Government ‘can’t guarantee’ gas prices will halve under new powers

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has hit back at Labor claims he pledged wholesale gas prices would halve under his short-term solution to address looming domestic supply shortages.


Mr Turnbull has been under pressure about remarks he made when announcing export controls to protect domestic supplies.

“People” were being offered prices of $20 a gigajoule in Australia and under the new regime it should be about half that amount or less, he said.

Watch: Turnbull making it up as he goes along, Butler says

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Mr Turnbull later clarified the comments by insisting he was talking about wholesale prices, saying the main benefits would flow to businesses that relied heavily on gas.

But Labor leader Bill Shorten queried whether the prime minister was falsely promising to halve gas prices for households.

Mr Turnbull on Friday insisted the new measures would put “downward pressure” on wholesale prices, which made up 15-20 per cent of household bills.

And the “people” he was referring to were manufacturers.

“(Bill) Shorten misrepresented me as he always does,” he told 3AW’s Neil Mitchell.

Watch: Shorten challenges Turnbull on gas prices

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Earlier Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg defended Mr Turnbull, saying he had been misquoted.

“The prime minister never said that prices will halve for all gas users,” he told ABC radio from Washington, where he is meeting his US counterparts.

“We can’t guarantee price in relation to any industry but what we can guarantee is this mechanism will put more gas into the domestic market.”

Under new regulations, if an exporter draws more from the domestic market than they put in they will need to show how they will fill the shortfall as part of their overall production and exports.

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The government will not prescribe how the gas exporters fill the shortfall.

Labor’s energy spokesman Mark Butler says manufacturers deserve to know the impact of the new policy.

“Malcolm Turnbull is either making it up as he goes along or he lied,” he told reporters in Adelaide.

The Australian Pipelines and Gas Association says the real issue is too little gas is being produced to meet demand.

“There must be a concerted effort across commonwealth, state and territory governments to identify all opportunities to increase gas exploration and production,” chief executive Peter Greenwood said.

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Manufacturing Australia executive director Ben Eade, who met Mr Turnbull on Thursday, agreed more work was needed to boost supply that would push down gas prices.

If the government did not act it would affect jobs not only in manufacturing but agriculture, food, infrastructure and housing, he said.

RELATED: Industrial gas prices rising since 2002

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