Mr TAYLOR (Hume—Minister for Energy) (10:03): This government is driving down power prices while keeping the lights on. In their 70s, Ron and Anita Mortimer, from Yerrinbool in the Southern Highlands in my electorate, are a rolled-gold example of how to keep your power bills down. They've installed power-saving light bulbs. They're putting curtains and awnings on their windows. And they've switched energy providers often—in fact, four times in the past four years. They swapped from Origin to AGL seven months ago because of a 25 per cent guaranteed discount for pensioners. By swapping providers, their power bill went from $670 a quarter to $493 for August 2018, and that was over some of the coldest months of the year. But what a huge effort. People like the Mortimers have been totally forgotten by the energy companies and left to fend for themselves. This kind of wrangling over prices and the confusion around energy contracts has to end.
For businesses like Southern Meats, our abattoir at Goulburn, who pay an energy bill of more than $230,000 a month, there is a real impact about decisions relating to jobs and wages. That's why the Prime Minister and I announced this week a comprehensive package of measures to drive prices down for businesses and households. Firstly, we're taking a big stick to the big energy companies to stop their big rip-offs. We're banning sneaky late payments. We're forcing retailers to pass on wholesale price reductions. We're cracking down on dodgy anticompetitive practices. This will be implemented through a legislation package introduced to the parliament later this year. Secondly, we're establishing a fair price for those who don't have time to spend hours on the phone to a call centre in who knows where. This is a loyalty tax right now, because the most loyal customers have been paying the highest prices. In New South Wales these so-called standing offers can be up to $400 per year more expensive for households than alternative market offers. Thirdly, we're backing investment in reliable generation to increase competition and lower prices. Finally, we're requiring retailers to invest in reliable power generation years ahead of time to make sure we keep prices down and keep the lights on. I'll be raising this with my COAG colleagues tomorrow. Prices have been coming down in New South Wales from 1 July, but this is just the first round of improvements, and our next steps will continue to bring prices down for residents and small businesses in my electorate of Hume. We've started the work, but the onus is now on the energy companies to do their work to provide lower, fairer prices for the people of Hume.