Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 3 Hansard (28 May) . . Page.. 702 ..
MR SMYTH (continuing):
The Gas Pipelines Access Bill 1998 provides for the ACT to confer powers on the Federal Court in relation to civil and criminal matters, plus applying the Commonwealth Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1997 in relation to a review of an administrative decision of a code body. Dispute resolution can be undertaken by the independent regulator, or disputes can be referred to the Australian Competition Tribunal. The Gas Pipelines Access Bill 1998 allows for scheme participants to have mutually compatible arrangements for the regulation of cross-boundary pipelines. The Bill also provides for the exemption of stamp duty where gas businesses are required to transfer assets to create separate legal entities in compliance with the "ring fencing" provisions for the separation of gas-related businesses.
In summary, Mr Speaker, the ACT will benefit from establishing an access regime which encourages competitors to enter the gas retail market. Initially, competition will occur in the more contestable contract market sector of the large users, and subsequently competition will occur in the tariff market sector, which comprises small commercial-industrial and residential customers. I commend the Gas Pipelines Access Bill 1998 to the Assembly.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hargreaves) adjourned.
MR SMYTH (Minister for Urban Services) (11.36): Mr Speaker, I present the Gas Supply Bill 1998, together with its explanatory memorandum.
Title read by Clerk.
MR SMYTH: I move:
That this Bill be agreed to in principle.
This is the Bill that enables the access regime, comprising access law and access code, to be put into effect and to get the ball rolling in actually opening the market. Firstly, we were required, under the natural gas pipelines access agreement, to amend any existing gas legislation which conflicted with access law. In doing so, we found that the Gas Act 1992 required a major overhaul, resulting in the need for a new piece of legislation rather than an amendment Bill.
The passage of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Commission Act 1997 meant that the pricing and access function of the Gas Authority had been replaced by the powers and functions of the ACT's own Independent Pricing and Regulatory Commission. Therefore, the main purpose of the Gas Act 1992 in creating a statutory Gas Authority was no longer valid. Furthermore, the gas manual under the Gas Act 1992 was outdated and no longer suitable as a form of regulation. The Government needs to ensure that it has an effective suite of technical and safety regulations, consistent with those in New South Wales, so as to ensure that there are no differences affecting gasfitter businesses in the cross-border region.