On Thursday 15 December 2022, I made a speech in Federal Parliament on the government's Treasury Laws Amendment (Energy Price Relief Plan) Bill 2022. You can watch the speech here or read the full transcript below.
E WATSON-BROWN: This week the phones and emails in our Ryan electorate office have been running really hot with people truly distressed about huge cost-of-living pressures. Steep rises in energy bills are a significant challenge. People are absolutely desperate for relief. People are in real pain, so let's be crystal clear about where the problem lies and who has been causing this pain. As so many other speakers have said today, coal and gas corporations have been driving up these prices, profiteering off war and making exorbitant profits from the suffering of everyday Australians.
The government have been talking about handing out compensation for what is, in reality, to them, a very modest price cap. I call this out as nothing other than using our tax dollars as charity for big corporations, and that's ridiculous cruelty. These coal and gas corporations made $152 billion this year in exports. They don't need to be rewarded with the extra cash; everyday Australians do. The people of Ryan are calling on the government to be sensible about and responsive to this and to look after people rather than the interests of their mates in the fossil fuel industry.
Here's what the people of Ryan think we should do instead. We should institute a windfall tax on the excessive profits of coal and gas corporations. We should be using that money to cap people's power bills at the level that they were before the war in Ukraine. We should be bringing energy retail back into public ownership so that there aren't energy retailers making these huge mark-ups by selling on energy—our energy—that they don't even produce. We should be expediting the transition to a clean energy economy so this doesn't ever happen again.
On a broader level, the fact that the government is finally capping prices on domestic coal and gas shows just how possible it is for the government to actually take more control over an essential service like energy. This year has actually put a big question mark around the way we run energy as a market based system meant to deliver maximum profits even to government corporations, rather than run it based on delivering people's needs.