Monday, 14 July 2014
Clean Energy Legislation (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, True-up Shortfall Levy (General) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, True-up Shortfall Levy (Excise) (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Customs Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Excise Tariff Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Manufacture Levy) Amendment (Carbon Tax Repeal) Bill 2014, Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas (Import Levy) (Transitional Provisions) Bill 2014; Consideration in Detail
The government is moving these amendments to provide greater clarity on how business should pass on all carbon tax repeal savings. We are doing it to make sure that there is no doubt that Australian families, Australian businesses and Australian pensioners will receive the full benefit of the carbon tax repeal. The amendment complements the already existing powers that the ACCC has been given by the government through the broader legislative repeal package. In particular, the amendments moved here include guarantees that large retailers of regulated goods, electricity and natural gas, and bulk importers of synthetic greenhouse gases must pass on all cost savings. They introduce a penalty on electricity and natural gas retailers and bulk importers of synthetic greenhouse gases equal to 250 per cent of any cost savings they do not pass on, and they require electricity and natural gas retailers and bulk importers of synthetic greenhouse gases to inform the ACCC and customers as to how they are passing on cost savings.
The amendments will ensure there is no doubt as to who is covered by the obligations regarding electricity, gas and synthetic greenhouse gas bulk importers. The changes to the bill balance new compliance obligations with the need to ensure that household and business customers benefit. They are a light touch approach, but they carry with them an extra capacity. Businesses should be able to explain to customers how changes in their costs are flowing through to changes in their prices. The government is aware that major electricity and gas retailers are already committed to providing this information to households and businesses on bills, inserts and websites.
For the purposes of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901, I confirm that the definition of electricity retailer is limited to electricity retailers and electricity producers selling electricity into a wholesale electricity market to a retailer. By agreement, this is not intended to override any pre-existing contract. For the purposes of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901, I also confirm that bulk importers of synthetic greenhouse gas defined under section 13A(2)(c) of the Ozone Protection and Synthetic Greenhouse Gas Management Act 1989 are covered by the new requirements. The cost of synthetic greenhouse gases was significantly impacted by the carbon tax; therefore, to minimise the cost of compliance, small imports of synthetic greenhouse gases—such as imports of synthetic greenhouse gas contained in equipment such as refrigerators, cars and air conditioners—are not covered.
In finishing this debate for the government, I wish to make two points. Firstly, I wish to think the ACCC, which I have not previously thanked, as a professional, independent organisation led by Rod Sims and Brenton Philp. They have provided invaluable impartial and professional policy advice. Secondly, I want to take a different tack to what has characterised much of this debate. There is much agreement across this chamber and across this parliament and much goodwill about reducing emissions, and we should always remember that the commitment on both sides of this chamber is to reduce emissions in the lowest cost way. We disagree on the mechanisms—we have voted on the mechanisms, the community has voted on the mechanisms—but the intention is clear: to reduce our emissions, but to find a way that does it which is cost-effective and which is effective in actually reducing those emissions. For all of these reasons, I commend the bills and I commend the amendments to the House.