Federal Politics


COAG backs PM's power plan

States, territories and the Commonwealth have agreed on a plan to reduce electricity prices, which Prime Minister Julia Gillard says could save families and businesses up to $250 per year.

Ms Gillard told reporters in Canberra that Friday’s Council of Australian Government meeting had reached an agreement to ease electricity price pressures, which have seen a ''rapid escalation''.

''[It] will make a difference of $250 for Australian families on power prices,'' she said, noting this figure was based on Productivity Commission work.

''What that means for Australian families is bills different from what they would have got if we hadn’t set out on this path.''

Ms Gillard said that the plan would address the ''gold plating'' of the network, or over-investment in poles and wires, as well as more choice for consumers. The plan will also see new powers to the energy regulator and rewards for big energy users who moderate their consumption during peak periods.

Last weekend, Ms Gillard announced her plan to cut electricity prices, which she explained would address the ''real drivers'' of high power prices.


Ahead of the COAG meeting, NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell was confident COAG would come to an agreement.

''The prime minister’s package will get through if for no other reason that it doesn’t deliver anything until after the next federal election campaign - and who knows who will be prime minister then,'' he told ABC Radio on Friday morning.

Queensland premier Campbell Newman said he wanted an agreement that put a brake on electricity prices.

''I raised this as a national issue many months ago,'' he told reporters in Canberra.

''I am keen to see the commonwealth do what they need to do, which really centres around the national energy regulator.''

Both Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu and South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill also said they wanted to see the regulator strengthened.

After the official COAG meeting, Ms Gillard, premiers and chief ministers signed an agreement on the National Disability Insurance Scheme, which committed all jurisdictions to share information about the five launch sites that will start work in mid-2013.

Queensland, West Australia and the Northern Territory do not have launch sites.

''This agreement means even those places not participating in those arrangements will learn,'' Ms Gillard said. ''So this will be shared work.''

Ms Gillard also said that the royal commission on child abuse was also discussed, repeating the government’s commitment to release the terms of reference before the end of the year.

The Prime Minister said that as a result of COAG today, experts in state inquiries would ''quickly'' come to Canberra to bring their ''learning and their insights''.

COAG also discussed proposed changes to the rules of the British royal succession - which would allow for succession regardless of gender and removes the bar on succession for anyone who marries a Catholic - but did not come to any solid agreement.

All states and territories support the changes, but Queensland does not agree about the process.

Mr Newman said that his state wanted to pass the changes itself as a "separate sovereign state."

Ms Gillard said that the "very loud, very clear" advice the federal government had had was the most "legally effective" way of dealing with the changes was for states to pass legislation, enabling the commonwealth to make the changes.

Ms Gillard said she did not expect any other states to have signed up to a long-term agreement with the federal government on the NDIS today, following the agreement with NSW on Thursday.

Twenty-four hours was not enough time to analyse the detail, the Prime Minister said.

With AAP