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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2000 Week 1 Hansard (17 February) . . Page.. 225..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

The Utilities Bill will also expand the role of the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission to include the administration of licences for utilities, including the ability to issue, vary, suspend or revoke licences. A new body - the Essential Services Consumer Council - will continue the good work currently performed by the Essential Services Review Committee and provide an independent statutory complaints handling mechanism.

The legislation will require utilities to comply with relevant technical standards and the Department of Urban Services will continue to be responsible for developing these standards and monitoring their compliance. Environment ACT also has a role. It will continue to be responsible for environment management. The Department of Health and Community Care will continue to have responsibility for health standards and public health requirements and will enhance responsibilities and capabilities in relation to protecting drinking water quality.

The Government considers that the Bill provides an effective model to better protect the long-term interests of the community by ensuring service quality and the security of supply of essential everyday services. Whilst the Bill will regulate the provision of utility services, there remains a need to improve the regulatory environment in other areas, such as customer installation. This is outside the scope of the Utilities Bill and the Government will be bringing forward ancillary legislation to deal with these additional aspects.

Implementation of the regulatory reform package will mean that the ACT will be the first jurisdiction to integrate the regulation of gas, electricity and water industry utility services. It will also be the first jurisdiction to have codes of practice covering the water and sewerage industry.

Mr Speaker, before completing my remarks on this Bill, I want to put on the record my personal thanks - and those, I am sure, of the former Treasurer, Mrs Carnell - to the officers of the Department of Treasury and Infrastructure, the Parliamentary Counsel's Office and almost every other agency of the ACT Government who have worked for 18 months on this package, including in a process of consultation with the community. In particular, I would like to record my thanks to John Robertson and Tony Hays of the GBE Monitoring Unit of my department for their tireless work to have the package ready. It really was a monumentally large exercise. Members will see that the package stands several inches high when put together. It constitutes the first major attempt to regulate the supply of services and other issues associated with the business of utilities in a jurisdiction anywhere in Australia. I also want to record my thanks to ACTCOSS, who have provided outstanding representation from the community sector in the development of this landmark legislative package. Mr Speaker, I commend the Utilities Bill 2000 to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Corbell ) adjourned.

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