Second Reading: Energy Legislation Amendment (Consumer Protection) Bill 2015

Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — As I was saying earlier, the fundamental thing when it comes to energy is to ensure that consumers have affordability. The previous government focused on a deregulated market driven approach, and currently in Victoria there are 21 different retailers that have a number of different offerings. One of the key approaches of the previous government was to ensure that customers had choice in order to free up the market such that customers could change their retailer depending on the market offerings in place. In the national electricity market Victoria has the highest proportion of customers switching to second tier retailers and the highest customer satisfaction rate, due to the work that was done to free up the market and ensure that customers have choice. That approach was a key focus of the former government.
Importantly the bill before us focuses on wrongful disconnections to ensure that customers are ultimately protected. A number of people have made commentary on this. I mentioned earlier that the Victorian Council of Social Service has talked about the pressure of prices, particularly over the next 12 months, indicating that there will be a continued price increase, which customers will be forced to pay for. That will ultimately lead to growing levels of hardship. Many retailers have informed us that with more regulation and more red tape further costs will be passed on to customers in the form of higher prices, which will force more people into hardship and ultimately having to face disconnection.
Since this government came to power we have seen six bits of action, which are all reviews. There is a review of the Hazelwood mine fire, a review of onshore gas, a review of electricity disconnections, a review of the Victorian energy efficiency target, a review of solar feed in tariffs and a review of the road map to renewables. We have a lot of reviews happening at the moment, but not a lot of action, and the concern is that customers will be left high and dry.
I will conclude where I started by saying that today is an important day that highlights the legacy of Labor governments both past and present which forced upon customers a program of smart meters that was poorly managed and did not deliver. The business plan was not properly articulated and implemented, and ultimately the program failed customers and has led to higher prices. Today we see a program cost of some $2.2 billion, which was originally budgeted for $800 million, which is a huge escalation. It equates to some $700 per consumer — and consumers will have to foot the bill for the bungled smart meter program. The bungled smart meter program is another Labor project to go to the hall of shame that includes myki, the desalination plant and the cancelling of the east–west link contract. Again and again it is householders in Victoria who have to foot the bill.

Leave a Reply