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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 3790 ..

MR QUINLAN (continuing):

will benefit from having multiple suppliers. As I mentioned yesterday, as many as 13 could supply into the ACT market. Whether they all supply into this market, whether they all supply aggressively, whether they all continue even to bother with the retail residential market or the low end of the retail residential market we do not know.

I am quite happy to accept this motion. When we bring down the plans and the structures we will put in place-we have already telegraphed most of them anyway-there is no guarantee that they will not have to be manipulated to protect low-income earners and pensioners to ensure that they have access to this essential service.

The situation is outside the control of the ACT. The level of cost to the ACT of electricity is now beyond our control. It will be a function of market forces. If the Parer report which was brought down recently is adopted, then there will be total deregulation. There will be no such thing as state bodies in electricity supply.

I think the Parer report has got a long way to go before it is adopted by states, particularly states like Queensland. We might find New South Wales grasping it now, because they have already tried to privatise their generation capacity before and have been held back by the Labor Party and its annual conferences.

We cannot give guarantees, but we can say that we have an expert opinion. I have had the ICRC go through the first-level cut to make sure that we picked up. As I stated yesterday, we were behind the eight ball in timing. To make this decision one way or the other, we acted promptly. We had an early report from the ICRC. We now have a public report from the ICRC. They have conducted a public interest test, as was mentioned by Ms Dundas, and they have said that it does pass the public interest test. That is no longer an issue in this debate.

I close by recommending to Mr Cornwell that he read pages 7 and 8 of this report carefully. You will meander from $6 down to $3.25, happily. The only other figure you mentioned was the Actew figure of $12. That was their ambit claim. That was the claim they made on the ICRC, and they did not get very far with that level. I think it is true to say that ActewAGL have indicated that they might prefer to remain a monopoly in the ACT as long as it does not apply to their activities outside the ACT. In terms of market access, it is a bit of having their cake and eating it too.

As I have said to this Assembly on several occasions, on balance, on the advice of the ICRC, the government has adopted the recommendations of the ICRC. If you read its report, you will see that it makes insufficient reference but some reference to what might be done for those people who strike difficulty in meeting their power bills. Certainly the government will take that on board. The government will happily come back to this place with the overall structure. Instructions have already been issued to the ICRC as to the education campaign that is necessary and that they themselves have indicated is necessary. That will happen. That is under way. The completed picture will be brought back to the Assembly.

MS TUCKER (11.14): The government announced in October that full retail competition in the electricity sector will commence on 1 October, following a report by the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission released in the middle of this year.

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