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Electricity—Prices

Thursday 23 September 2010 Hansard source (external site)

Mahuta7. Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Hauraki-Waikato) Link to this
to the Minister of Energy and Resources

Does he stand by his comments regarding electricity prices made a year ago where he said “I’m promising to make every effort to slow the increase”?

WongHon PANSY WONG (Associate Minister of Energy and Resources) Link to this

Yes, and the efforts made through the Government’s policies are working. During the 9 long years between 1999 and 2008, under the Labour Government, average residential electricity prices went up by a massive 72 percent. In the nearly 2 years since National came into office, prices have risen by 6 percent, and that is including the effect of the emissions trading scheme. It is clear that Labour has no credibility in questioning power price increases.

MahutaHon Nanaia Mahuta Link to this

Is the Minister aware that the average unpaid electricity bill has increased by $100 in the last year, to $615, and how does that statistic support his statement that electricity is becoming more affordable for New Zealanders?

WongHon PANSY WONG Link to this

As I said, power prices increased over the last 2 years by 6.6 percent, and between October 2009 and 2010 the increase was 4.4 percent, which is nowhere near the 72 percent increase during those 9 long years of the Labour Government.

CunliffeHon David Cunliffe Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I imagine that you can anticipate the point of order. I waited until after the response to the first supplementary question to raise it. The primary question set down on notice asked the Minister a substantive question and we got a rehearsal of Labour’s record.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

I hear what the member is on about. Ministers must listen to the question. I know that the Minister is very keen to get her point across, but the question asked something quite different. If I recollect correctly, it was “Is the Minister aware of a certain increase in the average value of unpaid electricity bills; if so”—and it went on to the next bit. At least, the Minister might have indicated in answering whether she has even heard of that or is aware of it in any way, shape, or form. To just repeat a point that the Minister wants to make is certainly not what question time is about. I invite the Hon Nanaia Mahuta to repeat her question, to make sure the Minister does hear it.

MahutaHon Nanaia Mahuta Link to this

Is the Minister aware that the average unpaid electricity bill increased by $100 in the last year, to $615, and how does that statistic support his statement that electricity is becoming more affordable for New Zealanders?

WongHon PANSY WONG Link to this

I think power prices, increased affordability, and whether an individual pays the higher prices are not necessarily correlated. Obviously, the power companies should be looking at enforcing repayment. The fact that the Government is introducing tax cuts from next month will certainly mean that people are better off, with cash in their pockets. I hope they will pay their unpaid bills.

AuchinvoleChris Auchinvole Link to this

How will the Government’s tax package leave an average household better off?

ParkerHon David Parker Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I do not see how that can come within the terms of the primary question, and I do not think it is permissible, with respect, for the Government to answer a supplementary question so broadly as to bring anything within the ambit of a supplementary patsy question.

FinlaysonHon Christopher Finlayson Link to this

Mr Speaker, yesterday there was a very precise question on the Crafar farms, and you allowed the supplementary questions to range well beyond the scope of it. I suggest that this is an identical situation.

HideHon Rodney Hide Link to this

I do not want to address the issue of the substance of the point of order, as that is for you, Mr Speaker, but my point is that a member should not be able to stand up in this House and say that because he or she cannot see something it is outside the Standing Orders.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

The point that the Hon David Parker was making, as I understood his point of order, was to raise a concern that Ministers may, when answering a question, introduce such material as to allow another member from their party to then ask a favourable question based on the material included in a previous answer. That is what I understood to be the point being raised by the Hon David Parker. It is an interesting point, because I would have to rule that the question was in order because of the way that the Hon Pansy Wong had answered the previous question. Should it become a problem, I will watch it and think about it. But I think, given that this is the first time this issue has particularly been raised, I cannot deprive the member of the right to ask a question based on an answer the Minister has given. But I understand the point that the honourable member was making in his point of order, and I think it was perfectly reasonable. However, given the situation today I must invite the Minister to answer the question.

WongHon PANSY WONG Link to this

The Electricity Industry Bill, which is to receive its third reading, includes measures that will certainly slow down the increases in power prices. First of all, it is implementing recommendations made by the ministerial review of the electricity market conducted last year. It includes asset swaps between State-owned enterprises—

ParkerHon David Parker Link to this

I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The Speaker ruled that the question was in order, but the Minister has not addressed the question, which came from her own member.

AuchinvoleChris Auchinvole Link to this

I think there has been an element of confusion arising from the constant points of order. I would be very happy to repeat my question, which was a spontaneous question asked in response to the Minister raising an issue in her answer to a previous question.

SmithMr SPEAKER Link to this

Given the circumstances that have arisen, it appears to me that the Minister might have been answering a different question. I invite Chris Auchinvole to repeat his question.

AuchinvoleChris Auchinvole Link to this

How will the Government’s tax package leave an average household better off?

WongHon PANSY WONG Link to this

I see. Following the tax cuts to be introduced on 1 October—next month—73 percent of New Zealanders will pay average tax of only 17.5 percent, and each household will be $25 per week better off, and that has to be good news.

MahutaHon Nanaia Mahuta Link to this

Does the Minister agree with the comment of the Veda Advantage Chief Executive Officer, Geoff Harper: “with ETS levies, GST rises, ongoing job losses and the fact that money is generally tight and recovery still feels a long way off, I’m afraid we’re going to see a massive spike in the number of people who just won’t be able to pay their bills.”; if not, why not?

WongHon PANSY WONG Link to this

The emissions trading scheme introduced by National is estimated to increase power prices by $3. If the Labour emissions trading scheme had been introduced, the increase would have doubled. Next month, when the tax cuts are introduced, people will have more cash in their hands. The fact that we have introduced the Electricity Industry Bill, which will increase competition, is further good news for consumers, because more competition will lead to a slow-down in increases in power prices.

MahutaHon Nanaia Mahuta Link to this

Is the 12 percent electricity price rise that Gisborne households will incur from Genesis Energy from October the “slower rate of increase” that households should expect under the Minister’s watch?

WongHon PANSY WONG Link to this

History is the better indicator. The fact is that over the last 2 years price increases have been constrained to 6.6 percent. Also, the Electricity Industry Bill will enable consumers to switch companies more easily. I think intelligent New Zealanders will use that scheme to check and monitor their power price increases.

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