Labor announcement highlights need for national agreement on energy

In response to Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s speech on Labor energy policy today, Australia’s largest and most representative business network, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, renewed its call for a national and bipartisan approach to solve the energy crisis that is putting business and households under pressure and jobs at risk.

James Pearson, the Chief Executive of the Australian Chamber, welcomed the announcement by Mr Shorten that, should the Labor party win at the next election, they will pursue a bipartisan solution through the National Energy Guarantee (NEG).

“The Australian Chamber supports a “NEG plus” solution. That’s one that combines measures recommended by the ACCC to encourage competition and drive prices down in the short term, plus measures in the NEG to deliver greater reliability while meeting our national emissions reduction target,” Mr Pearson said.

“The Australian Chamber has long called for a bipartisan solution to the energy crisis that can secure national agreement. The NEG is the only long-term policy that enjoyed overwhelming support across the business community.

“When you combine that with some of the recommendations of the ACCC, such as establishing a default offer price which the government and the opposition both support, then you have the makings of policy that will work in the short and long-term to bring prices down.

“The alternative, proposed by both the government and the opposition, is direct intervention in various forms.

“We urge both the Coalition and the Opposition to recognise that the best way to secure significant investment in less expensive and more reliable power is to provide the private sector with the certainty it requires to invest with confidence in the energy sector.

“Direct intervention carries significant risks to taxpayers’ funds and will further distort a market that has suffered for years from inconsistent and contradictory approaches from federal, state and territory governments both Coalition and Labor.

“We must not overlook the fact that, right here right now, businesses and households are struggling with unaffordable power bills. In the case of small business operators, they are paying them twice: first to keep the lights and power on in their workshop or office, and again to keep the lights and power on at home. Small businesses, and the larger Australian firms that are considering closing down or moving operations to other countries where power is more reliable and less expensive, can’t wait.”

“We are examining the detail of Labor’s proposals. Overall, what we need is a market mechanism so that investors know what policy settings they will operate under now and into the future. If we can get this certainty, then the investment will flow and direct intervention won’t be required.”

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