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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 5 Hansard (15 May) . . Page.. 1299 ..

MR DE DOMENICO (continuing):

Mr Speaker, the Government firmly believes that the electricity market, together with the success of our corporatisation of ACTEW, will deliver even more competitive electricity prices to Canberra consumers, both residential and business. There is no doubt that, even in the very short term, the efficiencies that corporatisation is delivering to ACTEW will put the corporation in a position to keep electricity price increases to an absolute minimum and to offset the impact of the corporatisation of the Snowy scheme. There have been some comments from parts of the community that the pace of the reforms has been too slow. I would comment, however, that the structural changes I have already mentioned are in themselves quite substantial.

In addition to these changes, however, I am very pleased with the outcomes of the Energy Ministers meeting held in Adelaide last week. The ACT, along with New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland, is now on track for the introduction of the national electricity market. At the meeting, Ministers agreed to sign an intergovernmental agreement that commits our governments to introducing legislation to support the application of the national electricity framework. We agreed that this legislation would aim to ensure uniform legislative controls to the maximum extent possible. If we are to have the benefit of trade across borders - allowing ACTEW, for example, to source its power from Victoria if the price is right there - this legislation is essential. A Bill will be introduced into the South Australian Parliament shortly. Complementary legislation for the ACT should be ready for introduction by early spring.

At our meeting, Mr Speaker, we also signed the documents necessary to establish two companies crucial to the operation of the competitive market - namely, the National Electricity Market Management Co., NEMMCO, and the National Electricity Code Administrator, NECA. NEMMCO will be charged with managing the market on a commercial basis. It will, among other things, match buyers and sellers of electricity. NECA will administer the code of conduct for the industry. Its functions will include dispute resolution and arrangements for facilitating changes to the code when these are found to be necessary. Mr Speaker, the two companies provide a framework for the electricity industry to operate at arm's length from government control. The national code is now being finalised, following an extensive public consultation process undertaken by the National Grid Management Council. Consultations were held in the ACT in April this year. It will then be submitted to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for authorisation as a market conduct framework and for the commission's acceptance of access undertakings.

As I have already noted, Mr Speaker, the ACT, Victoria and New South Wales are now poised to achieve an early start for interstate trade in electricity. The Ministers decided that we wished to achieve the benefits of interstate competition at the earliest possible date. We were conscious that the full range of systems for the national electricity market would not be ready until some time next year and that implementation of the national electricity code must await approval by the Competition and Consumer Commission.

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