PM Julia Gillard seeks overhaul of Australia’s electricity supply market

Prime Minister Julia Gillard sought on Tuesday an overhaul of Australia’s electricity supply market amid observations of the swift rise in power prices which states and the Opposition blame on the one-month old carbon tax.

“Power bills have become the new petrol prices: not just an essential of life that always seems to be going up, but a vital commodity, where what we consume each day, or pay every quarter, seems far beyond our control,” The Herald Sun quoted Ms Gillard’s speech at the Energy Policy Institute.

“Families and pensioners are facing higher prices even when many have been doing the right thing and cutting their use,” she pointed out.

Ms Gillard blamed the unreasonable rise in power rates to state governments boosting revenue at the expense of the family electricity bill. She said the practice must stop.

To support her argument that it is not the carbon tax but states that cause the major jump in electricity prices, the prime minister cited the 62.4 per cent jump in power prices in South Australia the past four years which boosted their expenses by $1,086 for power alone. The highest rate of increase was in New South Wales which jacked up power rates by 69.2 per cent.

The prime minister stressed that the carbon price would add only $115 to power bills this financial year.

“Australia did not need nearly 50 per cent price increases for households over the past four years, and Australians can’t afford the same kinds of increases over the next four the next four years,” Ms Gillard said.

“The market for supplying electricity in Australia needs to be more efficient,” she added.

Along with the power rate hikes, state governments also enjoyed windfall gains in revenue such as 60 per cent for New South Wales, 16 per cent for Queensland and almost 200 per cent for Western Australia.

TD Securities’ inflation figures support the federal government’s contention that the carbon tax, imposed on July 1, resulted in a 0.2 inflation rate for July and 1.5 per cent for the year. It is based on a 14.9 per cent electricity rate hike and 10.3 per cent increase for other fuel prices on account of the carbon tax.

“We looked closely at food, airfares, some electrical appliances, we looked at the other sectors that were meant to have an impact of the carbon tax and we don’t see anything,” ABC quoted TD Securities head of Asia-Pacific Research Annette Beacher.

Ms Beacher added that TD will further assess the impact of the carbon price on inflation in the coming months to see if it has an effect into other sectors.

The figures, including the latest polls which showed a decline in the Opposition’s primary vote and an increase in Labor’s spell bad news for Coalition leader Tony Abbott who has been banking on a scare campaign to get public support for his promise to repeal the carbon tax if he becomes prime minister in 2013.

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