House debates

Thursday, 9 March 2023

Matters of Public Importance


3:51 pm

Photo of Zoe McKenzieZoe McKenzie (Flinders, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

One of the simplest premises of Australian public life is you only make promises you both intend to keep and are capable of keeping. As a new candidate in 2022, I, like my friend here, the member for Menzies, endured the most rigorous of process to ensure that every single promise I made for the betterment of the lives of the good folk of Flinders could be funded and implemented within the responsible boundaries of a future coalition government. It was a process that was thorough, if not bordering on torturous, but it meant that both I and, more importantly, my constituents could be confident that whatever I said I could deliver, I would actually deliver under a returned coalition.

So it has been with some shock that I have observed the callous indifference to the promises made to the Australian people by the Australian Labor Party during their 2022 campaign. Nowhere is that disregard more stark than in energy prices. Last year the Prime Minister, then leader of the opposition, promised all Australians their energy bills would go down. His promise wasn't broad or in general terms. It wasn't a throw away, 'They will be less under Labor' or a 'Blah, blah, I don't know what the number is.' It was a categorical promise, a calculated and clear categorical promise electricity prices would go down by $275—$275, not by $200, not by $250, but by $275, on the money, not a penny more, not a penny less. It wasn't something he said once—a slipped remark, a hasty promise, tongue-twisted moment of forgetfulness. He said it 97 times. Part of me is tempted to stand here and say it 97 times or find 97 different ways of saying it so no-one misses the intent. 'Electricity prices will go down by $275 under Labor. Labor will reduce your electricity prices by $275. You will save $275 on your electricity bills under an Albanese government. Albo's going to underwrite your electricity bill by $275. Need a break from your electricity bills? That is okay, because we are going to pay the first $275 in 2023.' That's five. Technically, to be on par, I still have 92 to go. But in instead of delivering anything like a $275 or even $2.75 reduction, the Prime Minister has delivered the most expensive average wholesale electricity prices on record. This week we heard it is going to get worse, with expectations the Australian Energy Regulator will announce a 20 per cent increase in the default market offer for electricity prices next week, to take effect on 1 July.

I am perplexed. If I am perplexed, the Australian public has every right to be absolutely flabbergasted. I have a vague recollection of being recalled to Canberra last December. We had risen for the parliamentary year, said our farewells and had all returned to our electorates to care for our constituents and provide support across their activities in the lead-up to the Christmas break. Then the PM called us all back to Canberra for a single sitting day on 15 December. It cost more than $1 million to bring us all back, and the parliament passed the Prime Minister's Treasury Laws Amendment (Energy Price Relief Plan ) Bill 2022. At the time, the ABC described the outcome as follows:

Gas prices will be capped for a year in an effort to restrain runaway electricity price increases, after a last-minute meeting of parliament before the year's end.

'Oh, goodie!' you could be fooled for thinking, watching the news that night. And then the letters started to come from power companies across the nation to our kitchen tables, telling us we faced 30 per cent increases in the next year: 'Dear Elizabeth, on 1 February 2023, your natural gas rates are going up. We understand this isn't the news you want to hear'—or perhaps expected to hear—'and we're here if you need to talk to us. What's happening at a glance? We estimate it will cost you an additional $730 a year, $900 a year, $1,000 year.'

I got an email from a pensioner, Eddie, in my electorate, dated 11 January: 'I would like to express my concern re the recent price increase as advised by my service provider. On the information provided by them, I have calculated the current charges for domestic supply will increase, in my case, by 39.6 per cent effective February 2023.' A couple of days later, I got an email from Joe and Julie in my electorate. It read: 'We just received notification from our gas supplier advising of the new charges for gas supplied to our residence. Based on past usage it is estimated that our cost of gas will increase by $667.62, representing an over 50 per cent increase.'

These increases are as a direct result of the ALP, state and federal, demonising gas and, in particular, the Andrews government's ban on all types of exploration in Victoria for the last eight years. On the money—


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