On the matter of energy policy changes, Federal Minister for Industry Tourism and Resources, the Hon Ian Macfarlane MP, met with APIA Board members in July to discuss APIA’s concerns.
The Ministerial Council on Energy, which includes State and Federal Energy Ministers, is developing changes that will herald a new regulatory environment for the industry. The legislation will bring all State economic regulation under a single, national regulator – the Australian Energy Regulator.
APIA understands and supports the principle of “˜standardising’ as much of the regulation as possible. However, it is equally important to recognise that there are significant differences in assets and in their historical regulation. APIA’s challenge is to ensure that gas transmission is handled appropriately as changes take place.
APIA has been working hard to bring these issues to the attention of the Minister. At its meeting in Brisbane, the Board expressed concern to Mr Macfarlane that intrusive and prescriptive regulation of the gas transmission industry is not necessary and does not encourage efficient investment in future infrastructure.
APIA also discussed the need for a stronger belief amongst regulators that competition does work and for regulators to reflect this belief in the way they regulate. It is important to recognise that regulation can, if not carefully controlled, create the need for more regulation. APIA also expressed concern that the timeframe for the legislation was not sufficient for the industry to examine and comment on the draft legislation, nor would there be reasonable time for the Minister’s department to receive industry feedback.
The Minister accepted APIA’s concerns and assured APIA that despite timing pressure from colleagues and other industry sectors, he was prepared to delay implementation of the reform process. Since that meeting, the Government has announced that the deadline for introduction of changes has been extended from 1 January 2007 to 1 July 2007. While the Minister was criticised for this delay, APIA welcomes the extension as long as it means there will be adequate time to properly consider all responses.
The other major challenge facing the industry is changing ownership and management of pipeline infrastructure. APIA is well placed to work through these changes and maintain its commitment to supporting high-quality product, safety and industry plans for the future. We will be tracking any future developments with great interest.
As an aside note on future planning, we have already seen an increasing number of younger colleagues attend APIA functions – undoubtedly one of the outcomes of the Young People’s Forum held earlier this year.
I look forward to catching up with as many people as possible at the 2006 Convention and also hope to see even more young pipeliners attend – giving further evidence of a stronger industry future.