Energy market intervention has been defended at a parliamentary hearing, despite another round of price hikes for many in the coming year.
Treasury Secretary Steven Kennedy said he did not believe the success of gas market intervention over the past nine months would deter investment in new supply.
Nor does he expect inflation to tick up when energy bill rebates and price caps end in 2024/25.
He rejected criticism price caps on the cost of the gas and coal that fires the country’s power plants had rearranged inflation rather than lowering it.
Dr Kennedy said there would be a “persistent effect” on inflation of half a percentage point, even beyond the expiry of rebates and caps.
“Timing matters,” he said.
The longer-term impact on gas supply and investment was central to energy policy decisions, including the mandatory code of conduct for the gas industry, he said.
Quizzed by coalition resources spokeswoman Senator Susan McDonald about a proposed gas “price anchor”, he said Treasury continued to provide advice on the code and how it would interact with investment.
The federal government was taking time to settle the proposed mandatory code with industry so that it does not discourage supply, he said.
“The gas supply response is very important for Australia,” Dr Kennedy said.
Energy ministers have said a gas code of conduct, expected in June, would enforce fair prices and support a reliable power supply.
Dr Kennedy said his department was also examining the impact of the code on trading partners who rely on Australian gas.
He said there have been significant changes in the draft code between the first and second stages of consultation.
The government is “very mindful” that the final version of the code must not stand in the way of supply and should not inhibit strong demand for gas, he said.
In February, he gave evidence that temporary changes could be managed without discouraging investment.
The industry has warned the proposed approach to a mandatory code of conduct could lead to another supply crunch and undermine new investment.
(Australian Associated Press)