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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (20 November) . . Page.. 3794 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

I note that in the Canberra Time a few weeks ago Ms Tucker said that people on low incomes who used a small amount of electricity would be most disadvantaged by the proposed shift to retail contestability. I assume that was a reference to the fact that if a deemed metering process is used perhaps their small usage will not be properly reflective of that. I would think that for smaller consumers in general the retention of the status quo for metering is probably appropriate, but that is a matter for the process to fully reconcile and work out.

Another key activity associated with FRC is to ensure that the community has the best possible information available to it on how to take advantage of the fact that there will be more than one electricity supplier. We are not used to the idea of shopping around for electricity. Many people will perhaps continue an arrangement with ActewAGL without fully appreciating that they will have options. Others will be confused about what the choices mean.

An essential element of this process has to be good-quality education by ActewAGL perhaps but certainly engineered and organised by the government to some degree to ensure that consumers are properly educated about what their options might be. But at the end of the day there have to be mechanisms to provide a safety net for the consumers. That is vital for those on low incomes.

The price rise, as we have said, is not entirely clear but could be, on these estimates, at least $3 a month. It could be as high as $12. The government talks in the minister's media release about increasing benefits to reflect the percentage increase in their bills. I do not know whether that is the minister saying that if bills are shown to rise by 5 per cent there will be an increase in benefits of 5 per cent across the board or whether individual consumers will be compensated. But I take it that the government is prepared to approach the question of full compensation, at least on a short-term basis.

This is a measure which is hopefully going to produce long-term benefits, and you would not expect compensation measures to be in place in the long term if that happens.

I think this is a reasonable policy. I think it will produce important benefits to the community. It is a test we have to undertake, but it is also important that we take measures of the kind Mr Cornwell's motion has suggested. This motion is properly supported by the house today to ensure that in the long term all enjoy the benefits of this policy's application.

MR CORNWELL (11.28), in reply: I thank members of the Assembly for their supportive comments. I thank the government for accepting the motion, and I look forward, as I am sure other members do, to a proposal coming forward from the government at our first meeting in 2003.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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