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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 12 Hansard (18 November) . . Page.. 4269 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

think that applies specifically in the cases of small and micro businesses who could be impacted by this legislation in a way that larger corporations might not be impacted. They would be readily able to absorb those kinds of things.

Amendment negatived.

Amendment 2.42, as amended, agreed to.

Remainder of bill, by leave, taken as a whole and agreed to.

Bill, as amended, agreed to.

Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission Amendment Bill 2003

Debate resumed from 23 October 2003, on motion by Mr Quinlan:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR SMYTH (Leader of the Opposition) (8.39): Mr Speaker, the opposition will be supporting this bill. This bill will remove what the Treasurer aptly described as an unintended consequence of the current commission act, that is, it should ensure that, where a government makes a policy decision to implement a particular charge for the provision of a service, that charge will be passed on to the consumer without the charge being subject to an inquiry by the commission.

The key distinction, Mr Speaker, that is involved with this amendment bill is between a government decision to impose on consumers a charge for the provision of a service and a decision of the commission that a utility that provides a good or a service can recover the cost of the provision of that good or service. Clearly therefore, Mr Speaker, a decision by the government to impose a charge is an explicit policy decision and, as such, this should not be subject to review in the context of the commission's act by the commission before the charge is implemented.

Mr Speaker, at the same time there is an important safeguard with this proposal. Any decision by the government to seek to implement a charge for the supply of a good or a service will be by way of a disallowable instrument. Thus the basis for the government's policy decision can be debated in the Legislative Assembly, and if the Assembly, the community, so determines, the charge can then be disallowed. Mr Speaker, the role of the commission, on the other hand, is to consider the circumstances of a utility that is operating in a regulated environment-in terms of changes in its costs, among a range of factors-and, following a public inquiry, to determine what cost incurred by that utility should be borne by the community.

Mr Speaker, the fact that a policy decision taken by a government to impose a particular charge would, under the current act, be subject to consideration by the commission has the potential to thwart the implementation of government policy. The opposition believes, therefore, that this is a reasonable approach to be adopted.

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