Victorian power outages' one-off compensation not enough to cover costs for out-of-pocket farmers

Upper Murray dairy farmer Robert McVean is “not confident” he will see any compensation for the hit his operation took during January blackouts.

Mr McVean, whose family milks 170 jersey cows at Corryong, lost power for more than 20 hours in early January, the second outage in less than a month. It meant he was unable to milk cows. 

Two cows died from mastitis, the result of full udders, while another lost a calf.

He also lost income because he was unable to supply milk to his processor.

“I rang our provider and told them I wanted compensation, they told me there’s no such thing,” Mr McVean said.

“I rang AusNet and they basically laughed at me.”

Mr McVean said he then raised his concerns with parliamentarians Cathy McGowan and Bill Tilley.

Mr Tilley took Mr McVean’s issue to parliament, telling Premier Daniel Andrews unreliable power supply was bigger than just Melbournians who could not turn on airconditioners.

“This is not just a Melbourne issue. Lengthy power failures are now a regular event in regional Victoria and my constituents believe they too need to be compensated,” the member for Benambra told parliament.

The office of Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio said about 50,000 most affected customers would receive a refund of between $80 and $180 from their power supplier by the end of February.

In addition distributors would consider claims for financial loss, which remain available to all customers regardless of how long they were off supply, on a case-by-case basis.​ 

“We know how frustrating this was for many Victorians – affected customers deserve to be compensated for the inconvenience,” the minster said in a statement.

Mr McVean said he had now bought generators, costing $15,000, as emergency power back-up.

“If we haven’t got power then the houses on the farm don't have water. You can’t go to the toilet, you can’t do anything,” he said.

“I’m not confident I’ll get anything out of them. I think the only thing I’ll get out of it is feeling a bit better after I sent them some nasty letters.

“The government doesn’t give a rat’s arse about us up here. There’s no votes up here for them.”