Code of conduct could lower gas prices

Treasurer Jim Chalmers says regulation is the preference for managing gas supply and prices.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers says regulation is the preference for managing gas supply and prices. Photo: Getty

A mandatory code of conduct for gas retailers could be used as a way to reduce rising power prices.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said while the implementation of the code has been concerned with supply of gas, it could also be used to help monitor prices.

Tuesday’s federal budget saw forecasts of a 56 per cent rise in retail electricity prices over the next two years and a more than 40 per cent increase in gas prices.

Dr Chalmers said the government was considering all of its options in order to lower power prices.

“Supply is a big part of the story here, but so is price, that’s why the code of conduct is important,” he told the ABC’s Insiders program on Sunday.

“Regulation for us in the near term is a bigger priority than using the budget to deal with this substantial challenge, and the code of conduct is a good place to start.”

The comments follow a meeting of state and territory energy ministers on Friday, where they agreed on amendments to the national gas law.

The treasurer acknowledged rising gas prices were placing a strain on households and businesses and the government would look to cut prices as soon as it was possible.

“We are contemplating the kinds of steps that governments wouldn’t have contemplated a year or two ago,” he said.

“You can go down the path of tax, you can go down the path of direct support to households, we don’t want to rule out those kinds of options, but our immediate focus is on the regulatory side.”

Dr Chalmers said prices for electricity and gas were expected to rise in the next two years, but would moderate over time.

The government committed before the election to lower the average household power bill by $275 a year by 2025.

However, this is unlikely to be achieved, due to volatility in energy markets caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“We are always recalibrating our expectations for electricity price rises,” Dr Chalmers said.

“We chose to be upfront, we think it’s crucial that we do that so that we can shine a light on the important work that needs to happen.”

Energy Minister Chris Bowen conceded he knew the energy prediction would receive large attention following the budget, but stressed it reinforced the need for quicker transition to more renewables.

“It’s tough times in the energy markets right around the world, we’re seeing unprecedented pressure on energy prices,” Mr Bowen told Sky News on Sunday.

“This pressure in the system means that the transition to renewables … becomes more important, not less important, to put downward pressure on energy prices.”

Mr Bowen said measures to lower the impact of energy price rises would be in place, but the policies needed to be right to maximise the relief.

“The federal government will not stand by and allow these pressures to flow through to households and industry without taking any prudent, responsible and careful action,” he said.

“We won’t act a day earlier until we’re sure about the policy settings, and nor will we wait a day longer.”

The minister accused the former government of delaying critical information about electricity pricing updates until after the election.

However, opposition employment spokeswoman Michaelia Cash rejected claims the figures were deliberately hidden.

“A draft determination actually came out in February,” she told Sky News.

“Are you telling me that Chris Bowen, Anthony Albanese and the Australian Labor Party were too lazy to read the draft determination.”


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