Australian Energy Regulator Pricing Decision

I speak in support of the motion of the member for Wallsend. It is a worthy, apt and true motion. The Australian Energy Regulator [AER] regulates energy markets and networks under national energy market legislation and rules. In April last year the AER issued a final decision on the revenue proposals submitted by Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales electricity distribution and transmission businesses for the period starting on 1 July 2015. After an exhaustive and detailed investigation, the independent arbiter confirmed the obvious—that the people of New South Wales have been paying too much for electricity.

The decision set revenue at $5.7 billion, or 25 per cent below what the network requested for the period 2014 to 2019. Finally, under the AER, there was to be a correction to exorbitantly high power prices in New South Wales. Households were estimated to save $313 per annum on their power bills, providing real benefit to households and families across the State. It would have benefits not only for households but also for local businesses and local communities because households would have higher disposable incomes. Small businesses were estimated to save $528 on their energy costs. Electricity is a significant cost for every business across the State. A cut to power prices would mean a reduction in the cost of running a business and would promote job creation.
Currently, network prices in New South Wales are double those of Victoria. In other words, it costs the end user twice as much to get electricity from a power station in New South Wales to their power point than it does in Victoria. One would think the Premier would want to rectify that. Instead, the Premier pushed ahead with a desire to see higher power prices and he took expensive legal action, paid for by the taxpayers of New South Wales, to appeal the AER's decisions. The Baird Government took this legal action to fatten the cow for market, as the member for Wallsend said, rather than to allow savings for the households and businesses of New South Wales.
The Australian Competition Tribunal had to determine whether consumers and businesses should save substantially on their electricity bill or if electricity companies should receive higher revenue. Again, let us be clear: The Baird Government's commitment to selling the New South Wales electricity distribution businesses—or leasing them for 99 years; whatever one wants to call it—means that it wants the transaction to be as profitable as possible, even at the expense of individual households and businesses across this State. Even the Australian Competition Tribunal, when it brought down its judgement to uphold the appeal, said:

      Obviously, from the price perspective, the present issues raised by Networks New South Wales are not intended to reduce the price for the provision of electricity.

The Baird Government continues not to act in the best interests of the people of New South Wales. It is a Government that time and again seeks to avoid representing the people of New South Wales. It is a Government that thinks only about developers, privatisation and making a quick buck. Already, Charlestown families in my electorate are paying $1,000 a year more for electricity and gas than they were before the Liberals and The Nationals came to power in 2011. Privatising electricity permanently deprives the New South Wales budget of an annual revenue stream of up to $1.7 billion each year. For those reasons, I stand firmly with the member for Wallsend and members on this side of the House to urge the Minister to reconsider the privatisation of electricity.