House debates

Wednesday, 5 December 2018


Treasury Laws Amendment (Prohibiting Energy Market Misconduct) Bill 2018; Second Reading

7:22 pm

Photo of Clare O'NeilClare O'Neil (Hotham, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Justice) Share this | Hansard source

He did not. I'm getting an interjection here. And I do wonder whether those on the other side of the chamber have bothered to look at that report that they invested Australian taxpayer dollars in.

If none of our regulators will support it, if climate scientists in this country won't support it, then surely the BFFs of those on the other side of the chamber in big business support it. Surely they must support it. But even then, when we look to the usual suspects who would back in a coalition policy such as this, we are hearing horror from people who represent business in this country. Jennifer Westacott was quoted in The Australian Financial Review yesterday, I think it was, saying:

The principle that governments can misuse their power to break up companies sets a dangerous precedent that will deter investment across the economy. This will do nothing to solve high power prices for families and businesses struggling to pay their bills today.

It will do nothing to solve high power prices.

We had the Australian Industry Group's chief executive, Innes Willox—no particular friend of the Labor party—saying that industry has grave concerns about the powers in this bill. He has instead asked the government to re-embrace the National Energy Guarantee, which I will come to. But before I get to that, Innes Willox said that the energy policy that we are debating today is:

… the worst piece of public policy making in a couple of generations. The NEG at least gives us a pathway out.

The business community and the energy sector have urged the government to abandon the legislation that we are debating in the chamber today, and I want to quote from a joint statement from the Australian Energy Council, the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, the Business Council of Australia, Energy Networks Australia, and the Energy Users Association of Australia. They are scathing when it comes to what is in the bill before us. They talk about the fact that the proposals represent a 'deep and genuine sovereign risk'. We've got Liberals on the other side of the chamber here who are supporting a divestment policy that is described by these people as a genuine and real sovereign risk. Various joint statement makers go on to say:

They are inconsistent with best practice for a modern economy, such as Australia's, and were specifically considered and rejected by the ACCC and the Harper Competition Policy Review. If enacted, these powers would cast a pall over investment in all sectors of the Australian economy and threaten the economic attractiveness of a country highly reliant on foreign investment.

I just want to give one more brief quote from Jennifer Westacott, who wrote in the Daily Telegraph:

Ignoring the advice of the ACCC and instead choosing to head down a path that threatens breaking-up electricity companies will not cut electricity bills.

The watchdog itself has called this "extreme" …

We're running out of people here. We've got the climate scientists who don't support this. We've got the energy experts who don't support this. We've got big business who don't support it. We've got the usual friends of the coalition in the media who don't support this.

But I want to talk now about the Liberals who don't support it. The member for Chisholm, who was until very recently a member of the Liberal Party, has been absolutely scathing. She has noticed the very obvious impact of the bill before us, which is that it won't lower electricity prices. This is a doozy. It's not going to help us meet our climate targets and it's going to do nothing to lower electricity prices. The member for Chisolm says: 'It will drive up cost and prices. The fundamental problem with pricing in electricity is a shortage of dispatchable generation. Who is going to invest in new generation if they are at risk of a divestiture order?' What a sensible question from the member for Chisholm.

I also can't finish this debate without mentioning the member for Curtin, who has been a very proud foreign minister of Australia and who has now moved to the backbench. The member for Curtin has been very vocal in this debate, as good Liberals should be, because what is being proposed by those on the other side of the chamber is a dog's breakfast. It is a silly grab bag of things that don't amount to a cohesive policy, and the way that this has been rushed into the parliament demonstrates to me that those on the other side of the chamber know and accept that if this policy were properly exposed to public view and public debate, as it should be, it would be rejected, as I think it will be by Labor.


No comments

Log in or join to post a public comment.