Wednesday, 5 December 2018
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Energy. Will the minister update the House on how a strong economy ensures the government can take action to lower power prices, including for those in my electorate of Bennelong? How would a weaker economy, through higher taxes, put this action at risk?
I thank the member for Bennelong for his question. He knows that this government has a balanced and sensible policy for affordable 24/7 reliable power for Australian families and small businesses, including in his electorate of Bennelong. During a recent visit to Bennelong I met with a number of businesses, including Fletcher Building. Fletcher Building are a building products manufacturing company, which employ over 5,500 people. They know that high energy prices restrict investment and growth. That's why we're driving electricity prices down—so that businesses like Fletcher Building can employ more Australians, building on the more than one million jobs that have been created in the time that we've been in government.
Our plan for lower power prices is already delivering results. We have said time and time again that the big energy companies must put their customers first. Thanks to pressure from this government, half a million Australian families and small businesses will benefit from lower prices from 1 January. AGL, EnergyAustralia, Origin and Alinta, along with other retailers, are cutting prices for customers by up to 15 per cent. On average, those customers in New South Wales will be $200 better off; in Victoria, $313; in South Australia, $270; and, in South-East Queensland, more than $175. Prices are coming down, but for too long the big energy companies have focused on their profits and not their customers. That's why this government is introducing its big-stick legislation to parliament, which will hold big energy companies to account. Our reforms will crack down on dodgy practices, on price gouging and on loyalty taxes.
We on this side of the House remember that the Hazelwood power station closed in March 2017. The ACCC found that, in response to that, AGL increased bids from $30 a megawatt hour to over $60 a megawatt hour or higher and Origin increased bids by up to $150 a megawatt hour. This is a test for Labor: support our legislation and stop the exploitation of hardworking Australians, who are paying too much for this essential service, or oppose it and continue to side with the big energy companies. We know which side we're on—we're on the side of those hardworking small businesses and Australian families who want a better deal from their energy company.