Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 2 Hansard (28 February) . . Page.. 412 ..
MR OSBORNE: My question, which is directed to the Minister for Urban Services, Mr De Domenico, is in regard to electricity prices. Minister, I refer you to an article in the Canberra Times this morning, which stated that our power prices are set to rise by 16 per cent. Is this big price rise due to the unions' demands for a pay increase, to the corporatisation of ACTEW, or to some other factor? How does this probable price rise equate with your press release of 20 June last year? I have a copy for you, if you would like to read it. You stated:
The Government will continue to ensure that ACTEW prices remain fair and competitive.
MR DE DOMENICO: I thank Mr Osborne for his question. In answer to the first part of his question, it is not due to the big ask from the union movement and is not due to the corporatisation of ACTEW. Mr Osborne might be aware that the reason why ACTEW's electricity prices per unit are presently significantly lower than what is being paid by New South Wales consumers, for example, is the impact of the low cost of the electricity that we buy from the Snowy scheme. Mr Osborne would also be aware that recent changes by the Federal Labor Government to the Snowy scheme - - -
Mr Berry: Nobody believes you.
MR DE DOMENICO: Mr Berry interjects, "No-one would believe this". Mr Berry, it is a fact. Through you, Mr Speaker, in reply to Mr Osborne's question: Changes by the Federal Labor Government to corporatise the Snowy scheme, with the cooperation of the New South Wales Government and the Victorian Government, will result in capital charges, for the first time, being included in the ACT's purchase price for electricity. The bottom line is that it may be that we will be paying more to purchase our electricity from the Snowy scheme because of Federal Labor Government changes. The article in the Canberra Times, as Mr Osborne would be aware, suggested a 16 per cent price hike. Can I say that the increase mentioned in today's article is a worst case scenario.
The Commonwealth, by the way, has constantly rejected compensation for the ACT for these changes. Mr Keating has argued that the ACT will benefit from the national electricity market and that this will offset any increase arising from changes to the Snowy scheme. Had ACTEW not been corporatised, it would not have been put into the same position as its main competitors, namely, the New South Wales electricity people, who are all corporatised and the Victorians, who are all privatised. In other words, for ACTEW to try to offset any increase in prices, the corporatisation way is the way to go.
Can I also say, in answer to Mr Osborne's question, that any increases at all in ACTEW prices will be determined by the tribunal that Mr Osborne's amendment put into the Bill.