SOUTHERN AND EASTERN AUSTRALIAN ELECTRICITY GRID
The Hon. R. T. M. BULL:
My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy. Will the Minister inform this House what progress is being made towards the creation of a southern and eastern Australian electricity grid?
The Hon. R. J. WEBSTER:
I thank the Hon. R. T. M. Bull for his question and commend his continuing work as chairman of my ministerial advisory committee. Honourable members will be aware that a National Grid Management Council was established by the heads of government at a Special Premiers Conference in July last year. The eight-member council is made up of Federal and State representatives under the chairmanship of Mr John Landels, the Chairman of the State Transit Authority of New South Wales and a former chief executive officer of Caltex. I recently met with Mr Landels and we had a most positive discussion. We canvassed a range of issues which must be addressed to ensure national benefits from the grid in a climate that does not unfairly penalise New South Wales, or any other State for that matter. The National Grid Management Council has been charged with the duty of encouraging and co-ordinating the development of the electricity industry in eastern and southern Australia.
In December the council unveiled at a public seminar here in Sydney a draft protocol aimed at providing the ground rules for a national electricity grid. At this seminar and follow-up seminars in other capitals public comment was invited on the draft protocol. The protocol covers questions such as access to the grid, the basis for user charges, the guidelines for competitive sourcing of new electricity generating capacity, power sales agreements and arbitration procedures. When the deadline for public submissions closed at the end of January, 34 had been received. I understand that these are now being reviewed so that a revised draft can be presented to the next Premiers Conference expected to be held mid-year. Unfortunately, there has been some speculation in the news media - notably the Sydney Morning Herald
- that the grid management council is planning a protocol that is likely to stifle competition in the electricity supply industry, at the behest of the existing power authorities. I am pleased to advise the House that this has been strongly denied. A news release issued by the chairman of the grid management council reaffirms the council's commitment to orderly and equitable access to the proposed grid.
It was certainly the intention of the heads of government that there be open access and free trade in bulk electricity for private and public generators and private and public customers. Based on these public assurances by the grid management council, I have every confidence that the final protocol will indeed be fair and open. Here in New South Wales work is well advanced towards developing a spot market for electricity, which will provide a major spur to competition and can be expected to achieve greater efficiency among State power generators. Certainly Pacific Power regards access to the electricity grid with fair and equitable terms for both existing and new private generators as fundamental to the establishment of true market based arrangements for electricity trading. I assure all members of this House that I, as Minister for Planning and Minister for Energy - and indeed the Premier - will not enter into any agreements on behalf of New South Wales unless those basic provisions are included in such agreement.