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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2000 Week 1 Hansard (17 February) . . Page.. 221..


Thursday, 17 February 2000

_________________________

MR SPEAKER (Mr Cornwell) took the chair at 10.30 am and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

ACTEW/AGL PARTNERSHIP FACILITATION BILL 2000

MR HUMPHRIES (Treasurer, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Community Safety) (10.33): Mr Speaker, I present the ACTEW/AGL Partnership Facilitation Bill 2000, together with its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, I move:

That this Bill be agreed to in principle.

Under the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreements, the energy markets - electricity and natural gas - have undergone significant reform at the national level in recent years. These reforms are nearing completion. This has meant an increase in competition as the markets are opened up to give new suppliers or retailers of energy access to customers and the distribution networks; that is, to the electricity wires and gas pipes. This opening up of markets has benefits for electricity and gas consumers in terms of choice of suppliers and prices through operational efficiencies required to be achieved by suppliers to remain competitive. But that extra choice for consumers poses challenges for this community, as the owner of ACTEW: We have seen several of ACTEW's former major customers switch to alternative suppliers.

Mr Speaker, the opening up of markets to competition has already seen the merging and acquisition of smaller utility providers in other States with larger providers. That has been seen necessary by those companies both to survive and to continue to provide better and more diversified services to their customers. Whilst we in the ACT regard ACTEW as a major corporation within the energy market, it is really a small utility having its major customers within the boundaries of the ACT. This makes it difficult for ACTEW to generate further economies and spread its risk profile in order to remain competitive.

As members of this Assembly will appreciate, the Government has undertaken a range of actions in an attempt to secure a viable future for ACTEW and its employees and to protect the value of the Territory's investment in ACTEW. That is essential in the context of ACTEW's competitive place in the national energy market. This work commenced with the Fay Richwhite study, entitled "Risk assessment of ACTEW Corporation", which was released in early 1998. Since then the Government has pursued


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