Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 06 Hansard (Wednesday, 25 June 2008) . . Page.. 1976 ..
the energy sector on a national basis. I hope that we see any outcomes from this work trickle down into the ACT’s energy policy.
We rely on gas for cooking and for heating, so there is a social dimension to it. Reasonable and reliable access to natural gas should be viewed as an essential service in our community. That is to make it very clear that gas is not just about economics; it is also about the social fabric of society and the basic right of all of us to access sufficient energy for our daily lives.
The current experience in Western Australia that members would be aware of in relation to gas shortages has highlighted a number of considerations that we should be taking into account in relation to this bill. In particular, when we get to a situation of having to ration gas supplies, the important questions are: who makes those rationing decisions and whose needs will be deemed most important? Will it be a large factory with lots of jobs at stake? Is that more important than a hospital’s need to sterilise its equipment or a pensioner’s need to cook their evening meal? In the ACT, will it be a data centre over gas for heating and cooking?
Under the new national electricity law, market regulators cannot take social or environmental issues into account. However, it is clear that the market, left to its own devices, will not produce good social and environmental outcomes. Electricity is an essential service and is necessary for health, wellbeing and participation in employment, community and social activities. The key controls on energy production and distribution are market rules and regulations. Yet currently this market actively operates in conflict with many social and environmental objectives, undermining policies designed to promote social cohesion and environmental protection. This will have to change if we are going to prevent dangerous climate change and protect vulnerable households.
A coalition of social, environmental and consumer advocacy groups have united to form the power for the people declaration, which calls on federal, state and territory MPs to amend the national energy markets agreement, the national electricity law and the national gas law by (1) requiring regulators to consider the environment and sustainable development when making decisions; (2) requiring regulators to “consider social impacts, with particular reference to preventing negative impacts for low income and disadvantaged consumers”; (3) requiring industry to “implement cost effective demand management and energy efficiency”, to help consumers save energy wherever this is cheaper than investing in more infrastructure; and (4) increase transparency through “ensuring parliament is provided with an annual environmental and social sustainability report” on energy.
I would have proposed these sensible amendments today if it were not for the fact that this is a COAG agreement and, under this majority government, I am afraid that my amendments probably would not have got anywhere. But I would like to urge the Chief Minister, the minister for energy, to make sure that these proposals are incorporated in the ACT energy policy when it finally arrives.
MR PRATT (Brindabella) (8.01): I stand to support the bill. I believe that the ACT should continue to participate in national energy market reforms, which are currently rationalising the economic regulation of energy in Australia. The Liberals will be