Parliamentary record : Part I debates (19 August 1981)
Debates for 3rd Assembly 1980 - 1983; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 3rd Assembly 1980 - 1983
Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
Northern Territory Legislative Assembly
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES - Wednesday 19 August 1981 For that reason, I oppose this bill. I further point out to the minister that, until recently, there wa~ an analogous system of charging for water rates and indeed for the allocation between basic and excess charges. That particular provision caused much anguish to householders and, to the credit of the Minister for Transport and Works, those regulations have now been amended. We were notified in the Gazette of 26 June 1981 about a new set of regulations relating to the supply of services and the terms and conditions of supply of water. By that particular regulation, the costs are to be apportioned rather than just charged at higher rates. The apportionment refers to the excess and basic charge rather than to its actual price. I cannot see why, when electricity charges are increased, the consumer's charges should not be apportioned in the 3-month period according to how much he consumed before the new charges came into effect and how much he consumed after the gazettal of the new charges. The minister has said that the reason for this is that we have an agreement with the COIDnlonwealth to maintain parity with north Queensland rates. At the rlme that that decision was made, I argued about it but the time for arguing about that decision is well past. However, I can see no conflict in maintaining parity with north Queensland prices and still being fair to consumers. It has to be remembered that these people have consumed the electricity at a lower rate. The minister is now making a provision that, notwithstanding that they have consumed it at a lower rate, if they should be unlucky enough to .have a consumption period that ends a short time after the new rates are gazetted, then they will be charged at the new rate for the entire period. This proposal is quite regressive and it should be thrown out by the government. Whilst we are talking about public utilities, I would make a call that ministers responsible ought to get together. The Minister for Transport and Works has removed the very sort of inequity that I am speaking of in the supply of water and I do not see why the Minister for Mines and Energy cannot take the same sort of attitude to the supply of electricity. After all, we are talking about public utilities and, as far as I am concerned, the charging of all public utilities should be guided by the same philosophy. I am all in favour of consumers paying for the electricity they use at the rate prevailing at the time. I think that this particular matter is just another instance of administrative convenience overriding fairness to consumers. I oppose this bill. Mr D.W. COLLINS (Alice Springs): Mr Deputy Speaker, Territorians and members of this Assembly should be well aware that our electricity cost is subsidised by the federal government. I believe that last year the subsidy was in the order of $48m. We have an arrangement with the federal government that we will pay for our electricity at the same rate at which the north Queensland people pay for theirs and the federal government will pick up the balance. The act states that, if north Queensland raises its price, we must go through a gazettal process. At the moment, we have to wait up to an average of 3 months before the new prices can be introduced. Of course, the federal government does not calculate the subsidy from the time that we start our charging but virtually from the time that north Queensland starts its charging. Thus, we receive less money back from the federal government and the Territory government is out of pocket for the balance. Subsection (2) of proposed section 30 allows for consumers whose meters are read on or after the gazettal day to be charged at the new rate. In essence, I agree with the member who said a moment ago that the system is not fair. It certainly is not in many ways but what would constitute a fair system? A fair system would necessitate the reading of every meter on the day before gazettal so that that part of the bill would be calculated at the old rate and everything consumed after that would be calculated at the new rate. Even that would not be fair because, as members are most probably aware, when an electricity bill is 1284
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