Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9197

Mr KELVIN THOMSON (Wills) (21:02): This motion continues the regrettable opposition tradition of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story when it comes to the carbon price. The motion says the carbon price will have a disproportionate impact on regional industries. The Leader of the Opposition went further, saying in June last year that there will be 45,000 jobs lost in energy-intensive industries and there will be 126,000 jobs lost, mainly in regional Australia. The claim is nonsense. Employment will continue to grow strongly under a carbon price, with 1.6 million new jobs being created by 2020. New jobs and industries in regional Australia will be created from investment in clean technology, and I urge the state governments of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland not to put planning roadblocks in the way of wind energy jobs in regional Australia.

In June last year the Leader of the Opposition claimed, 'A carbon tax ultimately means death to the coal industry.' In fact, Treasury modelling shows the Australian coal mining industry's output will more than double over the period from 2010 to 2050. More than $96 billion worth of investment in the coal industry is currently in the pipeline—$96 billion.

And of course the opposition—and we heard it again tonight—has been endeavouring to blame the carbon price for electricity price rises. The Leader of the Opposition said last October: 'It will lead to massive increases in power prices.' In fact, the carbon price will increase household electricity prices by $3.30 a week on average, and households will receive $10.10 a week on average under the government's Household Assistance Package.

The opposition are Johnny-come-latelys to the issue of electricity prices. In November 2010 I expressed great concern in this House that over the past 10 years electricity prices in both Melbourne and Sydney had more than doubled: Melbourne prices had risen by more than 52 per cent in real terms and so had Sydney's, at 51 per cent. It is high time pensioners and other household electricity consumers got some relief from ever-rising electricity prices. I believe that regulatory authorities should limit electricity price rises for household consumers to the percentage amount by which pensions rise. This would give pensioners and fixed income earners some badly needed respite. I urge electricity pricing regulatory authorities to consider the hardship the rises over the past decade have caused and think about pensioners who are struggling to make ends meet.

My view is that the cost of investing in new electricity infrastructure should be borne by the beneficiaries of growth: the property industry. Electricity companies should not be prevented from recovering the costs of new infrastructure from the new developments that necessitate it. Household customers should not be asked to subsidise infrastructure development over which they have no control.

I welcome recent statements by the Prime Minister on the causes of rising electricity prices and on the debate we are now having about the gold-plating of electricity networks, with pensioners and household consumers footing the bill. The more that power companies spend, the more money they receive. This gives them an incentive to gold-plate their networks. I draw the attention of the House to an example of this in my own electorate. At the Brunswick Terminal Station, CitiPower and SP AusNet, majority owned by the Singaporean government, have turned what should have been a $107 million spend in 2006 on an enhancement to Melbourne's CBD network into a $271 million spend, and still counting, this year. What is called the 'reg test' is the green light for the owners of transmission assets to build something and then lift the prices charged to consumers, via their power bills, to recover the costs. Yet the 2008 'reg test' for the Brunswick Terminal Station did not consider the possibility that the air insulated system that it had identified for the site was unlikely to receive local council planning approval. This was notwithstanding that the Brunswick site was zoned residential and even a cursory inquiry would have revealed entrenched local opposition. Four years later the plan is to spend $271 million. This is a far cry from the original $107 million earmarked for the site or the $135 million considered for the Bouverie Street alternative. The federal government should launch an investigation into how it is that a $100 million proposal can become a $271 million one.

As long as this kind of thing continues to happen, we will continue to see electricity supply companies making large, unwarranted profits at the expense of pensioners and ordinary households. This is what this motion should be about. If the opposition were fair dinkum, that is what they would be talking about tonight.