Treasury Laws Amendment (Energy Price Relief Plan) Bill 2022 

Power bills make up a big part of household budgets in Indi. Our weekly median income is just $736, almost $70 less than the Australian average. That is why I welcome a cap on gas prices at $12 a gigajoule for 12 months. I welcome this bill. But make no mistake, this is still a very high price to pay for gas, arguably too high. But we know that, without this intervention, gas prices will continue to increase. It is not just households; local manufacturing is particularly hard hit by these costs.

Vitasoy has operated for 21 years in Wodonga and recently experienced massive sales increases. It employs well over 100 people. To meet this demand, it expanded the workforce, but the high gas prices have caused serious concern for this important manufacturer. Vitasoy tell me a cap on gas prices is a positive for Australian manufacturers like them.

This bill also establishes a mandatory code of conduct, which may set a reasonable pricing framework for gas, and I strongly support this. I look forward to seeing the detail once the consultation is complete.

Importantly, today we are legislating appropriations for $1.5 billion of targeted relief for households receiving Commonwealth social service payments and some small businesses, and this will be very welcome to many of my constituents.

I am very encouraged by the government agreeing to develop a package for the next budget that will assist households and businesses move towards electrification, with the focus on low-income households through no-interest loans. For some time, I have been calling for exactly this policy.

But the government must also make it cheaper and easier for everyday Australians to buy a home battery. In the last parliament, I introduced the cheaper home batteries bill, which would bring home batteries into the already existing Small-Scale Renewable Energy Incentive Scheme. Independent modelling showed this could triple the number of batteries in Australian households within three years. The government must get on and do this.

Likewise, the time is now for the Commonwealth to scale up support for community owned renewable energy. Across regional Australia, there are incredible examples of communities working together to own and share renewable energy, and there is genuine opportunity right now for government to review how ARENA can assist these groups. I welcomed the conversation I had with the Minister for Climate Change and Energy about exactly this not long after the election, and I remind him of that now. Let’s scale up community energy.

I support this bill today, but we all know that this is a temporary measure in a time of crisis. The recently announced Capacity Investment Scheme is encouraging, because the real work now is the rapid scaling-up of renewable generation, storage and distribution. In doing that, we must maximise the opportunity for investment that creates new skills and new jobs, especially in regional Australia, where most of this energy generation will occur.

I commend this bill to the House.

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