Scott Morrison’s Big Stick goes limp in Parliament

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (quad)

By Nichola Davies

Support for Scott Morrison’s Big Stick bill has fallen flat today in the lower house, with the government opting for a temporary retreat from the controversial policy.

While it has been shelved in the current Parliament, the Morrison Government has vowed to take it to the next election.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said, “We will be taking this policy to the election, which forms our response to the ACCC inquiry into retail electricity prices”.

“It was on the Labor Party’s watch when they were last in government that electricity prices doubled and now they are obstructing key reforms which save money for Australian families and businesses.”

A key stoppage to the bill progressing was the likelihood of a Greens Party amendment could form part of the final bill, which barred the government from underwriting coal power stations.

The bill required the support of four independent members, of which Andrew Wilkie, Bob Katter, Rebekha Sharkie and Cathy McGowan had previously committed. It was shelved by the government when Wilkie backed the Greens amendment.

The Australian Energy Council (AEC) has welcomed the government’s decision not to progress the Big Stick legislation through the current Parliament, stating it will continue to work with the government and ACCC on other reforms to bring prices down for consumers.

“As the ACCC report acknowledged, the key to bringing down energy prices for Australian families and businesses is a stable policy framework that provides certainty for investors,” AEC chief executive Sarah McNamara said.

Big energy retailers have spoken out against the bill, with Origin providing a strong submission to the Senate Inquiry into the bill last month stating it was “unworkable, confusing, discourages investment, is an over-reach into a free market”.

“While more work is required to improve outcomes for consumers, the bill is not the answer, nor is it an appropriate substitute for a long-term policy framework,” Origin said in the submission.