will ensure them a “long-term pipeline of work”.

“It’s no coincidence that ever since privatisation we’ve seen shortages in so many trades. Our new SEC will help us find the next generation of tradespeople: maintenance workers, lineys, electricians – but also welders, painters and mechanics. Highly-qualified, highly-paid workers – working not for profit, but for people,” he said.

Andrews said as part of an overhaul of vocational education, a Tafe course in clean energywill be added to the list of courses subsidised by the government.

Students in Year 9 and 10 will also be supported to undergo a week of work experience in the sector, alongside other careers like nursing, trades and early childhood education.

A $207m package for the state’s specialist schools was also announced. The package includes the the rollout of after-school care, the creation of dedicated onsite spaces for allied health appointments, more extracurricular activities, therapy animals and software to help non-verbal kids express themselves.

Labor will also employ “NDIS navigators” to help families navigate the system, and will offer 1,000 scholarships to allied healthcare workers in regional Victoria.

“After nine years of a Liberal government in Canberra, the NDIS is not working,” Andrews said.

Former premiers Steve Bracks and John Brumby attended the launch, as well as former ministers James Merlino and Martin Pakula, who announced they were retiring earlier this year.

The premier was introduced by wife, Catherine, and children, Noah, Grace and Joseph, and his mother, Jan, was in the crowd.

“She’s someone who believes profoundly in the power of connection that every individual that’s held back, holds us all back and that every person who reaches their full potential helps us reach our own,” Andrews said of his mother.

The Coalition launch, meanwhile, was attended by Guy’s wife Renee, his sons Joey, Sam and Alex, his parents and in-laws, as well as former premier Ted Baillieu – the last Liberal leader to win an election from opposition, a task Guy described as the “hardest” in politics.

“It’s like climbing Mount Everest without oxygen and here in Victoria, Labor have been in government for 19 of the past 23 years, it’s like doing it all in a blizzard – all backwards,” he said.

“But for the sake of all those people impacted by Daniel Andrews and his world-record lockdowns, we must win this election.”

Guy said there was a “growing wave of anger and resentment” against the premier in the state that makes him “more and more confident” that the Coalition will win the election.

The state goes to the polls on 26 November, with early voting beginning on Monday.


Benita Kolovos and Adeshola Ore

The GuardianTramp

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