States push back on imposing coal price cap

Treasurer Jim Chalmers says the superannuation changes will boost retirement incomes.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers says the superannuation changes will boost retirement incomes. Photo: AAP

States are pushing back against a federal government request for them to impose a coal price cap in a bid to drive down power bills.

The federal Treasury has projected tariffs will rise by 56 per cent for electricity and 44 per cent for gas by 2024 without government intervention, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine impacts on the global energy market.

But Prime Minister Anthony Albanese came to office on the back of a promise to drive down power prices and help people struggling under a rising cost of living.

Mr Albanese wants the states to halve the price of coal used by power stations, while Canberra imposes a mandatory code of conduct on the gas industry to get prices to around $13 a gigajoule, media reports suggest.

He will meet virtually with the premiers and chief ministers on Friday for national cabinet to discuss the plan.

NSW Energy Minister sceptical

However, NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean said NSW residents would be met with rising costs regardless of possible Commonwealth solutions.

“The Albanese government said they’d come up with a solution – all we’ve heard so far is an excuse, an excuse that passes the buck to the states,” he said in Wollongong on Wednesday.

“This could mean potentially passing billions of dollars of cost onto the taxpayers of NSW.”

NSW Energy Minister Matt Kean says the Albanese government is passing ‘the buck to the states’. Photo: AAP

Treasurer Jim Chalmers remains confident state and territory leaders will be able to come to an agreement.

He said while the cost of the energy measures were still unknown, quick action was needed to deliver short-term relief for customers.

“We will work with all of the interested parties, including the states, to see if we can come up with something which is meaningful, but responsible and temporary as well,” he said.

Tasmanian Premier Jeremy Rockliff said he would make sure the state got a fair deal from the intervention in the energy market.

“Tasmanians will expect nothing less than to be supported when it comes to the decisions that are made around the national cabinet table,” he said.

Consumer watchdog investigating electricity prices

Energy ministers will meet separately in Brisbane on Thursday ahead of the national cabinet discussions.

The discussions coincide with the consumer watchdog investigating prices and costs in the national electricity market.

A spokesman for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission told AAP volatile and high electricity prices this year have resulted in fewer market offers being available to customers.

“With fewer discounted market offers available to residential customers, there is now little price difference between market offers and the price-capped default offers,” the spokesman said.

A number of costs impact on final residential bills, with wholesale electricity costs contributing about 32 per cent to the average residential electricity bill.

“We need to see the details of any government intervention before determining how it might impact retail electricity prices,” he said.

Windfall tax on energy companies ruled out

The treasurer has ruled out using a windfall tax on energy companies as a way of shifting energy prices.

“Our priority is on regulation, rather than using the tax system,” he said.

Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor said new ideas were being “leaked” almost every day and the states had no idea what the actual proposal was.

“It’s very hard to comment on something that is as amorphous and chaotic as what we’ve seen in recent weeks from the government. Every minister is running in a different direction,” he told ABC News.

Mr Taylor called on the government to put downward pressure on energy prices, but would not say if he supported a coal price cap.


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