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Wednesday, 18 October 2017
Page: 7867


Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (14:00): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Brandis. Yesterday the minister claimed that households would see a reduction in their power prices of between $110 and $115 per year over the 2020 to 2030 period. Last night, the chair of the Energy Security Board, Kerry Schott, told Lateline, 'I don't think anybody can guarantee a price reduction.' Given the chair of the board that devised this policy refused to guarantee a price reduction, how can any Australian trust the minister's guarantee of a price reduction?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:00): Thank you very much indeed, Senator Gallacher. I actually watched Kerry Schott's interview on Lateline, which you obviously did not. I'll tell you what she said, Senator Gallacher. Let me read to you from her transcript. She said:

The guarantee is about providing a reliable power system and meeting the emissions targets set in the Paris agreement.

What will happen when those mechanisms are put in place is that prices are likely to come down and they're likely to keep coming down.

That is what Dr Kerry Schott told Lateline last night. That is Dr Kerry Schott, the Chair of the Energy Security Board, who is in a better position than virtually any other authority in Australia to be able to make that prediction. What Dr Schott and the other members of the Energy Security Board, on whose advice the Turnbull government has acted—including Mr Pierce, the Chairman of the Australian Energy Market Commission; Audrey Zibelman, the CEO of AEMO; and Paula Conboy, the chair of AER—have all advised the government is that the most likely range of decrease in electricity prices will be in the range of $110 to $115 per annum as a result of the government's National Energy Guarantee. That doesn't, by the way, include the downward pressure on electricity prices from other measures that the Turnbull government has also taken, including, for example, its negotiation with the gas producers, its negotiations with the electricity retailers and its abolition of the limited merits review to prevent the operators gaming the system, all of which will have a downward impact on prices. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Gallacher, a supplementary question?

Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (14:03): Another member of the Energy Security Board, Mr Pierce, has revealed that Australians will have to wait three years to be even 50c a week better off. Is this the minister's guarantee to Australians struggling with the cost of living—a 50c-per-week saving in three years time?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:03): Senator Gallacher, I also heard Dr Pierce's interview, and that's not what he said either, and I noted you weren't quoting him in direct speech. You may take it that Dr Pierce's view is the view that he expressed in his advice to the government, which is the figure contained in the National Energy Guarantee policy document released by the Prime Minister yesterday, and that is that the best estimate of those experts—the people best placed to know the operation of the Australian energy market and the people best acquainted with its operation—is that electricity price reductions for the average household as a result of the government's National Energy Guarantee will be in the range of $110 to $115 per year. That is their advice to the government, and it is that advice, that expert advice, on which the government has acted.

Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (14:04): My final supplementary question is: given that the Liberal-National government has failed to deliver its promised $500 reduction in power prices and that Ms Scott has refused to guarantee a reduction in power prices, isn't it clear that guarantees from the minister and Mr Turnbull count for nothing for Australians struggling with the cost of electricity?

Senator BRANDIS (QueenslandAttorney-General, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:05): For heaven's sake, Senator Gallacher, if you can't even get the name of the person right, I don't think you're the right person to be asking this question. You're referring to Dr Kerry Schott, the chairman of the Energy Security Board. What Dr Kerry Schott has said, as I indicated to you, is that the range of reduction for the average household, as a direct result of the National Energy Guarantee, will be in the range of $110 to $115 per annum. I can also tell you that the largest decrease in electricity prices Australia has ever recorded was recorded in 2014 after the abolition of the carbon tax, so the prediction that the coalition made at the 2013 election about the effect of the abolition of the carbon tax turned out to be correct.