During the first Question Time of the new Parliament, Abigail asked the Minister for Energy about energy bill relief.
Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (13:39): My question without notice is directed to the Leader of the Government, and Minister for Energy. In New South Wales households are paying higher energy bills than their Victorian counterparts in part because of the permitted profit margin under the national energy price regulation, to which New South Wales is a party. Will the Minister commit to following the lead of the Victorian Government by boycotting the national energy price regulation and enable New South Wales to set its own lower charges and permitted retail margin in order to provide urgent energy bill relief while also putting the brakes on inflation?
The Hon. PENNY SHARPE: We have some big challenges ahead when it comes to energy. One of the very important things in relation to this is that New South Wales has understood in a bipartisan way over the past few years that we are facing significant price hikes, partly as a result of international factors over which we do not have any control. We were also going through the largest transformation of our energy sector since the industrial revolution. I cannot understate how important that is and how challenging it is going to be. Part of the issue with that is the impact that it will have on prices for ordinary households. I was very pleased that the Treasurer gave an overview of what we are doing in relation to rebates. Also, as we are coming into government, we are finding out why there are different arrangements when it comes to what we are signed up to in relation to pricing and other things.
The Government expects that the Australian Energy Regulator [AER] will release its direct market offer very soon, and it has been drawn to our attention that there are different arrangements in relation to Victoria and New South Wales. I have sought advice from my department and from the AER about what—
[An Opposition member interjected.]
Are you finished?
The PRESIDENT: Interjections are disorderly, as is responding to interjections.
The Hon. PENNY SHARPE: I am sorry. I will try to stop doing that. It is a habit of a lifetime. The point here is that I have asked the question and we need to have the answer. The Government is absolutely committed to the transition that we need to make not because it is something that we have chosen. It is something that we need to do for two reasons. Firstly, because we need to decarbonise the economy to address climate change, which is an existential threat to the planet, and, secondly, because energy is one of the largest emitters in New South Wales.
If we are serious about net zero, which members on that side of the House say they are—in fact, the vast majority of members of the House say they are—we have to be up-front about the challenges that are ahead. My approach to this is going to be up-front and honest. The Government is seeking advice around that, and I am happy to talk to the member about it. But our commitment remains absolutely true—we need to get to net zero by 2050, transition to renewables as quickly as possible, and do everything necessary to drive down prices for households and do whatever we can to make sure that they are part of the transition, not locked out of it.