Industry warns against revived energy laws
Australians will end up paying more for their power bills under the coalition’s revived legislation targeting energy giants, the sector fears.
Both the energy industry and the business sector argue the laws – which threaten to break up big power companies if they are found to be jacking up prices – will scare investors away.
The so-called “big stick” legislation will be introduced to the lower house on Wednesday, after being ticked off by the coalition party room on Tuesday.
Australian Energy Council chief Sarah McNamara, representing 21 power companies, warned the proposal won’t reduce power bills as planned.
“It simply creates an atmosphere of uncertainty and it heightens risk in the industry, and what that means is higher costs for everyone,” she said.
Ms McNamara said the laws are being pushed for “political purposes”, arguing the bill hasn’t been put together in response to any known misconduct.
It’s not yet clear how the revived legislation will differ from draft laws the coalition introduced to the lower house last December, which lapsed at the election.
Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westacott said the plan needed more work.
“We don’t agree with this legislation, we don’t think it’s the right way to encourage investment,” she told ABC radio.
“There are many things to get investment going … at the same time don’t do things to deter it.”
Ms Westacott said the BCA would work with the government on the legislation, which is aimed at stopping energy companies from engaging in anti-competitive behaviour.
Labor wants to see whether the proposed “big stick” laws are any different to the coalition’s previous attempt to get them through.
“I do note that the Liberal Party is hopelessly split on the so-called ‘big stick’ legislation,” shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers told reporters.
Before the election, the coalition struggled to move the proposal through the lower house without a majority.
Independent MP Bob Katter had sought to amend the bill to ensure Snowy Hydro and the Queensland state government’s electricity industry could not be sold off.
A new Australian Competition and Consumer Commission report shows there has been a significant fall in standing offer prices, after the federal government introduced a default market offer in July.
However, the ACCC also found the lowest market offers from the three biggest retailers have increased since the changes were made.