Federal Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane has urged the states to take greater steps to lower electricity and gas prices for consumers and business.
There is much more that can be done to cut power bills alongside axing the carbon tax, Mr Macfarlane told the Energy Users Association of Australia conference in Brisbane on Thursday.
“There is a real need to address pressures in our electricity and gas markets to ensure these markets operate as efficiently as possible to promote competition and better outcomes for consumers,” Mr Macfarlane said.
He will be working with the states and territories to finalise the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) energy market reform agenda.
And the government is in the early stages of a national energy white paper and an east coast gas supply strategy.
However Mr McFarlane reiterated the coalition’s opposition to a domestic gas reservation policy.
Work is well under way within COAG on energy market reform to ensure a reliable supply of electricity at a minimal and sustainable cost, he said.
The states were heavily criticised by the previous Labor government for overspending on poles and wires, which has pushed up power prices.
The minister said deregulating electricity prices would improve the market’s productivity, as had been seen in Victoria and South Australia.
He encouraged other states to consider a similar move, but acknowledged the Queensland government had made it clear any move to privatise electricity generation would be taken to an election before a decision was made.
“I encourage the Queensland government to follow through with that process,” Mr Macfarlane said.
He said the energy white paper should focus on streamlining regulation, improving workforce development and stimulating research and development.
“Our energy policy needs to balance our long-term domestic energy needs and growing our exports of energy products – both unrefined and value added – with putting in place the environmental safeguards the community expects,” he said.