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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 13 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 4052 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

Members of the Assembly should be well aware of the model for the ICRC. The model was first presented to the Assembly in July 1998 by the Chief Minister and was subsequently examined by the Chief Minister's Portfolio Committee.

In December 1998 the Chief Minister responded to the portfolio committee's report and, based on their recommendations, the government increased the number of commissioners from one to three with the flexibility of appointing specialist skilled associate commissioners for short term projects.

Although the committee sought five permanent commissioners representing community and industry sectors, the government has adapted its recommendation to provide a more flexible and expertise based model by requiring the appointment of commissioners based on their skills and knowledge and allowing the appointment of associate commissioners.

It should also be noted that the ICRC is the agency that is proposed to administer the new utilities regulatory regime that is due to be introduced into the Assembly in the near future. As part of the extensive public consultation process involved in developing the proposed utilities regulatory regime, the public and community groups such as ACTCOSS have been widely consulted on the role and structure of the ICRC.

The model that is proposed in the ICRC Bill for the independent pricing regulator is one which overcomes the criticisms by several members of the Assembly about the current IPARC and the way the government investigates competitive neutrality complaints. In the past the IPARC has been criticised for having too narrow an economic focus in its pricing determinations.

The new structure of more commissioners should enable a broader approach to its work. In addition, the ICIRC's ability to appoint associate commissioners will enable those issues that have a significant social welfare element or environmental element to be sufficiently addressed in inquiries. It is also intended that the ICIRC will have a significant role oversighting the government's regulatory framework and in examining all competitive neutrality complaints. For some time members have sought a greater separation from government of the investigation of competitive neutrality complaints and this will be achieved with this model.

Given the broader range of tasks that the ICIRC will be required to undertake, a permanent secretariat will be established. The 1999-2000 Budget allocates $400,000 this financial year to fund its establishment and running costs.

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