Industry Comment

Economic Regulation Authority


The Economic Regulation Authority is proposed to underpin the Government’s policy for competitive utility markets, and will be a central institution under the Government’s future reforms to the Western Australian electricity industry.

However, there has been far too little examination of the ERA Bill, and the Government should defer the legislation, for an open and independent inquiry to be conducted before any further consideration of the Bill.

As it stands, the Bill fails to properly address four basic principles - public interest; accountability; policy direction; and consultation and transparency.

Public interest appears to be less important than the demands of the market place.

The Government proposals will effectively remove the Government’s capacity to dictate the policy settings which should underpin the regulator’s activities.

While some independence is necessary, there has to be some capacity for Government involvement where the interests of the State might conflict with the interests of the market.

Federal Budget

Minerals Council of Australia

The Budget framework and the specific initiatives in higher education and geoscience are critical to the minerals industry’s continued confidence in transforming Australia’s natural geological wealth to the socio-economic benefit of all Australians.

To grow its economic and social significance, the industry requires access to foreign capital; access to skilled and highly qualified people; geoscience knowledge of, and access to, ore resources; access to off-shore markets; and access to cost effective energy and water.

There is merit in the Government’s decision to extend the fuel excise arrangements to alternative fuels – Liquefied Petroleum Gas and ethanol – in that it reduces the differential in the excise treatment of fuels, and to the extent that the proposal will remove taxes on business inputs.

It is disappointing that the proposed additional excise and customs duty levied on high sulphur diesel will be offset for the agricultural sector only through the Energy Grants (Credits) Scheme, but not for other industry sectors.

Pastoralists and Graziers’ Association

Increased federal spending on defence, education and health is welcome.

However, a Farm Management Deposits ceiling lift to $1 million, to better insulate farmers from drought, could allow farmers to drought-proof themselves, and cut costs for the Government.

While the budget factored the high cost of one of Australia’s worst droughts into estimates, the heavy use of Farm Management Deposits by farmers is an indication that they prefer to help themselves, if given the opportunity.

WA landowners and irrigators saw few signs in the budget that the Federal Government intended to make good its promises of compensation for the loss of their property rights in water and land.

Curtin University of Technology

While many of the higher education reforms align with the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee suggestions, the proposed steep increases in costs to international students are likely to damage Australia’s position internationally.

The steep increases are a major problem to universities such as Curtin, with large numbers of such students, and will make it harder to attract new students to WA.

Funds for a new marketing campaign designed to attract more international students to Australia will mostly come from increased visa fees to students and the CRICOS (international provider) fees that universities pay.

This is counterproductive to the aims of this initiative, as Australia will become a more expensive option for international students.

One of the most satisfying aspects of the package is the assistance it provides to improve the participation of indigenous people in higher education.

The additional number of nursing and teaching places is also pleasing.

Water charges

Pastoralists and Graziers’ Association

The WA Environment Minister should suspend all user-pays and licence fee proposals on water until her agency complies with the wider requirements of the COAG water reform process.

The State water agency has yet to adequately define terms of access and tenure, compensation for loss of water property rights, or proposed environmental water flows.

The Government is setting out to secure its income streams by introducing these new user-pays charges on July 1, before finalising requirements of the COAG water reform process.

Proposed new State taxes and controls on water now pose a bigger threat to WA’s country communities than their loss of the timber industry.

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