Abbott faces pressure for promised drop in power prices
THE Abbott Government is coming under increasing pressure to deliver its promised 9% fall in power prices after the repeal of the carbon tax.
A key part of the Coalition's election platform, the government pledged consumers' power bills would drop by nearly a tenth after the repeal of the tax.
But industry groups and parliamentary crossbenchers have cast doubt on whether the promise can actually be fulfilled.
Chief among the concerns is that repealing the tax will not address the underlying problems created by the gold-plating of the country's electricity networks.
It was a major issue during the recent Labor Governments, which felt the effects of more than 70% rises in consumer power prices on the eastern seaboard.
Both Treasurer Joe Hockey and Environment Minister Greg Hunt, who campaigned on the issue, this week reiterated the promise.
Mr Hunt on Thursday cited the Energy Supply Association of Australia as confirming the full 9% fall in power prices would result, despite the concerns.
In a submission on the repeal released this week, the Australian Industry Group emphasised the lingering uncertainty around the repeal and how it would affect business.
It cited the "increases in electricity network costs" as a key driver of price rises, saying the pass-through of savings "may not be as large or fast" as the 14.5% rise manufacturing firms were forced to pay.
The submission also raised uncertainties around whether the government could actually repeal the tax before July 1, when the new Senate begins work.
"While the government has indicated it does not wish to intervene in private commercial arrangements, these matters should be subject to further consultation in the event that delay looks likely," the submission reads.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon also said Thursday he had concerns prices could not be addressed unless reforms were made to the National Electricity Market.
His criticism follows lengthy moves to reform the market under the previous government, most of which have not yet borne fruit.
Those reforms culminated in an energy market white paper focussed on improving weak energy market regulation to deal with the incentives that created the gold-plating in the first place.
But the Coalition's carbon tax policy, rather than improving the existing regulations, said the new government would rely on the market to "ensure the lowest prices for consumers and businesses".
"The Coalition does not believe that the government or the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission should regulate prices across the economy," the policy reads.
The government also promised another energy white paper to create an "integrated, coherent national energy policy", and identify how the mining and petroleum service industries "can be best supported".