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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 1032 ..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

The effect of the definition is ... that the law of the Territory may be altered by bodies which do not form part of the ACT legislative process, and are only indirectly linked even to the ACT Executive.

The same applies to clause 7, which dictates how regulations are amended. It is also a worry that decisions and agreements can be made at officer level and ratified by a COAG meeting, and we are stuck with them. When you look at the bullyboy antics of the NCC and the keenness of this Government to abrogate its powers away, you have to ask: Just who is running this city? Mr Speaker, the philosophies of the Bill are supported by the Opposition, but the way in which they have been presented is not. The handing over of powers to bodies that are not part of the ACT legislative process is not acceptable to the Opposition; nor is the buckling to the will of the Commonwealth in either competition policy or COAG meetings. The Bill is supported.

MS TUCKER (11.14): I rise to support this legislation. As we have expressed in the past, the Greens do have concerns about the introduction of national markets for electricity and gas, because the overall policy objective is to reduce prices only. There may well be some positive environmental implications from the introduction of a national market for electricity; but at present, while there is some innovation, mostly being driven from New South Wales, with the Sustainable Energy Development Authority, on the whole what we are seeing is a cutthroat grab for market power.

Mr Speaker, as I have said many times in this place, ACTEW and other electricity and gas retailers should be focusing on providing energy services, not simply selling electricity or gas. If industry will not deliver this alone, government regulation and financial incentives are required to overcome the barriers to the development of an energy service industry. There are obvious environmental benefits from encouraging a switch from electricity to gas and I hope this legislation will facilitate this. Gas is still a non-renewable resource. So, for more sustainable longer-term energy, we need to be looking for other alternatives, as well as focusing much more on reducing our energy use.

However, in the short term there are real environmental benefits to be achieved from switching from electricity to gas, particularly for hot water and heating. These reforms to the gas market could also encourage the development of new technologies like cogeneration. Cogeneration - the generation of electricity and useful heat from the same primary fuel - is a very efficient means of providing electricity and heat to facilities that require both. As well as encouraging some innovation, one of the benefits of this legislation is that hopefully it will enable more sensible energy usage and less competition between gas and electricity for space heating. ACTEW are still strongly pushing electric hot water. Off-peak electric hot-water services produce significantly greater greenhouse gas emissions than either natural gas or solar hot-water services.

One of the concerns I have with this legislation is the fact that the Energy Research and Development Trust is being abolished. This fund enabled a number of innovative projects to be implemented or investigated - for example, a district energy study for Gungahlin Town Centre, natural gas vehicle trials, energy efficiency awareness campaigns and so on. Without access to the funds from the Energy Research and Development Trust, these projects would not have been possible.

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