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Thursday, 19 October 2017
Page: 8079

Energy


Senator POLLEY (Tasmania) (14:57): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. Yesterday, the minister told the Senate that the Turnbull government's latest energy policy would achieve price reductions of 'in the range of $110 to $115 per year'. Will the minister guarantee Australians struggling with the cost of electricity a saving of at least $110 a year?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:58): That's not just my view; that's the view of the Energy Security Board, who are the authors of this policy—and I adopt their view. Like you, Senator Polley, I am not a specialist in the field of energy markets. I suspect that, apart from the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, there is no-one in this chamber who is a specialist in the field of energy markets and electricity markets. However, therefore, governments adopt the advice of the best expert evidence available to them. The best expert evidence available to us comes from the members of the Energy Security Board, led by Dr Kerry Schott, and the advice of the Energy Security Board to us is that the adoption of these measures will lead to a reduction in the price of the average household's electricity bill, annualised, of $110 to $115 per year.

So, Senator Polley, that's our advice. That is the judgement that the experts have made and it's the basis on which the government has acted. I point out to you once again that there is only one side of this chamber that has a plan for lower electricity prices, and that is the government side. It is a plan informed by evidence, informed by engineering, informed by economics and, most importantly, informed by the best specialist advice that the government can have.

Your side, Senator Polley, the Labor Party, has no plan to reduce electricity prices. In fact, for years now you have been dragged along in the slipstream of Greens ideology, who not only have no plan to reduce electricity price they have a plan to increase it. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Polley, a supplementary question.



Senator POLLEY (Tasmania) (15:00): So we've learnt that you have yet another plan, but no guarantee. Perhaps this one would be a bit easier? Reports indicate that savings could be as low as 50c a week in three years time. Will the minister guarantee this paltry saving?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (15:00): Well, as I said to you, Senator Polley, in answer to your initial question, what the government will guarantee is that it relies on the best advice available to it. And that advice is that the adoption of the National Energy Guarantee will reduce the average household electricity price by between $110 and $115 per year.

And that, by the way, Senator Polley, is in addition to the reductions that will be achieved by the other measures the government has taken: for example, by the abolition of the limited merits review, which enabled the electricity companies to game the system; as a result of the Prime Minister's engagement with the gas companies, which ensures that there is a greater supply of gas to the domestic market at a lower price; and as a result of the Prime Minister's engagement with the electricity retailers, which has resulted in moving Australian consumers onto the best electricity plans for their households. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Polley, a further supplementary question.



Senator POLLEY (Tasmania) (15:01): I take that as a no. Given that Mr Turnbull, Treasurer Morrison, Minister Frydenberg and the chair of the Energy Security Board, Dr Schott, have all refused to guarantee any price relief, isn't it clear that Australians are struggling and watching the cost of electricity going up and up and up, and will continue to do so under the Turnbull government?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (15:02): Through you, Mr President: Senator Polley, I'll tell you what the Australian people want. They want to see a government that is trying hard to get electricity prices down! They want to see a government that is adopting policies and has a plan to get electricity prices down, and this government has. And it's a plan informed by the best specialist evidence available in this country.

Meanwhile, we are guaranteeing the reliability of supply while maintaining our Paris targets as—

The PRESIDENT: A point of order, Senator Wong?

Senator Wong: Yes, on direct relevance. The question was about the guarantee of price relief. Now, I understand that the minister has guaranteed reliability of supply. I just wonder if he's actually ever going to guarantee any price relief.

The PRESIDENT: Thank you, Senator Wong. The minister has been in order. Minister, you have the call.

Senator BRANDIS: So those are the three things we're going to do, Senator Polley: we're going to get prices down, we're going to maintain the reliability of supply and we're going to adhere to our Paris targets, while you, Senator Polley, and your side of politics have no plan at all and you're not even trying. The only thing you're trying to do is to outcompete the Greens, who have a policy not to reduce electricity prices but to increase them.

Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed upon the Notice Paper.