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Speech: National Gas (SA) (Market Transparency) Amendment Bill

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:31): I rise to speak on the National Gas (South Australia) (Market Transparency) Amendment Bill on behalf of the Greens and on behalf of my colleague the Hon. Robert Simms. This bill was first introduced in the other place in September last year by the Marshall government. At that time, the Minister for Energy and Mining spoke of the series of events that led to the introduction of this bill.

In 2016, energy ministers agreed to implement gas market reform measures, including market transparency. In 2018, there was a further review that identified issues in the gas markets, which again led to the energy ministers being tasked with developing transparency measures. Then, in 2020, energy ministers endorsed the final recommended package of measures.

We know that the wheels of government can be slow, but by the time this bill was first introduced in the other place, there had already been five years of inaction on market transparency for the gas industry. Now here we are in 2022, six years after that initial review, where we see daily news about Australia being on the precipice of a gas crisis. It appears, this time, successive governments have moved far too slowly.

As I understand it, one of the outcomes of the meeting of energy ministers last week was to push this legislation through as a matter of urgency. This was a foreseen issue, but not enough was done at the time. I would hope that we can learn a lesson from this and start acting now on issues we can see coming down the line. Indeed, this is the only way we will build a resilient future in a changing climate.

The Greens support additional transparency measures to ensure the market becomes more robust and equitable; therefore, we will be supporting this bill. It is our understanding from the briefing provided by the energy minister that gas suppliers are aware this reform is coming and consultation has taken place over many years—perhaps too many years, but we are pleased that this bill is now here.

Gas and electricity costs are increasing and, as stated by the federal Minister for Climate Change and Energy, Chris Bowen, 'Australian energy markets are facing a perfect storm.' Introducing transparency measures will provide certainty to the market, which will create better outcomes not only for the market but of course for the end users.

Households are already suffering from the increased costs of fuel and groceries. We need to do all we can to address cost-of-living pressures and to stabilise the market to ensure households are not hit with unexpected gas price hikes. The Greens believe that distributed, diverse and competitive energy generation contributes to minimising energy costs for households and business. It seems pretty simple that a competitive market is also a transparent market, and that is why we are supporting this bill.

We do want to note, however, that in the middle of this gas crisis, the Labor government, the Malinauskas government, refused to support a Greens' bill to give South Australian families, South Australian residents, the ability to choose not to have gas installed in new developments. Instead, the government sided with developers, mandating gas connections in some new homes. This is an issue that has been raised by my former colleague the Hon. Mark Parnell back in 2018 and was raised again this year, in this place, by the Hon. Robert Simms.

I have to say, according to the Grattan Institute, consumers who choose an all electric house can save at least $2,184 over 10 years. This is a cost-of-living issue, which everyone else seems to be so happy to talk about except when it comes to the issue of mandating gas, which is quite an extraordinary situation here in South Australia.

The practice of property developers mandating gas connections in new homes locks people into higher energy bills and higher emissions. It is quite extraordinary. It is a lose-lose situation on both levels. The bill introduced by my colleague the Hon. Robert Simms would have given consumers greater choice to move away from gas, so we are disappointed that the Malinauskas government did not seize that opportunity when they had the chance.

This is also a good opportunity, however, to reiterate the need to transition away from fossil fuels. This bill addresses pressing market failures, but what we have warned for decades is that over-reliance on gas is going to create problems as our planet warms. The sooner we move away from non-renewable fossil fuels, the more resilient our communities will be.

According to the CSIRO, renewables are now the cheapest form of energy generation in our nation. We need to replace fossil fuels with renewables backed by sufficient storage to ensure our energy needs are met moving forward. We know we can do it. South Australia has been leading the country in renewables usage and storage.

The Greens support this bill. It is an important measure to stabilise the national gas market. It is long overdue and we see this as an opportunity to start addressing our future energy needs proactively rather than continuing to delay action, which then sees us reacting to crises in a rush, as we are doing by fast-tracking the passage of this bill today. With that, I commend the bill.

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