Page 2645 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 5 June 2012

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Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill agreed to in principle.

Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.

Bill agreed to.

National Energy Retail Law (ACT) Bill 2012

[Cognate bill:

National Energy Retail Law (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2012]

Debate resumed from 10 May 2012, on motion by Mr Corbell:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER: I understand it is the wish of the Assembly to debate this bill cognately with executive business order of the day No 4, National Energy Retail Law (Consequential Amendments) Bill 2012. That being the case I remind members that in debating order of the day No 3, executive business, they may also address their remarks to executive business order of the day No 4.

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (4.10): The background to this legislation is that it is part of the national energy customer framework, which is a component of ongoing national energy market reforms agreed to by COAG. It marks the end of the line of a 17-year process, the development of the framework beginning in 1995. The framework consists of this bill and rules and regulations made under it, including new national rules to enable retail customers and property developers to seek new connections and articulate the rights and obligations between distributors and retailers, including a credit scheme.

In essence, there are two essential components to this bill that I will touch on. One is that it promotes best practice in consumer protection; the second is that it seeks to streamline the regulation of energy by removing all jurisdictional frameworks and setting a national framework, including cuts to red tape for retailers and distributors, protection of state rights and a regulatory regime that jurisdictions can fully adopt over time as appropriate for the circumstances of each market.

I do not intend to reflect in great detail on the legislation. I do particularly, though, want to comment on the issues around hardship for consumers. The new laws require retailers to develop and maintain customer hardship policies by which they need to identify residential customers experiencing payment difficulties due to hardship and assist customers to better manage their energy bills on an ongoing basis.

It also requires retailers to offer flexible payment options and be able to identify government concessions that customers might be eligible for. I particularly want to touch on this, because it is valuable to have a consistent national framework on this, in terms of both ensuring that those customers facing hardship are given opportunities to

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