Remote Areas Energy Supply Scheme


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (17:31): Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I really do appreciate the five minutes that you have allocated to this.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: It was the member for Light who gave you one of his minutes.

Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: Thank you to everybody who has participated in the adjournment debate and left five minutes for me to speak on this extremely important topic, that is, the increase in electricity tariffs to remote communities under the government's Remote Areas Energy Supplies scheme. Firstly, to declare a personal interest, I am a shareholder in a company with two businesses in the outback which will incur higher prices under this scheme, and that same company subcontracts to companies that contract to the government as part of the process. I will not delve into all the details of that but I am integrally involved in this, and I lived in the outback for seven years and really do understand this system very well.

What I want to say in the limited time that I have available is that I believe that the government genuinely underestimates and really does not understand the impact that this will have on remote communities. There are 13 communities impacted by this scheme, with six of them in Stuart: Marree, Parachilna, Blinman, Manna Hill, Yunta and Cockburn; six of them in Giles: Marla, Oodnadatta, Coober Pedy, Kingoonya, Andamooka and Glendambo; and one of them in Flinders at Nundroo.

Every one of these communities will have to pay increased tariffs both for domestic use and business use and, also, very importantly, for street lighting. I think that is a very important thing that has been underestimated, too. Street lighting is normally provided by progress associations which have to raise community funds, do fundraising and all that sort of thing, so that the streetlights can be kept on. There is nobody else paying for that to happen in these communities.

The very obvious impost, first of all, is on domestic consumption for households. There are some 2,600 customers, I am told, all up across these 13 communities who will be impacted, but it is fair to say that most of these towns—in fact the vast majority of these towns—have very few domestic residents, and it would be a great shame if people cannot stay and cannot live in these towns. With regard to business consumption, it is easy for people who do not understand these communities to just assume that there is a business there, electricity is going to go up, it does not matter, they are there all by themselves, costs go up, they can put their prices up, people have to buy from them, and that is the end of that.

First of all, applying that to the domestic use of the people who live in those 13 towns is incredibly unfair and unrealistic. It is also unrealistic to assume that the businesses can or want to operate in that way and that people do have a choice. With regard to consumption, the vast majority of customers who come to these remote area businesses are tourists, travellers, commercial transport operators or any of those sorts of people. They do have a choice and I can tell you very directly that, if tourists want to head up any of the highways that these towns are on, and pay outrageously high fuel prices and outrageously high prices for other products in the shops, they do not have a choice on the day, but they do have a choice as to whether they will come back, and this is as broad reaching as families making a decision about taking a driving holiday to Ayers Rock with the family or jumping in an aeroplane and going to the Gold Coast. It is those sorts of decisions, that it is very important the government understands, that will be impacted by this issue here.

Another very important issue, too, is the lead-in time. It was less than a week, I believe, that the people who will pay these extra prices were given, from the time the announcement was made to the time the tariffs come into place. I do not think there is anybody in this place who would consider that acceptable, that householders, businesses and progress associations, trying to do community service and provide lighting for their communities, could make the adjustments they need to in that time.

The other thing I would like to say in the short time remaining is that consumption of electricity in outback areas is not a choice. You do not get to say, 'Oh, look we'll leave the air conditioning off, or leave for fridges or the freezers or anything like that off.' Wintertime is extremely cold in the outback, much colder than it is in Adelaide—people need their heaters—and in summertime it is much, much hotter than it is in Adelaide.

If you are running a business you have no choice. If you are in your house, you have very limited choice. Your use of electricity, your choice about consumption, is next to nil in outback areas. This is just the direct impost. This is not a matter of cost going up, making a choice to consume less; people do not have a choice.


No Very

Captcha Image