House debates

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Questions without Notice


2:21 pm

Photo of Chris BowenChris Bowen (McMahon, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Treasurer. Can the Treasurer confirm reports this morning that the member for Curtin told the government that its discredited forced divestment policy threatened investment, could be regarded as sovereign risk and was inconsistent with Liberal values?

2:22 pm

Photo of Josh FrydenbergJosh Frydenberg (Kooyong, Liberal Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I can confirm to the member for McMahon that we on this side of the House have introduced legislation today to reduce people's power prices, because we are on the side of the Australian consumer, the families and the small businesses. As the member for McMahon knows, the ACCC has identified significant problems in the energy market, which they say is unsustainable and can't continue in its current form. Those problems are in the retail market, where retailers don't pass onto consumers the full benefit of reductions in their own costs. There are problems in the contract market; we're seeing it particularly in South Australia—illiquidity in the contract market, where new retailers can't come into the market because of a barrier to entry because they can't get the hedges and swaps in the financial contracts that they need. We see it in the wholesale market as well, where big generators have sometimes held back supply in order to send prices up.

We say to the member for McMahon: what's wrong with calling out that misconduct? What's wrong with putting in place penalties which range from infringement notices and higher fines to, in the case of the wholesale market, divestment on the recommendation of the ACCC to the Treasurer and a referral by the Treasurer on to the Federal Court of Australia? I say to the member for McMahon: what is wrong with Australia having a policy of divestment, as the United States and the United Kingdom do? What's so different? I'll tell you what's different: the Labor Party have a set of tax policies and an industrial relations policy which is big-time antibusiness. They are looking for a cover to cosy up with the energy companies to obscure the failures of their own policies.

I can tell the House that we in the Liberal and National parties are committed to lowering people's power bills. We've seen prices come down from July this year in Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales, and we will take whatever action is needed, including introducing this bill in the House today, to ensure that the people of Australia, all 25 million of them, get a better deal from the energy companies.