Monday, 20 August 2018
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for the Environment and Energy. Will the minister update the House on how the government is focusing on lower power bills for households and businesses across Australia, including in my home state of Victoria? Is the minister aware of any contrary proposals that would increase the burden on Australian families?
I thank the member for Dunkley. He is focused on delivering lower power prices for businesses and families throughout his electorate—like Replas, in Seaford, who turn plastics into pallets and deck boards; like Sims Metal; like the car yards; like the retail shopping strips across Frankston and across his electorate.
We won't take lectures from the Labor Party when it comes to energy because, when they were in office, prices went up each and every year. They gave us the dreaded carbon tax. They gave us the dreaded Citizens' Assembly. They gave us the dreaded cash for clunkers. And what about green loans and the pink batts scheme—not to mention Fuelwatch and GroceryWatch. What a mess it was from Labor. No wonder the member for Port Adelaide wrote a book where he said: 'We made mistakes. We sent mixed messages.' It is because Labor drove power prices up.
In contrast, under the prime ministership of the member for Wentworth, we have been able to intervene in the gas markets. Prices have come down by up to 50 per cent. We've taken action to rein in the power of the networks, which, if the Labor party had done previously, would have saved Australian consumers over $6 billion. We've been able to get better deals for 1.8 million households. Wholesale prices are down around 25 per cent this year, and retail prices came down in Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales on 1 July.
Today we've announced the next step in our energy plan: implementing the ACCC's recommendations. This is what the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said about the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and my announcements today: 'This is a great announcement. This is a good, strong action which will help bring prices down and bring relief to businesses and families.' That's from the ACCI. What do National Seniors say about the government's announcement today? They said: 'We welcome this. This is what we've called for. This is based on what our members have told us.'
What they're talking about is a default offer for 1.2 million Australians who no longer will be on the higher-price standing offers. We'll see up to a $416 saving. Businesses will see up to a $1,457 saving. We'll now have the ACCC as a permanent cop on the beat, monitoring the market and equipped with new enforcement powers to stamp out bad behaviour. We'll be implementing recommendation 4 to get more dispatchable willpower, new generation and more competition to large commercial and industrial customers. At the end of the day, the Labor Party will deliver you higher prices; the coalition will deliver you lower power prices, more jobs, more investment and a better deal for Australian families and businesses. (Time expired)
My question is to the Prime Minister. Over the past two years, the Prime Minister has asked Labor to support an emissions intensity scheme, a clean energy target, the National Energy Guarantee that went to the party room last Tuesday, another version of it announced on Saturday—
Mr Fletcher interjecting—
The member for Port Adelaide will pause for a second. The Minister for Urban Infrastructure and Cities is loudly interjecting and preventing me from hearing the question. He's warned. Can you start again, Member for Port Adelaide? We will start the clock again.
It is my pleasure. My question is to the Prime Minister. Over the past two years, the Prime Minister has asked Labor to support an emissions intensity scheme, a clean energy target, the National Energy Guarantee that went to the party room last Tuesday, another version announced on Saturday and yet another policy four hours ago. Which of these five government policies does the government currently support? Aren't Australians paying the price for five years of this government focusing on itself instead of policies to bring down power prices for Australian households?
I thank the honourable member for his question. The policies that the Labor Party championed when in government were responsible for making the energy sector both unreliable and extraordinarily expensive, to the point that electricity prices rose over the last decade by 56 per cent over the rate of inflation. It was a decoupling of electricity prices from the consumer price index and it was entirely due to poor policy. It was largely a function of Labor ideology and idiocy that saw that. We're starting to see prices coming down. We're seeing wholesale generation costs coming down substantially. Retail prices are coming down. Emissions from the electricity sector are also coming down. In terms of the National Energy Guarantee, the policy that we took to the party room last week has been improved following consultation—
Opposition members interjecting—
It has been. We consulted with our colleagues. We have improved it to ensure that there is effectively a mechanism that makes it absolutely clear that any change to emissions standards cannot put up prices. That's a very important safeguard. Overall, what Labor has failed to do is focus on price. That is what we're focusing on. We're having success with it. But there's more work to do.
The announcements we made today, as recommended by the ACCC, will save families and businesses hundreds of dollars. They're long overdue. I thank the ACCC for their recommendations, which would never have arisen had it not been for the inquiry being commissioned by the Treasurer 15 months ago. It's a great piece of work. I'm glad that Labor is supporting, or claiming to support, at least one part of it. But this is an opportunity to make a really material difference to people's electricity bills and get them lower. That's what they want us to do for them: cheaper electricity.