Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 6 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 1974..
DR FOSKEY (continuing):
Unfortunately, despite the fact that the national energy act is already in force in the ACT, this is the first opportunity that we have had to discuss the national energy market reforms in this place.
This may look like a small bill, but, due to the built-in ambulatory forces in clauses 8 and 9, the guts of the bill are actually in the South Australia schedules, soon to be our own. By adopting this legislation, we are also adopting two schedules which will become ACT law next week, on 1 July. I am somewhat concerned that in doing this it is possible that no-one in this room has actually read these schedules. It is possible; it is not desirable, though. Rather than actively adopting them, we are doing it passively by just having a reference in our act to the website where the South Australian act can be found.
And not only that. Due to the ambulatory forces, whenever South Australia amends its schedules, our legislation is automatically updated. This puts a lot of pressure on our minister for energy, the Chief Minister, to be alert and fully engaged in the COAG processes, where ultimately all decisions about our energy markets are decided—not here in the Assembly. It also leaves the Chief Minister with the responsibility for informing the rest of the Assembly when there are significant updates, as the schedules are inbuilt and not disallowable or even notifiable.
Discussing the gas bill here today after spending the rest of the day discussing aspects of plans for a gas-fired power plant—not to mention the feed-in bill due for debate later this evening—brings into focus the lack of an ACT energy policy. It looks as though the government is preferring to rely on a national scheme rather than develop a locally relevant policy which also incorporates climate change mitigation. The community put a lot of work into submissions on the energy discussion paper over two years ago, but these submissions are not publicly available. Developing an energy policy is a key part of the government's climate change strategy, and already overdue. When will the government do the right thing by the people of the ACT and show us whether they have a comprehensive plan for energy for our future?
I find it very frustrating that in this day and age we still have critical energy legislation like this bill, setting up rules that govern an essential energy market, presented to us in a way that fails to acknowledge the complexity of the issues and instead seeks to blinkeredly restrict consideration to purely economic considerations. Just to reinforce that point, I refer to a couple of sentences on the objective of the South Australian bill from the second reading speech:
The national gas objective is to promote efficient investment in, and efficient use of, natural gas services for the long term interests of consumers of natural gas with respect to price, quality, reliability and security of supply of natural gas. The national gas objective is an economic concept and should be interpreted as such. The long term interest of consumers of gas requires the economic welfare of consumers, over the long term, to be maximised. If gas markets and access to pipeline services are efficient in an economic sense, the long term economic interests of consumers in respect of price, quality, reliability, safety and security of natural gas services will be maximised. By the promotion of an economic efficiency objective in access to pipeline services, competition will be promoted in upstream and downstream markets.