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Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Page: 8502

Electricity Prices

Ms O'NEILL (Robertson) (14:59): My question is the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister update the House on the government's efforts to reform the electricity market and make sure Australians get a fairer and better deal?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:59): I thank the member for Robertson for her question. I know that she, like all members of the government, is concerned about the impact of electricity prices on family budgets and that she would hear very, very routinely from the people of her electorate about the impact of a more than 60 per cent increase in electricity prices in New South Wales over the past few years. That electricity price increase has not come with any form of assistance to the community in general. People have not been supported as electricity prices have skyrocketed and, at the same time, the dividends being paid by electricity assets owned by the New South Wales government to the government itself have skyrocketed as well.

I am concerned about this impact of electricity pricing. Of course, there are a number of factors at play here. There is the investment in the—

Mr Randall interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): Order! The member for Canning is warned.

Ms GILLARD: There is investment in infrastructure, which is necessary because there is a backlog of investment. There is growth in peak demand. There are changes that have raised reliability standards and that have come at a high price, and there is the patchwork design of the National Electricity Market itself. I am also concerned about the dividend gouging of state governments, and I am concerned about a market design which means that if you overinvest in the poles and wires you earn more dividends and you pass that price through to the community. We are concerned about this and determined to act, and that is what the Council of Australian Governments should do and will do at the end of this year in December.

We have always been very up-front with the Australian people that carbon pricing would increase electricity prices by 10 per cent, and we have also said to the Australian people that we will ensure that they get tax cuts, family payment increases and pension increases, which means that the majority of Australian households will come out in front or square. But I am deeply concerned about these 50, 60 and 70 per cent increases that families have had to bear without a cent of compensation or assistance from state governments. So we are determined to see action at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in December. We would prefer to do that with the cooperation of states and territories, but, if that cooperation is not forthcoming, we are determined to get this done for Australian families.