1 The Economic Regulation Authority Bill 2002 (Bill) was referred by the Legislative Council to the Standing Committee on Public Administration and Finance (Committee) on Thursday, April 10 2003, for report by not later than May 16 2003.
2 Pursuant to the Committee’s request, the Legislative Council, on May 13 2003, granted an extension of time within which to report on the Bill from May 16 2003 to June 10 2003.
3 The intent of the Bill, as outlined in the Second Reading speech, is to combine existing regulatory and licensing functions in the gas, rail, water and ultimately the electricity industries, which are currently spread across a number of regulators, Ministers and public sector officials, into one, independent body, to be known as the Economic Regulation Authority (Authority). This transfer in functions has been achieved largely through consequential amendments to existing Acts. The Bill is intended to implement institutional change and achieve a more appropriate separation of economic regulation from policy-making, rather than effecting significant changes to current regulatory policy settings to achieve the Government’s objectives.
4 As the Bill was referred to the Committee prior to the conclusion of the Second Reading stage, the Committee has considered the purpose of the Bill in its inquiry. As a result of consultation with both the public and the Department of Treasury and Finance, the Committee has considered, among other things, the following issues:
5 In addition, the Committee considered the Bill in light of certain legislative scrutiny principles.
6 The Committee supports the general principles of the Bill, but notes that a number of Committee members may seek to have amendments passed if they consider such amendments appropriate, after having heard explanations given by the Minister to the matters raised in this report.
· inquiry and reporting power of the Authority;
· cost recovery funding;
· environmental, social welfare and equity concerns;
· the insertion of an objectives clause;
· the definition of ‘public interest’;
· the allocation of Ministerial responsibilities;
· the Authority’s independent licensing function;
· the Authority’s lack of ability to set retail prices;
· the interplay of the Authority’s role in economic regulation and its assistance with policy-making;
· policy direction for the Authority;
· the Authority’s accountability to the Parliament and the Government;
· consumer representation in the process of economic regulation;
· review of the existing regulatory and licensing regimes;
· how the Authority meets best practice regulatory principles; and
· the appointment of alternate members of the governing body of the Authority.
7 Recommendations are grouped as they appear in the text at the page number indicated:
Recommendations: The Committee recommends that the Economic Regulation Authority Bill 2002 be passed.