Energy Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 – Second Reading Debate

Juliana ADDISON (Wendouree) (18:47): What a delightful day for me, starting the morning with the member for Polwarth and ending the day with the member for Polwarth. I am so lucky; I just thank my lucky stars. What a day.

It will come as no surprise to anyone here that I fervently disagree with that diatribe and that ranting that just was so illogical – that we are doing nothing, yet half of Victoria is protesting out the front. Mmm – doing nothing? What are they protesting about? Why are they out if we are doing nothing? It is just illogical what you present. It is ridiculous. I am actually going to talk about this bill. You do not understand it, so I am going to explain it to you – sorry, I am going to explain it to the member for Polwarth, which will be really great.

Bridget Vallence: On a point of order, Acting Speaker, I just understand previous rulings said ‘you’ is a poor reflection on the Chair, and I think the member just said ‘you’. If you could ask her not to do so. Thank you.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Jordan Crugnale): Can the member go through the Chair, please.

Juliana ADDISON: I thank the member for Evelyn for listening so carefully. I really appreciate the member for Evelyn doing that, and I will really reflect on that. Thank you.

It is very, very good to have the opportunity to rise to contribute to the debate on the Energy Legislation Amendment Bill 2023, because energy security and supply is an important issue for Victorians. It is an important issue for my electorate of Wendouree. I am really thankful for the contributions from the Labor members of this place, because they have actually read this bill and they understand why we are doing it and why it is happening.

I want to thank the Minister for Energy and Resources for bringing this legislation to this house, because this bill will further safeguard Victoria’s energy security by safeguarding our electricity supply. I thank the minister’s office for what they do, and I thank the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action for the great work that they are doing as we really transform our state’s energy, which is a really, really important thing to do.

I do support this omnibus bill, which is technical in nature, because it will strengthen the electricity and gas regulatory framework by making amendments to two pieces of legislation – those being the National Electricity (Victoria) Act 2005 and the National Gas (Victoria) Act 2008. In doing so we are enhancing protections for energy consumers and establishing more certainty for the market – important issues for communities across Victoria. Whether it is this legislation that we have brought to the house or multiple other things, including bringing back the SEC, we know that work needs to be done in this space to bring down power bills and to create thousands of jobs in renewables. That is what this government is about, and bringing back the SEC is emblematic of this government.

We are also doing other great things like providing $58.2 million to install 100 new neighbourhood batteries. I refer to what the member for Polwarth talked about. He said that we need to do other things, not just put solar panels on our roofs, to bring down electricity prices, and that is what a battery in Ballarat is going to do for my community. A neighbourhood battery is doing that something else that the member for Polwarth just referred to. That is what we are going to do: we are going to make sure that the statewide investment will triple the number of homes with access to batteries and provide crucial extra storage capacity for local communities. I welcome that, and I think that is terrific.

I also welcome what we are doing with renewables at Federation University. Our TAFE is going to receive $6 million, which was announced in the May budget, to ensure that we have the Federation TAFE Asia Pacific Renewable Energy Training Centre. This is going to be a game changer, and that is what the member for Polwarth wants. He was saying we have to do more, and that is the more we are doing. I am so pleased that I can stand up in this chamber and say that we are doing more. We are doing more with batteries, we are doing more training, we are doing more with renewables and we are bringing the SEC back, which is going to be all renewables, creating over 50,000 jobs. This is what we are doing. The member for Polwarth wants us to do more, and we are doing more.

Bridget Vallence: I cannot wait for the Matildas to be on later tonight. On a point of order, Acting Speaker, again we are talking about the Energy Legislation Amendment Bill 2023, so my point of order is on relevance. This is not the take-note motion on the budget. The member will have an opportunity to talk about the government’s budget and the SEC and other things at a later stage. This is the Energy Legislation Amendment Bill, which is a narrow bill, and I would ask you to call the member back to the bill and to be relevant to the bill.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Jordan Crugnale): I think the member is being relevant. It has been a very far-ranging debate so far, but the member is being relevant.

Juliana ADDISON: The Energy Legislation Amendment Bill 2023 enhances the regulation of both electricity and gas in Victoria, providing more certainty for markets and strengthening protections for consumers.

The amendments that are being made to the National Electricity (Victoria) Act 2005 primarily clarify what the minister must consider and do when triggering the retailer reliability obligation. The obligation is applicable when an electricity supply shortfall is forecast over three years in advance. It puts in motion an assortment of notifications and responsibilities to enable that shortfall to be covered by the market. This is what I was wanting to hear from the member for Polwarth, but I did not. I really wanted him to talk to me about his understanding of the T-3 reliability instrument.

When deciding to trigger the obligation by making what is called a T-3 reliability instrument, the member for Polwarth will be very interested to know that this must happen three years out from a suspected shortfall. This bill proposes that the minister must take several things into account, including any potential impact on the liquidity of the trading markets for Victorian electrical derivatives, the availability of generating units and transmission systems at relevant times, the impact on consumers as well as any other prescribed matters. The minister may also have regard to any other matter that she considers relevant.

The decision-making criteria is on top of the existing requirements under the National Electricity (Victoria) Act, such as conferring with the Australian Energy Market Operator and the Australian Energy Regulator.

In addition to this, this bill proposes that both the Premier and the Treasurer will be consulted before making a T-3 reliability instrument. When this decision is made and the official notice is published, in accordance with the National Electricity (Victoria) Act, it must also be published that same day in the Government Gazette, along with the minister’s reasoning.

These are technical amendments, but they are important. They provide the criteria, the consultation and the accountability to ensure that any use of the retailer reliability obligation is justified. Having this framework means that the obligation can be triggered when it is needed, giving our state an additional insurance policy against electricity shortfalls. It is a ‘just in case’ mechanism that further improves the reliability of energy supply in our state.

Further, the bill also proposes amendments to the National Gas (Victoria) Act 2008 regarding the imposition of civil penalties for civil penalty provision breaches. Following updates to the national civil penalty framework in 2020 the Australian Energy Regulator has the flexibility in other jurisdictions to respond proportionally to breaches in line with their severity, but it only has access to lower tier 3 civil penalties here.

The proposed amendments that are being put forward in this bill would put us in line with other east coast wholesale markets. This would enable the minister not just to prescribe provisions in the national gas rules that are relevant to the Victorian markets as civil penalties but also to prescribe their penalties under the National Gas Law, thereby empowering the Australian Energy Regulator to respond appropriately to instances of non-compliance.

Again, these could be considered purely technical amendments, but they shore up some very real protections for Victorians. Provisions under the national civil penalty framework can relate to important issues, which obviously was lost on the member for Polwarth, of public safety, financial harm and hardship, the fundamental right to access essential services, market distortion, supply security, system reliability, service levels, interruptions and large-scale events.

I do not know about the member for Polwarth, but I care about public safety, I care about financial harm and hardship and I care about the fundamental right to access essential services, and I am very proud to be a member of a government that stands by consumers across Victoria rather than those who do not read legislation.

You can take a look at more of my speeches to Parliament here.