Peo­ple power to short cir­cuit pol­lies

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - COST OF LIV­ING ED­I­TOR

THE depth of fear about power prices has been laid bare for the first time as part of a push to get real peo­ple in­volved in solv­ing the cri­sis.

A new na­tional sur­vey re­veals the cost of en­ergy has emerged as both the lead­ing cause of house­hold bud­get stress and the most press­ing po­lit­i­cal is­sue fac­ing the na­tion.

The sur­vey also shows that we don’t trust en­ergy re­tail­ers — blam­ing them the most for high prices — or have con­fi­dence that politi­cians can fix the prob­lem.

The non-profit group be­hind the re­search, the Aus­tralian Fu­tures Project, says while the find­ings are dis­turb­ing, they show there is un­tapped po­ten­tial to con­vert the com­mu­nity’s dis­sat­is­fac­tion into ac­tion.

To­day it is launch­ing “#WTF: What’s the Fu­ture, Aus­tralia?” — a push to get real peo­ple in­volved in tack­ling the coun­try’s crunch top­ics.

“What we are try­ing to do is give the pub­lic an op­por­tu­nity to have a say not only on what the is­sues are, but to get bet­ter in­formed and sug­gest so­lu­tions,” said Aus­tralian Fu­tures Project ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Ralph Ash­ton.

To­mor­row a panel of en­ergy ex­perts it has as­sem­bled will an­swer your ques­tions via Face­book, Twit­ter or SMS, plus field ideas to fix the prob­lem. The best so­lu­tion will re­ceive a $500 cash prize. Three more press­ing top­ics will be thrashed out in sub­se­quent weeks, then the top idea for each will be taken from con­cept to re­al­ity — and you can vote on which you like best.

Jump onto so­cial me­dia and fol­low the #WTF hash­tag, or check out the web­site at

One of the en­ergy pan­el­lists, Grat­tan In­sti­tute fel­low David Blow­ers said it was time to take pol­i­tics out of the is­sue.

“Any op­por­tu­nity we have to pro­vide bet­ter in­for­ma­tion to peo­ple and ex­plain things more clearly is go­ing to be re­ally help­ful,” he said.

The Galaxy Re­search poll run for the Aus­tralian Fu­tures Project found power bills were putting pres­sure on 70 per cent of house­holds. The next big­gest source of fi­nan­cial stress was food costs.

Thirty-nine per cent of re­spon­dents con­sid­ered elec­tric­ity re­tail­ers most to blame for high prices ahead of the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment on 23 per cent. Eighty-one per cent said the mo­ti­va­tion was sav­ing money ver­sus 17 per cent who said it was im­prov­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

Galaxy sur­veyed 1515 adults across na­tion then weighted the re­sults to re­flect the pop­u­la­tion.

Syd­ney mum Tori, who has a five month old daugh­ter, said any un­ex­pected bills caused stress.

#WTF is backed by groups which in­clude the Aus­tralian Coun­cil of So­cial Ser­vice and the Busi­ness Coun­cil of Aus­tralia.

Syd­ney mum Tori and daugh­ter Camilla. Tori says she wor­ries when con­fronted with un­ex­pected bill.

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