Wednesday, 5 December 2018
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Is the Prime Minister aware that according to today's media reports energy companies, business groups and even government members are warning that the Prime Minister's discredited forced divestment policy sets a dangerous precedent that would threaten investment across the economy? Does the Prime Minister agree?
No, I don't. I don't support that. What the ACCC Retail electricity pricing inquiry final report found—I initiated that report as Treasurer—was that we have been taking action on electricity prices. We haven't been doing things to force them up, as the Labor Party would do. They found that retailers were taking advantage of confused and disengaged customers. They found competition being restricted through dominant players choosing not to offer financial contracts and conduct which undermines the effective operation of the wholesale market. That's the misconduct, and they are the practices, which they found.
The member opposite says, 'What did they say about divestment?' That's a very good point. The ACCC did not recommend divestment. They recommended that, if you did everything you possibly could, it wouldn't be necessary. But those options aren't available, and our government has taken the decision—it was also taken under the previous Prime Minister—that we would introduce divestment powers to ensure that big electricity companies did not take advantage of Australian consumers. It's pretty simple: you are either with the top end of town over there on big electricity companies, or you're standing with the government, who wants to put in place and even up the national laws to ensure that those big electricity companies cannot play the market and cannot play mums and dads who are paying too much for their electricity.
I know why Labor probably don't want to support this measure. It's because they're for higher electricity prices. How do I know that? Because they have a 45 per cent emissions reduction target, which will drive up prices. They like higher prices. When they were in government they drove up prices. They doubled, despite the fact that, I understand, they gave a billion dollars to brown coal generation. All the energy generators had to do for those opposite when they were in government was send them their bank account details. So I'm not going to take lectures from the Labor Party, who have only one agenda—to punish mums and dads and pensioners and small businesses with higher electricity prices as they cuddle up to the big energy companies.