Speech: Statutes Amendment (National Energy Laws) (Omnibus) Bill

Second Reading

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (12:47): I acknowledge the comments and the contribution from the shadow minister. This is a pretty straightforward bill. It is an amalgamation of a lot of small pieces, each one being fairly separate, so it is not trying to be anything more complicated than exactly what is on the paper in front of us. Of course, some of these pieces are very important, and I might just step through a few of them again—not to redo the second reading contribution but just to address a couple of things the shadow minister has commented on.

With regard to newspaper advertising, it is important to point out that this is not a prohibition on newspaper advertising but is actually the removal of an obligation for newspaper advertising, and that is really just so that the system can keep up with modern times. The member for West Torrens says—and I will not get the words just right—that this is essentially another blow to mainstream media, or thereabouts is what he said.

I do not agree with that because our state government over the last 2½ years has similarly removed some obligations upon ourselves with regard to advertising, and particularly with regard to public notices and things like that, in newspapers, including regional newspapers around South Australia, and yet we have increased our spend in regional newspapers around Australia.

So we have removed the obligation to spend, made it voluntary and deliberately—actively, with our eyes wide open—increased the total spend because we still believed that that was the effective way to get messages out to people. I do not think there is any reason to believe that keeping up with the times, as is suggested in this bill for national electricity, gas and other energy matters, is necessarily going to be harmful to any newspaper baron anywhere in the country.

The shadow minister also asked about the commercial arbitration provisions. Essentially, that is about removing the situation we have at the moment, which is that, whenever there is a dispute, it is the commercial arbitration act of the particular jurisdiction in which the dispute is raised that oversees the dispute resolution. While there is no implied or explicit criticism of any of those acts or those jurisdictions, we are trying to get as much consistency as possible around the nation with regard to how we deal with these matters.

At its simplest, this is about saying that regardless of where a dispute is raised and the jurisdiction the dispute is raised in, we will try to deal with it with one set of dispute resolution guidelines. That one set will be provided through the regulations attached to this bill. As a person who was in opposition and even in government, I understand that it is not ideal to be asking anybody to agree to a bill that has important regulations attached to it without being able to see the regulations.

For Liberal or Labor, it does not matter what the issue is, it is something that all of us at one point in time have found frustrating for one reason or another because, naturally, we all want more information. Even if there is only a small amount of information left to be shared from the development of the regulations, of course we would all still like to have that extra bit of information. Let it just be very clear that there is not intended to be anything untoward or any difficulty here whatsoever.

The National Electricity Law and the National Gas Law will be amended to allow that reference to commercial arbitration act provisions to be prescribed by the relevant regulations. This will ensure that references can easily be amended in future as required, and the National Electricity (South Australia) (Commercial Arbitration Acts) Variation Regulations 2020 and the National Gas (South Australia) (Commercial Arbitration Acts) Variation Regulations 2020 include changes to procedural provisions of the relevant commercial arbitration act of the jurisdiction.

As the member for West Torrens said, this is something that has come through COAG Energy Council; I believe it was agreed to on 19 August 2019, so it has taken a while to make its way to this place. The relevant energy ministers from each of these jurisdictions, no doubt on behalf of their other cabinet colleagues, who are even more involved in dispute resolution and their relevant obligations in their states, all agree that they are comfortable with this direction. This is something that has broad support.

Essentially, we are just trying to tidy things up. The words the member for West Torrens used with regard to the NEM and the sentiment he put forward I agree with entirely. We know that we are way beyond states operating on their own in energy, whether that be electricity, gas or other forms of energy. We know that that cannot operate anymore. If we did that, it would be to our detriment to try to just have supply and demand contained within our borders.

Of course we do not do that anymore but, as we progress further and further down that pathway, we need to make sure that legislation and regulation keep up with us. Even in some of these things that may seem to be hardly the most consequential matters with regard to making sure we reduce prices, improve reliability and continue to improve with regard to emissions reductions, they are still nonetheless very important.

I believe we all expect that it is highly unlikely there will be an interconnector built between South Australia and Western Australia anytime soon or an interconnector built between Western Australia and the Northern Territory anytime soon or any of the other things that, in an ideal world, might make this the complete utopian National Electricity Market.

Nonetheless, we have to do the very best we can with what we have, and we already have Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania interconnected. There are moves afoot among all those states to try to further enhance that interconnection. They are very important and very significant pieces of work, and every member in this house would certainly know the government's position with regard to the proposed interconnector between South Australia and New South Wales.

We are trying to the best of our ability to get synchronisation in energy between as many states as possible around the nation. That comes at the top tier of interconnection and sharing of very significant generation assets and very significant demand loads between states. It also applies at what might seem to be far less consequential but still very important areas: removing obligations on market bodies to advertise or provide information in specific ways.

They still must do it effectively, they still must do it expediently, they still must do it so that those who require the information would get it, but it is removing obligations on how they do it, removing limitations on the National Gas Law by enabling any party to propose a rule change request and, of course, dealing with the declared Victorian wholesale gas market, as the member suggested.

The government is fully supportive of this bill. The government hopes that it gets through the other house. We appreciate the support in this chamber of the opposition. As the shadow minister says, there is a longstanding convention, and not just out of habit but out of a strong sense of practicality, that the former opposition and the current opposition have supported the legislation of the government of the day when it comes here on behalf of the COAG Energy Council.

I acknowledge that the member opposite has said that the opposition has not come to a formal position yet on this bill, but I am very hopeful and very optimistic that when the opposition deal with this in the other place very shortly they will come to a position of supporting this bill as is, unamended, because that is what is good for South Australia and that is what is good for the nation.

Bill read a second time.

Third Reading

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (12:58): I move:

That this bill be now read a third time.

Bill read a third time and passed.