Date: August 08 2012
Julia Gillard is urging the conservative states to follow the ACT's lead to rein in the soaring cost of electricity.
She threatened to use the ''big stick of regulation'' if premiers and chief ministers could not find a way through the COAG process to stop power price increases.
The strong stand came as Labor's support rose in one national opinion poll which was taken while the Prime Minister was on leave.
Labor MPs were buoyed by the result but guarded about predictions for future polls.
''This will help, it's all about perceptions after all,'' a senior Labor MP said.
However another said: ''We have gone from diabolical to just dire.''
Caucus is due to meet on Monday on the eve of federal Parliament resuming after the winter break.
The government's support has been flatlining for months but kicked up five percentage points to 33 per cent in the latest Newspoll.
Despite it being the government's best result in six months, Labor still trails the Coalition 46-54 per cent after preferences.
Ms Gillard used a speech yesterday to confront the states and territories over rapidly rising power costs and demand they do more to curb price rises.
The federal Coalition again blamed the carbon tax for pushing up power prices while the conservative leaders said Ms Gillard should have confronted Labor premiers on the issue.
Ms Gillard said the current rate of electricity price increases could not continue.
''Power bills have become the new petrol prices,'' she said.
Ms Gillard said she wanted to work cooperatively with the states and territories but warned she would use the consumer watchdog and energy regulator if necessary.
''One way or another, we're going to get this done,'' she said.
The first step should be to roll out smart meters to measure peak demand, and get all states and territories to sign up to the National Energy Customer Framework.
The framework, which currently only covers the ACT and Tasmania, requires fair contracts and better information in bills, as well as payment plans for those who struggle to pay bills on time.
In a letter to the ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher, the Prime Minister calls for cooperation to produce results by the end of the year.
ACT Attorney-General Simon Corbell said last night the territory continued to have the lowest price for electricity.
He said the conservative premiers were playing politics in refusing to sign up to the customer framework which came into force on July 1 in the ACT.
''They want to blame the federal government for the carbon tax and therefore they are not going to sign up to the network,'' Mr Corbell said.
''There's a lot of politics around this which means the consumers are losing.
''In the ACT we continue to see the lowest electricity prices in the country.
''On average a household in Queanbeyan pays $917 more per annum for electricity than in the ACT.''
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