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Monday, 11 February 2013
Page: 606

Mr CHAMPION (Wakefield) (12:19): On behalf of the Standing Committee on Infrastructure and Communications, I seek leave to make a statement on the National Electricity Bill 2012 in discharge of the committee's requirement to provide an advisory report on the bill and present a copy of my statement.

Leave granted.

Mr CHAMPION: The committee has endorsed the content of this statement. On 29 October 2012, the National Electricity Bill was introduced into the House by the member for Lyne. According to the member for Lyne's first reading speech, the purpose of the bill is to 'adopt, in so far as practicable, the existing national electricity law to make the national electricity law an act of the Commonwealth'.

Energy prices and their regulation have been the subject of ongoing debates across states and territories, as well as occupying the attentions of federal governments over several years. In considering options for possible inquiry, committee members debated the relative merits of the various approaches to date, noting that discussion of energy markets and regulation was extremely complex. The committee noted that a select committee of the Senate looking at electricity pricing had reported on 1 November. The committee also noted that the government's energy white paper was released on 9 November 2011. The white paper considers issues including the deregulation of retail energy prices.

The committee notes that the consultation process for the white paper commenced in 2008, and that collective action from state, territory and the Commonwealth is needed. The committee acknowledged that extremely diverse views exist across the political spectrum as to how energy should be regulated, and that these views are currently being debated in various arenas. The committee took the view that an additional inquiry by a committee of the House would do little to add to the processes already underway.

As has been noted in the House by chairs of other House committees, this committee welcomes the opportunity to examine bills referred to it by the House, and indeed has already conducted inquiries into legislation as part of its work during this parliament. It is important however, that inquiries be conducted in a manner which is both timely and constructive. Given the ongoing consideration about reforms which are in progress, the committee considers that further investigation by a committee of the House is not the most constructive use of parliamentary resources.

The committee considers that issues involving the energy sector, including its regulation, will continue to be the subject of parliamentary and public debate, and therefore recommends that the issues canvassed in the bill continue to be considered in debates in this House.