Thursday 14 October 2010
Hansard of the Legislative Council


Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - There is no doubt that the establishment of this panel is timely. It is a long wait until the end of August next year, but the panel has an incredible amount of work before it. Madam President, I do not see much in the second reading speech or the Government's fact sheet or the terms of reference about the development of alternative energy sources and I think I would have liked to see much greater emphasis on that part of our future. After all, our hydro resources do seem to be fully developed and are subject to drought and certainly any future carbon trading scheme or tax can only restrict thermal power generation in the future. So it is obvious that we need to develop alternatives. Reading the material that I mentioned a short while ago, I suppose there is scope for the panel to look closely at a future energy mix. In the second reading speech is the line:

'The Government considers that a key point in the ongoing energy reform process has been reached. It is therefore important that an independent assessment of the industry now be undertaken to assess its current status, energy mix, the assumptions that underpin it and to provide guidance for ongoing development.'

So there is at least a reference to the energy mix in the future and also, in the terms of reference, it came up in item 7:

'Actions that would guide and inform the development of the Tasmanian Energy Strategy, particularly in relation to the Government's primary objectives of minimising the impact on the cost of living in Tasmania and ensuring Tasmania's long-term energy sustainability and security.'

However, it is hard to read a firm commitment there about what wind, solar and other alternative energy sources might provide from these two references. So if alternative energy is not at the centre of this inquiry I believe that the Government may have lost an opportunity, but it may be something that the Treasurer may care to comment on in wrapping up the debate.

Just in the terms of reference it seems to me that the panel does not have the power to investigate how Aurora actually accumulated its large financial liability. The panel obviously just has to accept that there is a big deficit and the terms of reference could have enabled the panel to inquire into and report on the management that oversaw the accumulation of that large debt.

Ms Forrest - There have been a few clues as to what caused that, like the blowout in the billing cost, that new billing system they put in, the price gouge that Hydro was doing in the last year and a couple of other times since to a lesser degree. There have been a few flags.

Mr FINCH - Yes, but probably comparisons too with the private sector might be a bit odious but the mind boggles with the thought of a similar situation in the private sector if that occurred; heads would roll and the board would be embarrassed -

Ms Forrest - There would be a few changes at the top I reckon.

Mr FINCH - Well, I do not know; is the management of Aurora embarrassed? We do not know.

I am wondering whether the panel too can comment on the three companies and the three boards of management - that is the Hydro, Transend and Aurora. It would seem to me, from my reading, that the panel cannot comment on the efficiency of the three separate companies dealing with one product before it is supplied to the consumer. Again, what would happen in the private sector if that was the case? Apart from those couple of reservations that the Treasurer may comment on, I support the proposal.