Page 926 - Week 03 - Thursday, 10 April 2014

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On 2 April 2014 the ACT Auditor-General released her performance audit into the water and sewerage pricing process, which made a number of recommendations in relation to the overall pricing framework for the territory. The government appreciates the work undertaken by the Auditor-General to review and consider the current process for the setting of water and sewerage prices in the territory.

The government has agreed to most of the recommendations in the Auditor-General’s report. As a result of the report, and in recognition that a substantial period of time has elapsed since the framework for water and sewerage pricing was last reviewed, the government will undertake a broad reassessment of the framework for the pricing of water and sewerage services in the ACT.

An issue raised by the Auditor-General was that there may be a question of the validity of the terms of reference and, as an extension of this, the most recent price direction for water and sewerage services by the Independent Competition and Regulatory Commission.

The concerns of the Auditor-General have been acknowledged. However, based on the advice that it has received, the government continues to consider that the terms of reference and the price direction are effective and valid—a view, I note, that is shared by the ICRC and many others.

However, in order to remove any doubt whatsoever in this area, I am introducing this bill which, if passed by the Assembly, would absolutely, beyond any doubt, confirm the validity of both the terms of reference and the price direction. But, more importantly, it would confirm the price cuts that average consumers have received as part of the ICRC’s price direction.

The bill not only confirms the validity of the terms of reference but also provides some limited guidance for the industry panel which will review the ICRC’s price direction. It is critical that the industry panel are able to undertake their work with certainty and, in order to ensure that the absence of a specified period within the terms of reference does not impact on the industry panel, the bill provides guidance about the regulatory period that can be set by the industry panel should they determine to substitute a new price direction following their deliberations.

The bill introduced today will absolutely confirm the validity of the terms of reference and price direction that removes any doubt whatsoever in this area and confirms, most importantly, the price cuts for average consumers that have resulted from the ICRC’s price direction.

Debate (on motion by Mr Smyth) adjourned to the next sitting.

Statute Law Amendment Bill 2014

Mr Corbell, pursuant to notice, presented the bill, its explanatory statement and a Human Rights Act compatibility statement.

Title read by Clerk.

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