OPED written by NSW Business Chamber CEO Stephen Cartwright
If we think Finkel deals with all energy issues we need to think again.
It wasn’t designed to fix the skyrocketing energy prices businesses are experiencing now. It is mainly about energy production and climate policy which are very important in ensuring security of supply.
Governments can’t hide behind the Finkel Report to shelter from their responsibility for the biggest immediate problem – prices.
The Finkel Report provides a pathway that gets Australia to deliver on its global greenhouse gas emission commitments – 28 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
If implemented it should create certainty for investment in energy.
The clean energy target is less costly for consumers than the EIS and other ways of getting there so that is a good thing.
But for many businesses the Finkel Report is academic.
Many NSW Business Chamber members have faced the doubling of energy prices over the past two years.
We hear that more big increases – have seen 30 per cent reported in media – are due on July 1.
With the kind of flat market conditions that many businesses face, especially those exposed to international competition, cost increases like this just can’t be passed on.
They are between a rock and a hard place.
Which is why the lack of urgency or commitment on the part of governments both state and national to deal with this immediate issue let alone the Finkel recommendations will stick in the craw of many business owners and operators.
We are where we are because of the failure of state and federal politicians to agree on energy policy and, 10 years ago, to leave it to the technical experts and the asset owners, governments, to design a system which has produced energy services that have moved Australia from the lowest to near the highest energy prices in the OECD.
Imagine what we would have had if we ran energy industries to benefit consumers - business and residential - and not the energy providers or their owners?
What if we really ran things to provide the best possible experience for energy consumers?
There are problems with the way the market works from top to bottom that all add up to outrageously high prices.
We call on both individual state governments , including the NSW Government – and the Federal Government to accept responsibility for this state of affairs and to set out a short term plan above and beyond Finkel to mitigate huge price increases that have already come through and continue again on July 1.
No more hiding behind COAG and Energy Ministerial councils where everybody but, ultimately, nobody is responsible.
Governments designed the energy system and governments until recently owned all and still own much of the energy assets and infrastructure.
Businesses struggling to maintain employment let alone increase it need to see action to reduce the overall cost of running their operations.
How about real action by governments to reduce other costs they impose on business like taxes and charges – payroll tax, a tax on jobs, in particular.
More directly, by the end of this year we:
- Need to get more gas flowing at reasonable prices to local business users and to the electricity generators. Making the Federal Government’s Domestic Gas Security Mechanism to work is the best opportunity to achieve this
- Quickly fix the retail energy markets which bamboozle retail business and residential customers with complex offers that mean they end up paying more than they should.
- Re-double government support to support small and medium businesses to become more energy efficient – it’s the only short term way to reduce their costs – but has long term benefits.
In short, we are calling on the NSW and the Federal governments to make energy services work for consumers and especially business consumers because ultimately all Australian jobs depend on it.