House of Assembly: Thursday, March 09, 2023


Energy Concessions

Mr PATTERSON (Morphett) (14:54): My question is to the Minister for Human Services. Did the minister find out from Origin Energy about the change to the energy concession? If so, when, and what action has she taken?

The Hon. A. KOUTSANTONIS (West Torrens—Minister for Infrastructure and Transport, Minister for Energy and Mining) (14:54): We go through a process, the same process that members opposite went through.

The Hon. Z.L. Bettison interjecting:

The Hon. A. KOUTSANTONIS: Yes. We went through the entire process, and of course the process is a detailed one. Both my agency and the minister's agency worked together on this, along with the Department of Treasury and Finance. We worked well with all our procurement processes. What we were able to negotiate for the first time was an additional concession—an additional concession—which, taken in and of itself, is actually larger than the concession when combined with what was received last financial year. So it's actually more. When you add the gas concession and the electricity concession and you combine them, households are actually better off this financial year, in terms of the discount they received, than they were last year.

Members interjecting:

The Hon. A. KOUTSANTONIS: No, no.

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: The member for Morialta is on a final warning. The member for Unley is warned. Member for West Torrens.

The Hon. A. KOUTSANTONIS: Members are attempting to put words into my mouth.

An honourable member: They're bullying.

The Hon. A. KOUTSANTONIS: Yes, they are bullying me, Mr Speaker, and you know how sensitive I am to bullying.

An honourable member interjecting:

The Hon. A. KOUTSANTONIS: I am very fragile as well. It's important to note that what we are seeing here is that the entire country is facing stress when it comes to power prices. South Australia is not alone here. This is a national energy crisis. There is a war in Ukraine. What we are seeing is energy being weaponised in Western Europe. We have seen dramatic interventions in Western Europe, which is creating a massive demand on gas, so much so that the commonwealth government, for the first time in its history, I understand, has put in price controls—price controls—on the sale of domestic gas in Australia. That is unprecedented outside of wartime. It is unprecedented.

What we are seeing now, with our $12 cap, which should have an impact, we are also seeing a cap on coal prices. Hopefully, that has an impact. Thankfully for South Australians, because of the work that this government and previous Labor governments have done, we have a dramatic penetration of renewable energy in this state, helping to keep power prices lower, especially for companies that can buy off the spot market, like small business and like large industrial users. They are able to capitalise on our penetration of wind and solar and opportunistically buy power prices on the market at spot price, relatively cheaper than their interstate competitors. That is a good thing.

Of course, residential customers who are locked into fixed prices throughout the year are the ones who are most vulnerable, which is why there were so many interventions and which is why this government acted to make sure that we could spread that concession to more than one energy source, especially leading into winter. So now we are seeing these concession cardholders getting additional concessions, and that concession will go a long way to helping.

It doesn't mean the problem is fixed. It doesn't mean people are going to be celebrating the fact that their power prices may go up, or that their gas prices may go up. But they are going up for reasons they can see every single night on the television news. The world is in turmoil. We are seeing, being played out geopolitically, the use of energy as a political weapon in Western Europe, and that has consequences for us here at home. So we are seeing these interventions to try to lower prices.

We went through a process, the government was informed, and that was made public. We went through the normal processes that we always go through when we do any procurement. There's nothing out of the ordinary here whatsoever, other than that there is now an additional concession being offered to concession cardholders, which I think is something we should celebrate.

The SPEAKER: The member for Giles has been waiting patiently.