Following detailed briefings and the consultation possible within the available time frames, ACT Independent Senator David Pocock is today confirming his support for the government’s Competition and Consumer Amendment (Gas Market) Bill 2022.
In providing this support, Senator Pocock notes the extreme stress escalating energy prices are having on households and businesses and the urgent need to provide some relief. His support for the bill notwithstanding, Senator Pocock remains concerned with elements of the broader Energy Price Relief Plan.
Speaking alongside the next generation of electrical apprentices at the National Electrical and Communications Association’s ACT Centre of Excellence, Senator Pocock outlined areas where the package could have done more to support jobs, lower bills and accelerate the energy transition.
“I fully support the need to lower energy bills for Australian households and businesses who are doing it extremely tough,” Senator Pocock said.
“I welcome the commitment to providing relief to the most vulnerable in our community via the $1.5bn Energy Bill Relief Fund and look forward to further details being worked through with the states and territories.
“However other elements of the package raise serious concerns.
“It is unconscionable that Australian taxpayers should have to pay compensation to companies to put a limit on the record wartime profits they have been making in selling our own resources back to us.
“Compensation and energy bill relief should be funded through a windfall profits tax. I wish the government had the courage to ensure Australians could start getting a fair return on the exploitation of the natural resources we own.
“While providing some relief, this package fails to adequately address the full scale of energy bill challenges Australian businesses and households are facing.
“There is a huge opportunity for the federal government to support households and businesses transitioning off fossil fuels altogether.
“Fully electrifying every home in Australia - equipping them with things like solar panels and heat pumps - would cost about the same as the government currently spends every year on fossil fuel subsidies.
“Unlike the minor short-term bill relief proposed by this plan, full electrification would unlock thousands of dollars of energy bill savings for households every single year into the future.
“Despite this package, energy bills are still going to go up next year by as much as 23% and that underscores why more is needed as part of this package.”
Senator Pocock has asked the government to consider broadening the package to include funding:
- to establish a national Transition Authority that will help workers and communities in fossil fuel reliant regions move to new careers and drive economic activity in the renewable energy sector;
- for a suburb-wide full household electrification pilot (a trial for 1,000 homes in the ACT has been costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office at $11.3 million over the forward estimates) and to support the new ACT Government Home Energy Support Program to electrify low-income, social and public housing properties.
- to reinstate the Household Energy Consumption Survey (abolished by the Abbott government) to provide timely and transparent data on expenditure on residential energy costs.
Senator Pocock said that the design Energy Bill Relief Fund would likely disadvantage early movers to renewables, like the ACT. He said there was a strong argument to instead earmark a small portion of this significant funding package to deliver a proof of concept trial in the ACT as the jurisdiction with the most favourable conditions to support it.
Indications from the Prime Minister that the government was also potentially considering an east coast domestic gas reservation were also very welcome.