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  • Rikki Lambert

Bust a cap in their gas - but some have reservations

Extinction Rebellion protestors made their view clear Origin Energy's Melbourne HQ in October

A former competition watchdog call to cap gas prices has sparked discussion at the highest levels after Tuesday's energy pricing budget bombshell.

Labor treasurer Jim Chalmers' first federal budget laid waste to their own energy reduction claims and that of Victorian premier Daniel Andrews. The latter claims energy prices would be lower under his government in a rush to 95 per cent renewable energy for that state by 2035.

Federal Labor campaigned from opposition to reduce power prices by $275 but on Tuesday, Treasury projected 56 per cent price rises over the next two years. Former ACCC chair Rod Sims proposed that gas prices should be capped.

Gas prices are expected to rise 40 per cent over the next two years, whilst on Friday SA energy minister Tom Koutsantonis said energy ministers at their meeting were told coal was priced at $600 per tonne at the moment, up from a past low of $50.

Jim Chalmers said on Sunday that all options were on the table to reduce power bills:

"We are contemplating the kinds of steps that governments wouldn't have contemplated a year or two ago.
"You can go down the path of tax, you can go down the path of direct support to households, we don't want to rule out those kinds of options, but our immediate focus is on the regulatory side."

Dr Chalmers said he took seriously calls by former consumer watchdog head Rod Sims for gas prices to be capped. He indicated talks had been taking place on other measures that could be introduced. Among them was a mandatory code of conduct for gas companies, and while the code had been concerned with supply levels of gas, the treasurer said it could also extend to prices.

Opposition employment spokeswoman Michaelia Cash said shoring up further supply of gas was just as critical along with a price cap:

"All a price cap will do is actually discourage players from bringing on supply."

Premier Andrews told reporters in Melbourne that the rising energy prices from the war in Ukraine reinforced the need for a domestic gas reserve.

"What gas companies are asking us to do now is pay European prices for our gas.
"We need a national domestic reserve so that our gas is for our businesses and households first, and the bit that we don't need sell to the world."


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