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Josh Frydenberg - Liberal for Kooyong
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Questions Without Notice (27 March 2017)

Date: Monday, 27 March 2017 2:43 PM
Location: House of Representatives

Mr RAMSEY (Grey—Government Whip) (14:43):  My question is to the Minister for the Environment and Energy. I refer him to the case of O'Leary Walker Wines in the Clare Valley—incidentally, just outside my electorate but in the member for Wakefield's electorate. Their business has seen a 100 per cent rise in the cost of electricity in the last 12 months. Will the minister update the House on the government's action to ensure that hardworking businesses and families receive a more affordable deal for energy? Is the minister aware of any other approaches?

Mr FRYDENBERG (Kooyong—Minister for the Environment and Energy) (14:44):  I thank the member for Grey for his question and acknowledge his deep concern for the rising electricity prices for those in businesses in his electorate, like Olympic Dam, like Nrystar at Port Pirie and like Arrium at Whyalla. But he is also concerned about the impact of price rises right across his state—like on O'Leary Walker, the winemakers in the Clare Valley. They have seen their electricity prices dramatically increase to $50,000 a year. They have been in business for some 16 years, they employ 12 people and now they are looking at having to spend more than $20,000 on diesel generators, which they say will mean they cannot employ as many people as they otherwise would. That is why we on this side of the House are very focused on significant energy market reforms: trying to get more gas into the domestic market; reduce the price for the transportation of gas; change the LMR process to reign in network costs; to invest record amounts in battery storage particularly for Snowy Hydro 2.0.

Also, today's announcement by the Treasurer and the Prime Minister around the ACCC review is very significant, because retail prices can make up to 25 per cent of the household bill, and it is very opaque. Often, retail prices are bundled in with wholesale prices. We know that the margins are high and that some 50 per cent of customers have not changed suppliers over the last five years, so this will be very important in getting the real facts on the table so we can push real reforms. I am pleased to say to the House that, since the announcement this morning from the Prime Minister and the Treasurer, the Energy Users Association of Australia has said:

This ACCC investigation will help clear the air and improve transparency for consumers which is a great outcome.

Energy Consumers Australia has also welcomed the announcement. But what do you think the Labor Party do when we make a good announcement about driving down retail costs? What do you think they do? They put out a press release. The member for Port Adelaide and the underpaid member for Fenner rush out a press release and they quote the Australian Energy Council. Who is the Australian Energy Council? It is the body representing the retailers, and the Energy Council say the following:

Retail electricity markets are working effectively and efficiently.

This is who they are quoting in their press release. After putting up electricity prices by 100 per cent when they were last in office, they are now citing the representative of the retailers against the consumers.

Mr FRYDENBERG:  No wonder the member for Port Adelaide is trying not to listen, because he thinks what happened in Adelaide was merely a hiccup. We care about jobs, we care about investment and we are doing all we can to lower electricity prices.

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