Delay in compensation to Victorians without power

Power outage compensation has been delayed, with AusNet unable to get the application form ready. Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS. 363822_04


Victorians cut off from the power grid for more than a week following destructive storms will have to wait several extra days to lodge for compensation.

Prolonged power outage payments of $1920 a week for households and $2927 a week for businesses were announced on Friday after the storms swept through Victoria on February 13.

Households and businesses are eligible for the payments, jointed funded by the state and federal governments, after spending at least seven days off power.

Power distribution companies were charged with distributing the payments, which were capped at up to three weeks.

Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said AusNet, the main supplier hit by the widespread outages, advised her on Tuesday night its website application system was not ready despite previous assurances it would be.

She said the delay was not on and made her anger clear in conversations with the provider.

“Here is another example where a privatised power company has failed to deliver in time for communities that are in need,” Ms D’Ambrosio told reporters at state parliament on Wednesday.

“It is absolutely unacceptable.”

She said she was “not polite” in urging AusNet to publish an explanation to customers on its website.

“I’m very frank about what my expectations are of these companies,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

On its website, AusNet advised customers were eligible for the relief payment from Tuesday but they would not be able to submit applications until Thursday while it updates its systems.

“We apologise for any confusion regarding the timeframe,” it said in a statement to AAP.

“It will not impact our first payment run early next week.”

The company warned of scam text messages being sent to customers about the payments, saying its messages and links will clearly identify AusNet and not ask for financial information via text.

There were 1485 homes and businesses still without power on Wednesday morning as a result of the storms and 37 homes have been deemed uninhabitable.

All are expected to be reconnected by Friday.

But the state is also bracing for more hot weather and storms on Thursday, although it is not anticipated to be as extreme as the February 13 event.

The state government has announced it will set up an expert panel to review the blackout, which disconnected power to 530,000 properties across the state.

A similar review was commissioned after devastating storms smashed the state in June and October of 2021, cutting power to 297,000 and 526,000 customers at their respective peaks.

The state opposition has dubbed the latest iteration a sham, pointing to its undefined reporting date, yet-to-be finalised scope and inability to scrutinise the government’s role.

It will push ahead with an upper house motion to establish a parliamentary inquiry into the reliability of the transmission network.

“We know where the blame lies. It lies at the foot of the Allan Labor government,” Opposition Leader John Pesutto said.

Victoria’s 6000km high-voltage electricity transmission system is owned and maintained by AusNet.