Tuesday, 14 August 2018
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Before the 2013 election this Liberal government promised to reduce power bills by $550 a year, but since then power bills have gone up and up. Today the government is again promising to reduce power bills by $550 a year. Why would Australians trust any promise this government makes about lower power bills, promises which the member for Warringah, the former Prime Minister, described today as 'merchant banker gobbledegook'?
The honourable member is no doubt very familiar with an organisation called the Labor Environment Action Network, or LEAN. It's an interesting society. The member for Rankin is LEAN's Queensland patron, and the member for Watson is LEAN's New South Wales patron. I assume that the member for Port Adelaide is LEAN's South Australia patron. The Labor Environment Action Network said on 1 August 2018 that the truest thing said at the Clean Energy Council conference was that 'high prices are not a market failure; they're proof of the market working well'. Really? So, the member for Rankin and the member for Watson should take the member for Port Adelaide with them doorknocking, and when people complain about higher prices they should say, 'Don't you worry about that; this is proof that the market is working well.' I mean, really. That is what the Labor Party is all about.
We're determined to ensure that we deliver more-affordable and more-reliable power for Australians, and we are putting the policies in place to do that. The National Energy Guarantee is one of them, but it is not the only one. Right across the board you've seen support for this policy from one industry group or another, all of them recognising Australian—
Mr Frydenberg interjecting—
My question is to the Treasurer. Will the Treasurer update the House on how the government's energy policy will encourage the investment needed to support growth in the Australian economy and reduce the cost-of-living pressures? And is the minister aware of any other opinions?
I thank the member for Leichhardt for his question. The Turnbull government is committed to cheaper electricity prices. And, as the Prime Minister just reminded us, the Labor Party thinks the mark of good energy policy is higher electricity prices. If that is the case, then when they were in government they must have thought they had a pretty good policy, because electricity prices under the Labor Party increased 12.2 per cent every single year on average.
We arrested the growth in that, and that has come down to an average of only 3.4 per cent. But there's better news than that. In the last quarter, in the June quarter, electricity prices in Australia, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, fell by 1.3 per cent. They came down, and that has been, as the minister has been explaining, because the impact of lower wholesale prices is beginning to flow into a lower retail price and lower prices for consumers. That has been borne out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and the Governor of the Reserve Bank has also highlighted that going into this quarter one of the things that will actually be putting pressure down on inflation will be lower utility prices, including electricity—and I note lower childcare prices as well, as a result of the childcare reforms.
But our policies are designed to deliver lower and cheaper electricity prices. As we've reminded the House today, that started with getting rid of the carbon tax and has gone all the way through to the most recent ACCC report, which is about supporting and ensuring that we see realised investment to produce more energy in the Australian market, because, when you increase supply, you lower the price. We've secured access to gas. We've ensured customers have been getting a better deal. We have seen the turning point on electricity prices under the policies of this government, and there is broad-based support for the National Energy Guarantee, because it is part of this plan. There's broad-based support because they know the time for shouting at the clouds and shouting at each other on energy policy is over. The time for action and implementing this policy is right now.
The question is: what are the Labor Party going to do? Are they going to play politics or are they going to support Australians who don't want to choose between affordable, reliable and sustainable policy? Australians want all three, and that's what the National Energy Guarantee delivers, so it's time for the opposition to get off the fence. It's time for the Labor Party to stop making excuses and get behind the National Energy Guarantee because that delivers cheaper electricity prices. It delivers the certainty that the business and investment community needs to deliver more energy to our markets to ensure there are lower electricity prices. It's time for the Leader of the Opposition and the Labor Party to get on the National Energy Guarantee bus because it's driving towards lower electricity prices for all Australians.