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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 13 Hansard (Thursday, 19 November 2015) . . Page.. 4294 ..

development of thinking around this. It is fair to acknowledge that this is a rapidly moving debate.

Our times have changed, the climate debate is more urgent, renewable technologies have continued to develop, and the price of gas is rising. However, the bottom line is this: as gas prices are predicted to rise in the medium term, and electric home heating becomes more efficient, many Canberrans will choose to make the switch away from natural gas. And yet we are still rolling out expensive gas infrastructure in our new suburbs. Why are we doing that, and who is going to pay for it? And in the bigger picture, how are we going to protect people who cannot make the shift from gas to electric?

They are the questions that I think are out there in this fast-moving debate. It is why I wanted to have this debate today as an opportunity for the Assembly to think about this emerging issue. My motion seeks for the government to undertake some work, and for us to engage in the process with the Australian Energy Regulator to make sure that when the regulator makes their decision they make it in full knowledge of the emerging discussion that is taking place. I commend the motion to the Assembly.

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Deputy Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for the Environment and Minister for Capital Metro) (5.12): Labor members will not be supporting this motion today because it is a silly motion. It is a silly motion because, fundamentally, decisions about whether or not people use gas are going to be driven by consumer choice. Some of the precepts of Mr Rattenbury’s argument in this debate simply do not stand up to any serious scrutiny. Let us deal with each of those claims in turn.

The first is that somehow as a territory or as consumers we are going to be lumbered with the cost of infrastructure that is expensive and that we will have to pay for because lots of people are switching off gas. Let us deal with that argument. First of all, if people switch off gas, they are switching off gas because it is too expensive for them and there are better, cheaper and more efficient sources. It is the government’s view that, based on the analysis to date, that is going to happen. More people are going to switch off gas, because gas is subject to shifts in the international export market price. If the export market price rises, that will be reflected in the domestic tariff price and people will go to the cheaper alternatives that we know are there. Electric space heating, particularly electric space heating powered by renewable energy such as that secured through the government’s large-scale renewable energy agenda, will be cheaper than other sources of electricity.

It is the case that more people will switch off gas. But does that mean that consumers or the territory will be lumbered with some cost of gas infrastructure? The simple answer to that is no. First of all, if people do not like the cost of the gas tariff, they just stop using gas and use something else. Secondly, the efficient cost recovery of infrastructure is not determined by the government. It is determined by the Australian Energy Regulator. The Australian Energy Regulator will decide whether or not the gas infrastructure that ActewAGL would like to roll out is reasonable and if the cost of it is able to be recovered from consumers in gas tariffs. That is the safeguard and the check. It is wrong to say that in some way this means that there will be an

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