Access to Energy Compare bonus

Mr PURCELL (Western Victoria) (12:05:36) — My question is for the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, represented by Minister Jennings. The Victorian government has established the Energy Compare website for Victorians to compare energy prices and obtain the best deal. While I commend the government on this initiative, I have been approached by many who have had trouble accessing the website to obtain the $50 power saving bonus. Many people in rural areas do not have access to or have difficulty using the internet. I note constituents are able to visit their local MPs, but this may not be possible in rural and remote areas. Therefore my question to the minister is: what other options do people have to access the website and obtain the $50 bonus without using the internet or visiting their local MP's office?

Mr JENNINGS (Special Minister of State) (12:06:27) — I thank Mr Purcell for his question, and I do thank him for recognising the value of this program that the government announced in the budget earlier this year, which has proved very popular.

Mr Leane interjected.

Mr JENNINGS — As Mr Leane has actually said, it is very popular. Indeed I am mindful that somewhere in the order of 420 000 Victorian households have accessed the site to make a claim for their $50 reimbursement for this, so in fact it has been widely used and has created a great opportunity for people across Victoria in relation to checking out energy prices. Not only do they get the $50 bonus but seven out of 10 of those people who have visited the website have been able to find a better deal for themselves in relation to energy use, leading them to have a savings on average of about $330 a year. So it is well worth your while, because in fact there is potential for you to get the $50 by just going to the website and you are likely to get information that is likely to save you $330 a year just by exploring your options in relation to a better energy deal. That has been very popular.

I do understand that Mr Purcell is concerned for people who do not have internet access or a computer at home, and that is at the heart of his question, and the government has to be mindful of that in terms of trying to make sure that we grow that program even further. So in the first instance I am aware that a number of his constituents and other people in communities across the state could access their library, they could access their local neighbourhood house or they may have friends or family who may be able to assist them in this matter. But the government, whilst we can rely on people being a little bit creative about that or being able to access either their neighbourhood house or their library, may have some additional work that we need to do to try to have an outreach program to encourage people about how they can exercise their opportunities.

I am certain my colleague the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change will be very receptive to the need for outreach to actually achieve that outcome and to support your constituents or other constituents across Victoria in relation to getting access to this Victorian Energy Compare website and program but most importantly how they can empower themselves with the knowledge that the website gives you about changing your electricity plan and receiving a financial return to your household. We will take on notice from Mr Purcell's question the importance of trying to create that outreach opportunity.