Newcastle residents struggling to pay power bills have sought more than $96,000 worth of assistance vouchers from one charity alone in three months.
The high of cost of electricity is pushing residents to seek help, Labor MPs say.
Newcastle’s Tim Crakanthorp and Labor’s spokesman for Energy, Adam Searle, spoke alongside volunteers from St Vincent De Paul at a Hamilton South substation on Wednesday.
Mr Searle said household power prices had increased by 60 per cent since 2011 under the current state government, including up to 20 per cent since Gladys Berejiklian became Premier.
He said Labor plans to re-regulate electricity prices and welcomed the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s proposal for mandatory price caps set by the independent regulator.
He pointed to the need for a independently set default offer to allow customers to navigate the “complex” range of power-bill offers.
“If you go to the supermarket, it doesn’t matter what size butter you buy, there is a cents-per-gram measure,” he said. “The electricity companies know what you use, they know when you use it – they should be able to run your pattern and quantum of usage through all of their offers and tell you what is the best.”
He also said a profit over-sighting mechanism was needed to allow the government to “turn down the dial” on excessive profits.
A quarter of calls to St Vincent De Paul are from those struggling with power bills.
“The electricity crisis is real and it is crippling family budgets,” Mr Crakanthorp said. “It is disheartening to hear that local families are being forced to choose between electricity and food, basics of any household budget.”