Monday, 19 June 2017
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. Last week the minister told the Senate:
… since the election of the coalition government in 2013 the price of electricity to Australian consumers has stabilised.
From 1 July retail electricity prices will again increase, with AGL increasing prices in New South Wales by 16 per cent or $300 per year for a typical household, and Origin by 15 to 18 per cent, which is in the range of $282 to $313. Is this what the minister meant when he said that prices had stabilised?
What I meant is that since the election of the coalition government the price of electricity to Australian households has stabilised. That fact is apparent from the material collated and graphed in the Finkel report. The Finkel report also discloses that during the period of the Labor government the price of electricity to Australian households doubled and has stabilised under the period of the coalition government.
Nevertheless, you are right in one respect. All policymakers, and certainly the government, understand that to do nothing is not an option, because if we do nothing then there will be upward pressure on electricity prices, and that is what we want to avoid. That is why at the moment the government is considering the Finkel report. It is discussing the matter and, informed by the views of Dr Finkel and those others who have contributed to this discussion, the government will in the near future be making some decisions in relation to the National Electricity Market. Those decisions will serve the three objectives, as I said last week, of affordable supply, reliable supply and lower carbon emissions.
Given that AGL has blamed its price hike on wholesale market prices, which have doubled since 2013, isn't it clear that the Abbott-Turnbull government's policy paralysis is to blame for the higher retail electricity prices?
Far from it. I find it remarkable that somebody who represents in this parliament a party that was incapable of making a decision in relation to this issue for six long years, and on whose watch electricity prices doubles, should be making the observation that you just made.
Opposition senators interjecting—
Let me take your interjection, Senator Wong. The Finkel report was received by the government last Friday week—a week and a half ago. We have discussed the matter at a party room meeting, which, in order to listen to the views of my colleagues and in particular the backbench members of the coalition, informed by the Finkel report, informed by the public discussion of the issue, and informed by the view of— (Time expired)
Will the minister now admit that under the Turnbull government Australians are paying more for electricity, with those opposite more focused on internal fights than on resolving their own ongoing policy paralysis?
Well, Senator McAllister, I know that the culture of your party is very different from the culture of mine, but in the Liberal Party and in the National Party we actually do not regard a discussion as a fight. In fact, what we understand the purpose of this process to be—the reason we come to parliament—is to discuss the issues of importance to the Australian people. And there is no issue of more importance to the Australian people right now than the question of affordable and reliable energy supply. So, we are considering the Finkel report. And as I have said ad nauseam and say again to you today: informed by the Finkel report, informed by other expert commentary, informed by the views of our colleagues, all of whom have useful perspectives to bring to bear on this issue, the government will shortly be making decisions that will serve those objectives.