Minister blasts gas giant ‘Putin profits’

Govt's controversial energy relief bill passes

Cabinet minister Ed Husic has suggested gas companies are more interested in feasting on record war-time profits than giving hurting Australians a break.

Santos CEO Kevin Gallagher had whacked the government after it passed sweeping measures to deal with the energy crisis, saying the “Soviet-style policy” was a form of nationalisation.

The laws cap gas at $12 a gigajoule, introduce a mandatory code of conduct for the gas market, and roll out power bill support for welfare recipients.

Mr Husic, the Industry Minister, ripped into “lippy” power company bosses making extraordinary claims about the relief package.

“Some of those executives might want to hold on to every single dollar of their Putin profits, but we are making what’s right in the national economic interest,” he said on Friday.

Energy Minister Chris Bowen laughed off Santos’ claims as a “shrill response” and demanded gas giants charge households and businesses a fair price.

“Our job is to step in and respond on behalf all Australians, it’s Australian gas under Australian soil and Australia’s seas,” he said.

Mr Gallagher was scathing in his assessment of the policy, despite modelling showing people will pay about $230 less than they would otherwise have for power next year.

“This will result in companies needing fiscal stability agreements with the government before new gas supply projects can take investment decisions in order to secure capital, just as would be the case if they were operating in Argentina, Venezuela or Nigeria,” he told the Australian Financial Review.

Independent senator David Pocock suggested the government should do even more to get resource giants to put their hand in their pockets, renewing calls for a windfall profits tax.

“When things happen that are outside all of our control and resources receive such records profits, Australians should get some of that benefit,” he told ABC Radio.

“These are Australia’s resources, we should benefit from it and we should be able to use that money to set us up for the future.”

The power price relief won’t be felt until midway through 2023 because the laws are not expected to affect the market price of gas and coal for months.

Power bills are still expected to rise, but the measures aim to take some of the sting out for households and businesses.

Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor said the Albanese government’s plan was “diabolical” and would not help families with high energy bills.

“Experts are loudly warning that gas price-fixing will result in 19 years of gas supply being commercially stranded and will increase the risk of blackouts in 2023,” he said.

But Australian Energy Regulator chair Clare Savage said energy contracts for next financial year were already heading in the right direction, easing fears that prices were set to skyrocket.


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