‘This is Australian gas under Australian soil’: Energy Minister Chris Bowen defends $12 cap domestic supplies

Chris Bowen says big business was consulted over the revamped emissions safeguard scheme.

Chris Bowen says big business was consulted over the revamped emissions safeguard scheme. Photo: AAP

Energy Minister Chris Bowen has dismissed criticism from power companies following government plans to cap the price of gas and coal.

National cabinet on Friday agreed to cap gas at $12 a gigajoule and coal at $125 a tonne for 12 months, as part of a plan to lower rising energy prices.

The government will also provide $1.5 billion for energy bill relief measures, which will be funded by state and governments.

Federal parliament will be recalled on Thursday in order to pass the laws.

While gas companies have taken aim at the plan, Mr Bowen said retailers did not need to charge exorbitant prices.

“For anyone to argue that they need to make more than $12 a gigajoule is just ridiculous, and I don’t think that argument is going to hold any water,” Mr Bowen told Sky News on Sunday.

“This is Australian gas under Australian soil and Australians should pay a fair price for that, but they shouldn’t be paying a wartime price leading to very high profits for a few companies and endangering industries right around the country.”

Code of conduct

Gas retailers will also be subject to a mandatory code of conduct under the deal struck between Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and state and territory leaders.

The consumer watchdog will also be given additional powers under the changes to monitor and to enforce the code for retailers.

While the energy bill relief measures won’t kick in until the second quarter of 2023, Mr Bowen said it would provide much-needed financial support for households and businesses.

He said gas companies had a social licence to ensure fair prices.

“There were businesses and industries saying to us very clearly that they would have a lot of difficulty surviving next year in the face of gas prices and electricity prices being what they were,” he sad.

“That’s (the job of gas companies) to defend those profits, it’s not our job. Our job is to act to the national interest, our job’s to defend the factories and the households around the country.”

Modelling has shown the average household would be $230 better off once the gas and coal price caps come into effect, with further savings expected once the energy bill relief measures begin.

The caps will also see planned electricity price rises of 36 per cent in 2023/24 reduced to 23 per cent.

Gas was initially slated to rise 20 per cent for both this financial year and the year after, but the increases are now expected to be 18 per cent, followed by four per cent.

‘Monster in the making’

However, opposition energy spokesman Ted O’Brien says the plan is a disaster.

“It is a monster in the making, because not only will it fail in the short term, but it is going to have a disastrous effect on the industry over the longer term because it kills supply,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

“Everybody is saying more supply is the answer here but one thing that government will not address is the need for more supply. They reject energy experts, independent agencies and the opposition.”

While the opposition said they welcomed any energy bill relief for households and businesses, Mr O’Brien said more detail was needed on how the measures would deliver lower prices.

“They’ve had six months to come together with a package and all we see today is a cobbling together of manic thought bubbles presented as one comprehensive package,” he said.

“The Australian people know we’ll be here again next year, with higher prices and probably a higher risk of blackouts.”


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