Some of Australia’s poorest families are skipping meals and selling possessions to pay their power bills, a new report has found. Research by Lynne Chester from the University of Sydney found 75 per cent of low income families were reducing their expenditure on food because of soaring energy costs. National electricity prices are projected to rise by 14 per cent this financial year. Electricity prices in NSW have doubled since 2007-08, while gas prices have risen by about 47 per cent over the same time, said the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART).

”Some families are under so much pressure, parents are going without meals … they might skip breakfast and lunch and just eat dinners so they can feed their children,” Dr Chester said. The research, based on interviews and data collected from 130 low-income households in Victoria, NSW, Queensland and South Australia, also found that 10 per cent of families had cut back on GP visits and delayed filling prescriptions. ”Others are selling things to pay energy bills. They’ve learnt how to use eBay and are selling their possessions,” she said.

People also reported living in the dark, only using heating and cooling on extreme weather days, watching less TV, and going to bed fully clothed because their houses were so cold. The pressure to reduce energy usage was also causing arguments and tensions with children, the report found. Dr Chester’s research, presented at a Brotherhood of St Laurence seminar, revealed that despite efforts to reduce their energy usage, many low-income households felt it had little impact on their bills. ”We found that these families had cut and cut their usage and couldn’t cut any further and yet their efforts weren’t reflected in the bills because prices just keep rising.”

More than 90 per cent of the research participants were living in rental accommodation and were dependent on pensions and allowances. The report found efforts to reduce bills further were restricted because they rented or lived in public housing. ”It means they can’t make their housing more energy efficient or make repairs to improve efficiencies … and they can’t afford to get more energy efficient appliances. There are a whole lot of barriers to reducing energy use further.” She said many respondents felt let down by the energy retailers’ hardship programs and were often pressured into repayment arrangements that did not suit their circumstances.

The report calls for more energy efficient public housing and a national review of hardship and concession programs. IPART said there was a 25 per cent increase in the number of disconnections for non-payment of electricity bills in the last financial year, and a 15 per cent rise in gas disconnections. The Energy Retailers Association of Australia (ERAA) defended retailers’ hardship plans. ”When they run their course, hardship programs can be very effective in not only resolving immediate payment difficulties, but also in helping customers manage their longer term energy costs,” said ERAA chief executive Cameron O’Reilly.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports



Scripture Union’s ‘E100 Bible Reading Challenge’ has been endorsed by leading Australian pastors and church leaders in a video produced to promote the program. Pastors who feature in the video include Michael Murphy from ShireLive in Sutherland, Angelo Gratsounas from Narwee Baptist Church, Wayne Alcorn from Hope Centre, Brisbane and Bruce Clarke, St Matthew’s Anglican, at Manly. Mr Clarke said “I love the concept of a short-term program to build habits and disciplines into our church members lives that could start a life long journey of having a faithful, regular Bible reading habit.” 

“The one thing we can do for our people – is to exhort them and encourage them to be daily hearing God’s voice”  said Mike Murphy. “Our kids church picked it up, our youth group did it – it was a complete church wide program” according to Angelo Gratsounas. Wayne Alcorn from Hope Centre Brisbane said “A friend of mine told me that he had done the E100 program in his church. As I heard how his church engaged with the Bible, and more and more of his people were loving reading it and really being inspired to live it out, I decided to run the program at Hope Centre.”

The E100 Bible Reading Challenge features 100 carefully selected Bible readings designed to give Christians a good understanding of the entire Biblical story from Genesis to Revelation. “The E100 program has been run in churches across Australia,” said Scripture Unions David De Mers. “It’s exciting to hear reports back from these churches about the impact the program has had and this new video will allow other churches and pastors to hear first-hand how E100 has impacted churches,” he said. “The E100 Challenge was created by Scripture Union in the United States and has been in print form for a number of years,” David said. 

“Around the world, thousands of churches and hundreds of thousands of Christians have taken the challenge, reading all 100 passages over a three month period. The program works because it is a personal challenge designed to develop a daily Bible reading habit, it can be done in community as a church, it is flexible, and it is complete,” David said. E100 is also available as an ‘app’ for smart phones and tablets. “Scripture Union has recognised the need for something new and fresh to appeal to younger generations using digital technologies, and we’re excited to be able to promote daily Bible reading in a way that is relevant and appealing,” David said.

“The apps are based on the original print version but are completely self-contained which means individuals can read the Bible passages and the E100 notes anywhere,” he said. More information on the E100 program is available at: e100challenge.com.au (where you can register for the program) or join the conversation on the E100 Challenge (Australia) Facebook page. The video can be seen at: www.facebook.com/e100australia

Source: Press Release from Scripture Union



The Australian Christian Lobby has commended the Government on its recent apology for forced adoptions, but questions the Prime Minister’s assertion that “We can promise that no generation of Australian will suffer the same pain and trauma that you did.” “The problem with forced adoption was that it broke the biological identity of children,” said ACL’s Managing Director, Jim Wallace. “But we are creating exactly the same problem for a future generation with those states which permit surrogacy for same-sex couples and singles. 

“The worst form of forced adoption was that experienced by the Stolen Generation which broke not only biological and but also cultural identity. Today gay couples travel to India to have Indian women carry and bear the child, because nature doesn’t provide them this ability and this inevitably breaks the child’s biological and cultural identity. Some gay men even proclaim they will never allow the child to know its real mother,” said Mr Wallace. “How is this not ‘deeply shameful and distressing’ as the PM has called forced adoption today? “The PM said of the child victims of forced adoption ‘you deserved the chance to know your mother and father’,” said Mr Wallace. 

“Why doesn’t that apply equally to children forced from their biological parent through same-sex and single surrogacy? Mr Wallace said. “How can we denounce forced adoption as breaking the most primal and sacred bond between a mother and her baby’, but support same-sex marriage and surrogacy which will be the cultural and legislative cement that would make it irreversible? “Let’s join the dots and not repeat the error of breaking biological identity in forced adoptions by permitting same-sex couples and singles surrogacy,” said Mr Wallace. An Indian surrogacy provider has revealed that more than one third of her clients were Australian homosexual men.

Source: Australian Christian Lobby