Page 3139 - Week 08 - Thursday, 25 June 2009
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (1.33 am): I rise to quickly acknowledge that Ms Le Couteur referred to these issues earlier when she spoke about the arts portfolio. We do not intend to reiterate those points other than to simply say that the Greens support this section of the budget.
Proposed expenditure agreed to.
Proposed expenditure—Part 1.23—Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission, $485,000 (net cost of outputs), totalling $485,000.
MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (1.33 am): The Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission has a great range of responsibilities under its act in relation to the Utilities Act, the greenhouses emissions act and the more recent electricity feed-in tariff act. I cannot remember its name, but we all know what we are talking about.
Mr Barr: It is getting late.
MRS DUNNE: It is getting late. The role of the ICRC is to promote competition in the interests of consumers and to ensure that there is a balance between economic efficiency and environmental issues, which is really brought out in great detail when you look at the work done by the commission, say, in relation to the setting of water prices. It is not an easy task and the staff of the ICRC have a difficult path to lead, especially in areas of water and energy pricing. There are a number of experts around the place who have views which are volubly expressed to the commission.
Under the Utilities Act, the commission provide for regulation of electricity, natural gas, water and sewerage. They have responsibility for ensuring that the provision of these services is safe, reliable and efficient, that they encourage long-term investment in utilities, that they protect the interest of consumers and that there is not any misuse of monopoly powers.
Under the Electricity Feed-in (Renewable Energy Premium) Act—that is what it is called—one of the new responsibilities of the ICRC is to provide advice to the minister to assist in determining the premium rate for electricity. The commissioner has expressed views about the possible impact on electricity pricing of a wide-scale uptake of renewable energy and the impact that that might have on more disadvantaged people in the community, which is advice that we must take very careful heed of when we are determining these things.
The commission provides a very important overview of how we look after our essential services. It also provides advice to both the government and other members of the Assembly and to the wider community on the operation of the programs. I commend the work of the commission, the commissioner and his very modest staffing establishment which, I was surprised to learn, is as many as six. I thought it was much less than that. I commend the work of the commission. The Liberal opposition are generally in support of the work done by the commission.
MS HUNTER (Ginninderra—Parliamentary Convenor, ACT Greens) (1.37 am): We note the vital work that the ICRC undertakes in relation to water, energy pricing