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Wednesday, 13 September 2017
Page: 7138

Energy


Senator McALLISTER ( New South Wales Deputy Opposition Whip in the Senate ) ( 14:00 ): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. Yesterday, when asked to confirm that the average Sydney household is paying $1,000 more on their energy bills since this federal Liberal government came to power, the minister refused to answer. Given that the minister has had 24 hours to check, can he now confirm that the average Sydney household is paying $1,000 more for electricity since this federal Liberal government came to power?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:00): That's just not true. I didn't refuse to answer the question at all. In fact, I gave you a very full answer, Senator McAllister. I didn't confirm the assertion you made then and I don't confirm it now. But, because you raised the issue of electricity prices, I can tell you, as I tried to tell you yesterday, what the Australian government is doing to ensure that there is downward pressure on electricity prices. First of all, Senator McAllister, we won't be repeating the mistake that you made—not you personally, of course; I don't think you were in the Senate at the time. We won't be repeating the mistake that your side of politics made of allowing unregulated export from the Australian gas market so that overseas consumers were able to buy Australian gas at lower prices than Australian consumers. We won't be repeating that mistake, which is why the Prime Minister and the minister for energy, Mr Frydenberg, on 24 July announced the new mechanism that will enable them to regulate the export of gas.

Secondly, Senator McAllister, we have also taken action to ensure that electricity providers are transparent with their customers by making available to all electricity consumers a mechanism whereby they can easily and readily establish the best available plan for them on their electricity bill. That is something which was the direct result of the Prime Minister's own personal intervention with the CEOs of the retail electricity suppliers—something that once—

Senator Wong interjecting

Senator BRANDIS: Senator Wong, let me take your interjection. It was a very productive cup of tea, Senator Wong, because it resulted in millions of Australians being put in a position to reduce their electricity bill as a result of the Prime Minister's intervention. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator McAllister, a supplementary question.




Senator McALLISTER (New South WalesDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:02): Given that the average Sydney household is paying $1,000 more since the federal Liberal government came to power, will the minister admit that the government has failed in its promise to reduce power prices by $550?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:03): Not only will I not admit it, but it's objectively wrong. In fact, we had the largest reduction in Australian retail power prices early in the life of this government when we abolished the carbon tax, imposed by the last Labor government. We saw the single greatest reduction in electricity prices in recent Australian history. Senator McAllister, frustrate as you do, play politics as you do, but you and your side are standing in the way of further reductions of power prices to Australians by getting in the way of the government legislating to abolish the limited merits review so that electricity retailers and suppliers can no longer game the system. The estimates of the savings to Australian consumers from the abolition or the prohibition of suppliers gaming the system is $3.5 billion, and you're standing in the way of those savings. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator McAllister, a final supplementary question.



Senator McALLISTER (New South WalesDeputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (14:04): Given that the Liberal government has been in power for five years, isn't it clear that the policy paralysis under the Turnbull government is delivering higher energy prices, less investment and less reliability? When will the Prime Minister stand up to his party room and take action to end the energy crisis?


Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:04): Senator McAllister, every single assertion in your question is wrong, including, by the way, the computational assertion. We have been in power for four years, not five. Senator McAllister, we are very proud of the measures that we have taken in those four years. Let me tell you, Senator McAllister, what our decisions have been informed by. Our decisions have been informed by the need for Australians to have affordable and reliable power. You of all people, Senator McAllister, being from the Labor Party—a party in power in South Australia where the state Labor government can't keep the lights on—

Honourable senators interjecting

Senator BRANDIS: The people of South Australia, as a result of the ideological approach of Mr Weatherill and his Labor government, are facing another summer of blackouts and the people of Victoria, as a result of the ideological approach of Mr Daniel Andrews and his Labor government, are facing a summer of blackouts—because you put ideology before common sense. (Time expired)