Greens threaten energy price cap compo plan

Greens will oppose compensation for coal companies

The Greens are locked in a war of words with the federal government on whether proposed energy market intervention will compensate coal and gas companies.

It came as the Coalition also vowed to oppose the government’s plan, with Opposition Leader Peter Dutton labelling it a “witch’s brew of disaster”.

Greens leader Adam Bandt said his party would not support the price caps designed to address soaring power prices, insisting asking taxpayers to compensate producers for any losses would be unfair.

But Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said there was “nothing” in the legislation that compensated producers, with gas prices simply temporarily capped at $12 a gigajoule for 12 months and coal at $125 a tonne.

Federal parliament will return on Thursday for the government to pass its plan to lower rising energy costs for households and small businesses. With the Coalition opposing the move, Labor will need the backing of the Greens and either Jacqui Lambie or David Pocock to get it through the Senate.

Senator Lambie has flagged her likely support, pending more detail from the government.

“I don’t think there is anybody that wants to stop relief going through, that’s for sure,” she told the Nine Network.

“It is not the relief bit that seems to be the issue, it is the gas and coal bit. But certainly we have intentions of supporting that on Thursday.”

Senator Pocock said on Sunday the package did nothing to ­address Australia’s exposure to global energy market volatility. He said he was yet to decide whether to back the legislation.

Mr Bandt said his party would engage constructively on the plan, but repeated his concerns from the weekend about it.

“We’ve been saying for some time this is urgent … we’re doing that in good faith and that’s a different approach to what the opposition is taking where they’re just saying ‘no’ to everything,” he told ABC Radio.

“This question of whether the public at a moment where people are doing it tough, why should the public be asked to put its hand in its pocket to give money to coal corporations who have been making record profits, including off the back of a dictator’s invasion of the Ukraine?”

Energy market intervention to begin in 2023

The Greens have also argued power bill relief should be higher than the $230 a bill that Treasury analysis suggests.

The PM said it struck the right balance and remained positive the bill would get through parliament to provide the pre-Christmas relief.

“Why can’t it be $1000 or $2000? … Why not $5000?” he told ABC Radio.

“We’ve come up with measures which are responsible, that won’t have a negative impact on investment.

“We’ve consulted about these measures for a long period of time … we’ve negotiated with states and territories to achieve an outcome in the interests of the nation.”

Mr Albanese said he would be “stunned” if the Coalition voted against the plan.

He said Treasury analysis suggested the proposed cap would reduce bills by about $230, and put no further pressure.

On Monday, Mr Dutton said Australia should introduce more gas into the system, rather than price caps.

“That is the advice that’s there from Treasury, from industry and from every economist that looks at this debate. They’re all telling the government to put more gas into the system,” he said.

Asked if the Coalition would effectively be voting for higher energy prices by voting against the government’s legislation, he said: “We’re not because the government is not providing any guarantee that you’ll see a reduction in power prices or gas prices in what they’re doing.”

Separately, the Nationals have also come out against the plan.

“[Price caps are] a retrograde step that will have unintended consequences. It will tear away at investment confidence,” leader David Littleproud told Sky News Australia.

“Why would you go and invest billions of dollars in a marketplace that the government can then come away and say: ‘We’re going to limit the amount of money you can get’? If you’re in an international market, they’ll find somewhere else internationally to go and drill a hole.

“We’re going to have a shortage of supply. The government has no agenda around the structural changes around supply.”

The Albanese government’s proposed relief measures are not expected to come into effect until the second quarter of 2023. State and territory governments will pay out the money to customers, under a deal struck between the federal government and first ministers at last Friday’s national cabinet meeting.

Oil and gas exploration stakeholders have also requested an urgent meeting with Mr Albanese about the plan, saying it could reduce gas supply, pushing up prices for households and businesses.

The Australian Petroleum Production And Exploration Association said a draft of the legislation showed the government’s intended intervention into the market was so extensive it would control it in an “essentially unlimited way”.

“A price cap combined with the emergence of other damaging measures will ultimately push up prices because they will undermine investment confidence and reduce new supply,” chief executive Samantha McCulloch said.

-with AAP

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