WA households get state budget boost with $600 power credit from Bell Group settlement
Every West Australian household will receive a $600 one-off credit towards their next electricity bill as part of the 2020–21 state budget, the State Government has announced.
More than 1 million Synergy and Horizon Power customers will receive the payment from November.
The credit is expected to provide the average WA household up to four months of relief from having to pay their electricity accounts.
The initiative will cost the Government about $644 million, with the funds coming from the proceeds of the Bell Group Liquidation.
After almost three decades, Australia’s longest-running legal saga ended in August, after the West Australian Supreme Court approved the final distribution of funds to creditors of Alan Bond’s Bell Group.
Bell Group — bought by Bond from another WA billionaire businessman Robert Holmes a Court — collapsed in 1991.
The WA Government held a large stake in Bell Group through its third-party insurance arm SGIC, due to a deal struck by then-premier Brian Burke.
The Government said the remaining $10 million from the settlement had been retained by the Insurance Commission of WA for legal fees, insurance and other costs associated with bringing the long-running legal dispute to an end.
‘Not something to be sniffed at’
Palmyra parents Will Fuller and Alisa Harris have welcomed the payment.
“Six hundred dollars is not something to be sniffed at, is it?” Mr Fuller said.
“We’re going to Shark Bay this week for a few days so we’ll maybe be able to book an extra trip or two.
“Christmas is expensive and that just takes a bit of pressure off it really.”
Ms Harris said she was grateful for the extra money.
“I was working from home and the girls were at home, so the laptop use meant a lot of electricity,” she said.
“It’s really useful to have that extra money and the confidence to spend a bit more than you usually would do.”
‘We are not out of the woods yet’: McGowan
Premier Mark McGowan hoped the credit would lead to increased household spending, to help support the WA economy and local jobs.
“Earlier this year there was grave concerns about the health of West Australians and the health of our economy,” Mr McGowan said.
“There was grave concern that we would go into a depression in WA and Australia.
“The good thing is we have avoided that, but we are not out of the woods yet.
“This credit will give families the confidence to spend over Christmas and to make sure they spend on local businesses.
“Some don’t get anything from the government so for the first time for many families in the state, they will get a benefit.
“If you have a debt of up to $600, this eliminates that debt, so it’s a really big help to get families back on their feet.”
He said giving the Bell Group settlement funds straight back to the community was the right thing to do.
A 30-year wait for West Australians
WA Treasurer Ben Wyatt said he expected much of the credit would flow back into the local economy.
“We find ourselves in an incredibly fortunate position — the settling of the Bell litigation, something that started when I was in law school and only just finished this year.
“Western Australians have waited almost 30 years to see an end to this dispute.
“A $600 credit represents for your average household around four months of electricity [and] we expect over 70 per cent of this to be spent opposed to being saved.”
The $600 credit follows other support and relief measures announced by the WA Government earlier this year as part of its $5.5 billion WA Recovery Plan.
The relief package included a freeze on all household fees and charges — including electricity, water and vehicle registration — until July next year, at a budget cost of $402 million.
Additionally, the Energy Assistance Payment — a rebate given to concession card holders — was also doubled to $600 to help seniors in particular.