I rise to make a contribution in respect of the Essential Services Commission
Amendment Bill 2008, which is the government’s final response to the review of
the Essential Services Commission Act 2001. The review, commonly known as the
Beale review, was charged with the responsibility to determine whether the
objectives of the act were being achieved and whether further finetuning was
required. The review came to about 15 conclusions, which were the basis of its
29 recommendations. The review presented its report to the government on 22
The government’s response to the review and the review report
was tabled in the Parliament in March last year. The overwhelming majority of
the recommendations have been picked up and supported by the government. The
government by and large supported the recommendations that went to a number of
areas. Firstly, it supported recommendations that made the legislative framework
so much simpler. It also supported recommendations that refined the current
objectives. It also supported the commission having powers to make codes and
impose the appropriate penalties in the case of breaches.
It also supported recommendations that have made it easier for
the commission to be able to inquire into matters referred to it by the relevant
minister. Consultation will occur with other ministers where it is relevant. It
also supported recommendations for the regulatory burden to be reduced and to
have the standardised power and penalties increased.
The commission will also have power to access information, as
we have heard from previous speakers, from regulated entities and related third
parties in respect of commercial-in-confidence information.
It also supported recommendations that introduced a
proportional penalty framework as well as introducing new provisions relating to
an access regime as agreed to at the Council of Australian Governments, which
substantially is about the regulation of Victorian regimes being more consistent
with nationally agreed approaches.
The bill also recognises the importance of legislative review.
As a result, as we have heard from previous speakers, the next review will be
held by 31 December 2016.
That is a commitment by the government to be aware of the need
to have pieces of the legislation under constant review, and I think that
provides some certainty and stability about the way we approach governing this
It is pleasing to note that it was the Labor Party leading up
to the 1999 election that called for the setting-up of an Essential Services
Commission. The Labor Party platform was for a commission:
- with powers to impose tough penalties, including fines, on utilities that
cannot guarantee supply, quality services, environmentally safe practices and
With the subsequent election of the Labor government, it then
set about creating the Essential Services Commission. This is an extremely
It provides this state with an independent economic regulator
in respect of electricity, gas, ports, rail freight and grain-handling
industries and, more recently, water. Now it has also been given the task of
renewable energy target schemes as well.
Many essential services touch our daily lives and determine the
stability, growth, cost and standards of our social and economic development. I
am sure that everybody in this chamber would agree that a proper, efficient and
more streamlined regulatory framework is vital, particularly in the area of
I wish to put on the record that we will be opposing the
amendment. I wish this bill a speedy passage through Parliament, and I commend
the bill to the house.