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Thursday, 12 February 2009
Page: 1112


Mr MARTIN FERGUSON (Minister for Resources and Energy and Minister for Tourism) (9:37 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

In recent years, a number of significant reforms have been made to energy markets in Australia. Under the guidance of the Ministerial Council on Energy, Australia has moved towards greater national consistency of governance and regulation. The reforms have aimed to ensure efficient infrastructure investment, promote competitive energy markets and provide lower energy prices for consumers.

The bill I am introducing today, although only making minor amendments to Commonwealth legislation, reflects another significant reform of the energy sector overseen by the ministerial council—the proposed commencement of a single national energy market operator for both the electricity and gas sectors. This operator, to be known as the Australian Energy Market Operator, or AEMO, is anticipated to commence operations on 1 July this year. Its commencement will strengthen the national character of energy market governance.

Upon its establishment, AEMO will assume the responsibilities and functions of existing gas and electricity market operators, including the National Electricity Market Management Company, NEMMCO. AEMO will also adopt a number of new functions such as the proposed National Transmission Planner function for electricity.

The bill provides for minor amendments to be made to Commonwealth legislation, namely the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000 and the Trade Practices Act 1974, as a consequence of AEMO’s assumption of NEMMCO’s functions.

The broader functions, powers and duties of AEMO will be primarily set out in legislation to be introduced into the South Australian parliament, as lead legislator for the national energy market. These will be amendments to the National Electricity Law, a schedule to the National Electricity (South Australia) Act 1996, and the National Gas Law, a schedule to the National Gas (South Australia) Act 2008. These amendments are expected to be put to the South Australian parliament in the first half of this year to facilitate the commencement of AEMO’s operations by 1 July. Other jurisdictions apart from Western Australia and the Northern Territory will also amend their legislation to effect this change.

The bill I am introducing today also corrects references in Commonwealth legislation to the title of Western Australian gas legislation. In 2008 a bill to apply the National Gas Access Law—that is, key elements of the National Gas Law—was introduced into the Western Australian parliament. However, the parliament was prorogued before the bill was passed. It is now anticipated that the legislation applying the National Gas Access Law will commence in the first half of 2009. As a consequence of the delay, the title of the Western Australian application legislation has also changed, requiring correction to references in the Australian Energy Market Act and other Commonwealth legislation. While the corrections are minor, they are important in facilitating the move by Western Australia to become a participating jurisdiction in the national framework for regulating access to gas pipeline services. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Lindsay) adjourned.