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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: Week 9 Hansard (19 August) . . Page.. 3916..

MS DUNDAS (11.49): Mr Speaker, the ACT Democrats are also supporting this piece of legislation. It is a relatively simple bill ensuring that the ICRC can be remunerated for the work that it does. The current act is apparently not clear in specifying that the ICRC can charge for work completed as part of an industry reference under the ICRC act or for work that is completed by the ICRC under another act.

The Democrats initially had concerns with this bill as it is retrospective. We are always very cautious about retrospective legislation and believe it should not be used except where there is an important public interest issue at stake or we can be assured that individual rights will be unaffected.

My understanding is that this bill will apply only to work done by the ICRC for ActewAGL and is in response to an auditor's opinion that the current law does not require payment by Actew. I have been informed by the government that both Actew and the ICRC are happy for the payment to be made, and the legislation is only required for the transaction to proceed. Without this legislation the ICRC would potentially be put under severe financial strain, which is obviously not in the interests of the territory or the proper regulation of industries under its province.

MS TUCKER (11.51): This bill, which follows the gas access review, will enable the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission to recover costs from gas providers in the ACT. I understand that this has arisen unexpectedly and thus there is an urgent need to pass this amendment bill before the review of the Utilities Act has been completed.

The Greens support the principle that utilities pay for the costs of regulation in what effectively is a monopoly for some utility providers. The fees set by the ICRC reflect the costs of regulation that each licensee imposes and, where appropriate, market share.

The Greens are interested in the ongoing relationship between the cost of regulation, how much these costs may get passed on to consumers through the utilities and the link to setting price direction. I also note that there is a retrospective element to the bill so that the bill applies to the start of the 2004-05 financial year. I understand that all parties that may be affected are aware of the bill and what it means.

MR QUINLAN (Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Business and Tourism, and Minister for Sport, Racing and Gaming) (11.52), in reply: I thank members for their support.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.

Bill agreed to.

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