Gillard Claims Progress On NDIS And Power Prices Following COAG Meeting

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has claimed progress on the National Disability Insurance Scheme and reform of the electricity market following today’s meeting of the Council of Australian Governments.

Julia Gillard

Gillard and the state and territory leaders reached agreement to establish a new Standing Council on Disability Reform. Gillard said: “The Agreement provides the foundation for all governments to work together to develop and implement the first stage of these important reforms.”

On electricity market reform, COAG agreed to: rule changes to ensure no over-investment in networks; giving consumers a voice in the electricity market; a strengthened independent regulator; more choice for consumers; actions to reduce electricity peaks; and to provide for greater demand-side participation to make it easier for consumers to reduce demand, particularly at peak periods.

  • Read and download the COAG Communique
  • Listen to the COAG leaders’ press conference (46m)

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Earlier in the day, state and territory leaders spoke to the media before attending the COAG meeting.

  • Listen to NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell (7m)

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  • Listen to Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu (5m)

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  • Listen to Queensland Premier Campbell Newman (3m)

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  • Listen to Northern Territory Chief Minister Terry Mills (2m)

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Text of media release from Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

COAG Progresses The National Disability Insurance Scheme

At the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in Canberra today, all governments took a major step towards giving people with disability the care and support they need over their lifetimes by signing an Intergovernmental Agreement for the first stage of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The Agreement provides the foundation for all governments to work together to develop and implement the first stage of these important reforms.

The Agreement also sets out shared roles and responsibilities for working collaboratively on the policy for a full scheme and establishing arrangements for the review and evaluation of the first stage.

The Agreement will be overseen by a new Standing Council on Disability Reform, which will have representation from Ministers and Treasurers from all jurisdictions. The Standing Council will be responsible for making decisions and formulating advice on matters arising from the launch and the transition to a full scheme.

More than 20,000 Australians are expected to benefit from the first stage of the NDIS, which will commence in launch locations around the country from the middle of next year.

The first stage of the NDIS will provide valuable information and experience to inform the transition to full scheme.

New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory today signed bilateral agreements with the Commonwealth which confirm the operational and funding details for the roll-out of the NDIS in each launch site.

  • Around 10,000 people will benefit from the launch in the Hunter region of NSW,
  • Around 5,000 people will benefit from the launch in the Barwon region of Victoria,
  • Children aged 0-14 in South Australia (around 5,000 people with disability) will benefit from the first stage.
  • Young people aged 15-24 years (around 1,000 people with disability) will benefit from the launch in Tasmania.
  • The whole of the ACT, around 5,000 people with disability, will benefit from the launch in the ACT.

The Commonwealth will be investing $1 billion over four years in the first stage of the NDIS.

The Council of Australian Governments also noted the historic agreement between the Commonwealth and New South Wales governments to establish the full NDIS in New South Wales by 1 July 2018.

From this time, all eligible people with a disability, their families and carers in NSW will benefit from a fairer, more sustainable and equitable approach care and support.

Today’s system of disability support is a cruel lottery of services, which the Productivity Commission has described as unfair, underfunded, fragmented and inefficient.

An NDIS will ensure people with disability, wherever they live, receive care and support based on their needs, and have choice and control over this support over their lifetimes.

It will provide peace of mind to people with a disability, their families and carers, and to Australians who unexpectedly face misfortune in the future.

Text of media release from Prime Minister Julia Gillard

COAG Reaches Agreement On Electricity Market Reform

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) today agreed the most comprehensive package of reforms to Australia’s electricity markets in more than a decade.

The reforms are designed to return the interests of consumers to the centre of Australia’s electricity markets.

The Gillard Government has worked with state and territory governments through the Standing Council on Energy and Resources (SCER) and with business through the Business Advisory Forum (BAF) to agree on reforms that will limit future electricity price rises.

The Gillard Government called for solutions on the table at COAG and we’re pleased that Premiers and Chief Ministers have agreed to this comprehensive package which will help Australian families with the cost of living and help keep Australian businesses competitive.

Agreement to this package is a starting point; it’s now up to the states and territories to implement these actions so that consumers reap the benefits.

If state and territory governments make all the changes proposed in this package, consumers will have greater choice and greater control over their electricity costs.

Key features of today’s agreement include:

Rule changes to ensure no over-investment in networks:

  • Commitment in-principle to a new national framework of best-practice reliability standards which give added weight to the interests of consumers and in-principle agreement to transfer reliability setting to the Australian Energy Regulator;
  • Early implementation of new rules that will ensure investment by network businesses is more efficient; and
  • A public consultation process to improve the Limited Merits Review Regime to minimise the risk of ‘cherry-picking’ by network businesses while also ensuring review arrangements provide an effective back-stop for business.

Giving consumers a voice in the electricity market:

  • Establish a Consumer Challenge Panel, comprised of industry experts, to represent consumers’ interests in regulatory determinations;
  • Implement national consumer protections (including for smart meters) by 1 January 2014; and
  • Develop a national consumer advocacy body, in close consultation with stakeholders, to provide a national consumer voice for energy policy and regulatory development.

A strengthened independent regulator:

  • An additional $23 million in federal funding over four years for the Australian Energy Regulator to support additional expert resources, clearer and more transparent reporting, and greater consumer engagement. The strengthened Regulator will remain in its current structure as part of the ACCC.

More choice for consumers:

  • A commitment by jurisdictions to report back to COAG next year on pathways towards more flexible electricity prices, where effective competition exists, to allow retailers to offer consumers a better deal; and
  • A commitment to make it easier for retailers to offer innovative products to give consumers the choice to have such things as smart metering, in-home displays, and time-of-use-pricing so they may better manage their energy use and reduce costs.

Actions to reduce electricity peaks:

  • Agreement to provide for greater demand-side participation to make it easier for consumers to reduce demand, particularly at peak periods, to minimise the need for new investment in energy infrastructure – drawing on the AEMC’s Power of Choice review.

Business welcomed the direction of the reform package at the BAF yesterday and called for urgent and concrete action by all governments to help moderate the impact of high electricity prices on consumers and business.

Only through cooperation can effective energy market reform be achieved.

Minister Ferguson, as chair of SCER, will continue to work with Energy Ministers to ensure the Government can deliver real outcomes to consumers.

COAG will require Energy Ministers to report regularly on progress in 2013.

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