GRACosway Weekly Wrap Up: ACCC report reignites energy debate
- The ACCC energy industry report has dominated headlines this week.
- The countdown is on for the July 28 by-elections, with just 15 days until polling day.
- Former Chief of Staff to Treasurer Scott Morrison, Philip Gaetjens, has been appointed the new Federal Treasury Secretary following the resignation of John Fraser.
- NSW Nationals MP Troy Grant has announced he will not re-contest the next election.
- Preselections continue ahead of the next federal election, with significant changes to the Queensland LNP’s Senate ticket.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released a scathing report into the energy industry this week, describing current high retail energy prices as “unacceptable and unsustainable” for households and businesses. The Retail Electricity Pricing Inquiry report sets out a wide-ranging package of recommendations to “reset” the National Energy Market (NEM), focusing on boosting competition; lowering costs; enhancing consumer experiences; and improving business outcomes. As part of the proposed system overhaul, the ACCC has called for greater powers for regulators to halt “market manipulation” and called on the Government to support investment in dispatchable power generation from different sources.
Following the report’s release, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull confirmed the Government will remain “technology agnostic” and will not exclude any fuel source to provide baseload power, including coal. Declaring that the Coalition is the “party of lower electricity prices”, the PM said the ACCC report was “a great piece of work” and that his “focus is unrelentingly on getting energy prices down”. While Opposition Leader Bill Shorten called on the Government to invest in renewable energy, Nationals head and Deputy PM Michael McCormack declared a “green light” for future government investment in new coal-fired power projects.
Long game in Longman
While energy stole the spotlight this week, Malcolm Turnbull and Bill Shorten continued on the campaign trail in Queensland and Tasmania, ahead of the five ‘Super Saturday’ by-elections on 28 July. With just over two weeks to go, the PM sought to position the impending Longman vote as a test of leadership, after recent Newspoll quarterly analysis revealed Mr Shorten’s approval ratings in Queensland are at the lowest levels of all the mainland states. Despite overall improvements in the Coalition’s two-party preferred vote nationally and in South Australia, the Newspoll data suggests the Party continues to struggle in Queensland, with a primary vote of 36 per cent to Labor’s 38. It remains to be seen if this result will reflect the state of play in Longman on 28 July.
In other Longman news, former Labor leader-turned-media commentator Mark Latham has made headlines this week after voters in Longman received a ‘robocall’ from Mr Latham on behalf of One Nation, criticising Labor and urging support for the minor parties “to shake up the system”.
Resignations this week
Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison have paid tribute to Treasury Secretary John Fraser, who has advised the Prime Minister he will resign at the end of month after three and a half years in the role. The Governor-General has accepted the Government’s recommendation to appoint Mr Philip Gaetjens, former Chief of Staff to Treasurer Morrison, as Mr Fraser’s replacement. Mr Gaetjens previously held senior roles at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and in the Commonwealth and state public sectors, including the NSW and Commonwealth Treasuries, and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Labor has criticised the appointment, saying it is “unlikely to restore faith in the Australian Treasury after years of politicisation”.
Ahead of the 2019 NSW Election, NSW Police Minister Troy Grant has announced he will not re-contest his seat of Dubbo. In a statement released on Thursday, the Nationals MP said that running for re-election was “not the right decision for my family or me”, and that he will retire in March next year after nearly eight years in Parliament. Mr Grant served as leader of the Nationals and NSW deputy premier for more than two years, stepping down following the Nationals’ poor performance at the Orange by-election in 2016.
In further preselection news, there has been a shakeup of the Queensland Liberal National Party’s Senate ticket ahead of the next federal election, with the nation’s longest-serving senator, Ian Macdonald, being replaced at the top of the Party’s ticket by Brisbane mining executive, Paul Scarr. Nationals senator Barry O’Sullivan has been replaced by Susan McDonald in second place on the ticket. The LNP announced that Ms McDonald will relocate from Brisbane to Townsville if she is elected, in an attempt to allay concerns about dwindling representation for northern Queensland. Meanwhile, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten is reportedly poised to support a proposal to refer Victorian preselections to Labor’s national executive, in a move that will protect sitting MPs from fighting preselection battles in the lead up to the next federal poll.