Australia’s household infrastructure bill has grown from $277 to $314 between 2003-04 and 2015-16 in real terms. While the average household infrastructure bill has grown, households are spending slightly less of their household disposable income on infrastructure bills now compared to 12 years ago. The biggest expense is for transport. The infrastructure bills that have grown the fastest over the time period looked at in this report are energy (all forms including electricity and gas) and water and sewerage (29% and 28% growth in real terms respectively).
The burden of infrastructure costs is greatest for those households earning the lowest incomes. While the weekly infrastructure bill is systematically smaller the lower the income quintile, households in the lowest quintile spend one-third of their disposable income on infrastrucutre. While this is a smaller burden now than in 2003-04, it represents a burden more than twice as high as among those in the highest income households.
Across Australia, households in the Northern Territory are paying the largest infrastructure bill, followed by the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Despite the variation in the quantum of the household infrastructure bill paid between Australian States and Territories, there are only small differences in terms of the burden of the infrastructure bill. All the States and Territories pay similar percentages although Victoria pays the biggest share of disposable income and of all houseohld expenses.
Preparing data for this report highlighted that access to timely data is a key issue for understanding Australia’s household infrastructure bill. There is no comprehensive and up-to-date data that allow monitoring of changing household infrastructure bills, or the impact of infrastructure bill stress on households. Big data offers two opportunities. First, partnering with a bank to monitor payment of household infrastructure bills in a way that protects customer privacy and allows assessment of changes to what is being paid would provide the data needed. Second, working with infrastructure providers to create a national data lake, whereby infrastructure providers could share fine scale, near-real-time, deidentified data via APIs based on a fee for service basis, or where possible as open data.