The Energy Coordination Amendment Bill 1997 (“Bill”) introduces a scheme for the licensing of gas distribution within designated areas to be known as “supply areas”. The Coordinator of Energy (“Coordinator”) is responsible for administering most aspects of the scheme, in particular for granting licences.
The Bill as a whole was supported in the Legislative Council. However, a number of issues were raised in debate, the most significant of which related to the following aspects of the Bill:
Under the Bill, the Coordinator has a very broad discretion in a number of matters, particularly as to whether to grant a licence to an applicant and the terms and conditions which are to apply to a licence. Although the Bill sets out a number of matters to which the Coordinator may have regard, the Coordinator’s discretion is not confined by these matters.
The Bill imports a number of provisions of other Acts, notably the Energy Corporations (Powers) Act 1979 and the Land Acquisition and Public Works Act 1902.
The Bill contains a “Henry VIII” clause, enabling the promulgation of regulations which over-ride the operation of provisions of the Energy Corporations (Powers) Act 1979 and possibly other enactments.
To facilitate the operation of gas supply systems under the Bill, the Bill makes broad provision for the grant to a licensee of rights in Crown land, land held by public authorities and private land.
A further subject of debate was the fact that the Bill appears inconsistent in a number of ways with the proposed National Access Regime for Gas (“proposed Regime”) currently under discussion by State and Territory governments. The Committee has briefly reviewed the potential for inconsistency but, this being essentially a matter of policy and therefore outside the Committee’s purview, has not made any recommendations in this regard.