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 very simple method. It occurs infrequently as electricity charges increase. There is no doubt that it is most equitable. It is not totally equitable because averaging procedures naturally enough have certain hiccups in them, but it is a better system and a fairer system for the consumer. As the member for Sanderson said, there is a problem of balancing administrative convenience with consumer equity. Her proposal at least redresses that balance and makes it much fairer and more reasonable for the consumer. The member for Alice Springs made much of the fact that we are tied to north Queensland rates and that therefore what happens in north Queensland must also happen in the Territory. That is not strictly accurate of course. We are tied to price rises by the financial agreement but it has never been this government's policy to apply electricity charge increases at the date on which they are applied in north Queensland. Indeed, the Minister for Mines and Energy himself has made great play of the fact that, on occasion, he has been able to delay the introduction of price increases by some 3 or 4 months. It has never been the case that we have had to apply north Queensland rates at precisely the same date or in exactly the same manner. I think the arguments put by the member for Sanderson are clear; they are equitable. This bill perpetuates precisely the problem that the member for Alice Springs delineated for us. He understood that much. If he understood that much, he ought to support the comments made by the member for Sanderson and throw out this bill. Mr HARRIS (Port Darwin): I rise to speak to this bill. No one likes retrospectivity and I guess if increases could be implemented as soon as they are recommended by NTEC, then perhaps we would not have a bill such as we have here today. However, there is this time lapse from when an increase is recommended to when it is actually approved by the Executive Council. It is necessary to have submissions drawn up and there is nothing that we can do about that period. I think the big thing to remember here is that we are recelvlng a massive subsidy from the Commonwealth government to assist us in this particular area, an amount which is actually twice what the bill allows for. I believe, under these circumstances, we would be shirking our responsibility somewhat if we did not make a reasonable effort to raise revenue from the sale of electricity. The same principle applies with the Grants Commission: we are required to make a reasonable revenue-raising effort. If we do not, then the amount that we are to receive is reduced. That is all that is being asked by the government: that we make a reasonable effort to raise money from this particular area. Unfortunately, I do not believe there is any way of doing this other than retrospectively. I do not agree with the arguments that have been put forward. There are some 22,OOO-odd accounts and to arrive at a formula to try to calculate a system is ridiculous. To put a few things into perspective, it costs l4 per unit to generate power today. We are getting back something like 6 per unit. As I have already mentioned, there are no alternatives to retrospective payment. If we must go through 22,OOO-odd accounts, the increase in the staff required to carry out the various calculations would add to our costs. Electricity charges are in line with north Queensland and they are not the highest in Australia. We know that the cost of electricity will continue to rise and I believe that we must make some reasonable effort, in line with the system we have with the Grants Commission, to raise revenue in this particular area. Mr B. COLLINS (Arnhem): Mr Speaker, the reason I rise to speak is because I want to comment on the line of argument that has been adopted by the members for Alice Springs and Port Darwin. They say that people should not scream about paying an increased price retrospectively for something they thought was costing 1286
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