Services and Utilities
Some of the biggest variables in the cost of living in Australia include utilities bills. While costs and suppliers of electricity, gas, water, telephones and the internet vary across the country, in this section we give you a rough guide to what you can expect to pay and show you where you can find more information.
How much electricity bills in Australia cost is dependent on where you live, who your supplier is and how much electricity you use. Electricity usage is metered and bills usually come quarterly. In many areas, like Western Australia, electricity suppliers are state-owned. Other states, like Victoria, have opened-up electricity provision to competition. In these states it is a good idea to look around for the best price. Supplies are usually reliable in highly populated areas.
The cost of electricity bills in Australia, in most states, has increased markedly in recent years. Electricity prices are usually regulated (controlled) by the State to at least some degree. For more information and for tips on selecting an energy supplier, check out the Energy Switch website.
Gas is commonly used for both heating and cooking in Australian homes. Some homes use no gas at all. How expensive your household gas bills will be depends on how much you use and who your supplier is. Gas prices in Australia are usually regulated to some extent by the State. Gas prices are deregulated in Queensland. Bills usually come quarterly.
As a guide, you can compare gas prices for Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia on the Energy Switch website. There is only one gas supplier in Western Australia, Alinta Gas.
You must pay for both the maintenance of water supply to your home and the amount of water you consume. Water rates usually include the maintenance and provision of sewerage to your home. If you are renting, water rates are often paid by the landlord. Check this before you sign a lease.
Water rates in Australia normally come as an annual bill but you may be able to pay it in instalments. As a guide, average water consumption in Melbourne in 2010 was 151 litres per person, per day. That same year, one Melbourne water supplier was charging $1.70 per 1000 litres. On top of consumption, you’ll need to add a few hundred dollars more for access to the water supply and sewerage.
Water shortages in Australia
Water is a commodity in short supply in Australia, so many States introduce water restrictions over the dry summer months. This usually involves a ban on sprinklers and watering of gardens. In some states, in particularly dry years, they also encourage people not to flush the toilet unless it’s absolutely necessary. Thankfully this doesn’t happen too often – but it’d certainly make a story to tell your friends and family back home. Because water is so precious in Australia, some States offer rebates for installing various water-saving devices in homes.
Telephone and Internet
Australia has a diversity of telecommunications suppliers for both the telephony and the internet. Some companies do both. The largest telecommunications supplier is Telstra, which is partially State-owned and once held a monopoly. These days there are plenty of other telephone and internet service providers in Australia, including:
Most providers offer “bundled” discounts if you buy multiple services from them, such as your home telephone, mobile telephone and home internet connection. There are also many internet service providers who do not provide telephony services. The largest of these nationally is iinet.
Mobile Phones in Australia
There are two basic ways to buy a mobile phone in Australia. The first is “pay-as-you-go”, where the user buys credit - limiting the amount of call time, text messages and data that can be used before buying more credit. The second option is to buy a “plan” or “contract”, where the user signs up to one provider for a set period, usually two years, agreeing to certain conditions. Plans are usually “capped”, so you know how much your basic bill will be each month. Usually, the higher the “cap” the more services you get – like access to more free data, text messages and call time.
Mobile Phone Contracts
Contracts usually come with a handset and there are some good deals around. Shop around for the best deal for you and don’t get locked into the first contract you are offered. Check out the provider websites for an ideal of the deals and caps offered. Also, don’t forget to ask the sales assistant about the charges you will incur if you use more than your allocation of free data, calls or text messages, as these can be quite expensive. It’s probably also a good idea to ask about specific deals to message and call your home country.
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