NORTHERN Tablelands MP Adam Marshall has taken to the floor of State Parliament to again extol the “vast benefits” renewables energy projects will bring to the region.

In a speech delivered last night Mr Marshall, who’s been a long-time supporter of the sector, said that renewable energy brought new opportunities to the Northern Tablelands and “just made sense – on any measure.”

“As all members of this House would know, I am unabashedly a strong advocate for the jobs, investment and environmental benefits that the renewable energy revolution will bring to my electorate and the rest of country NSW,” Mr Marshall told Parliament.

“In 2013, the state government released the NSW Renewable Energy Action Plan to increase energy from renewables at the least cost to energy customers and the maximum benefit for the people of this State.

“From the perspective of the Northern Tablelands, this plan is definitely working. To date we have leveraged $582 million of funding for 104 renewable energy projects across country NSW. I am very proud that four of those projects are within the Northern Tablelands.”

Mr Marshall informed Parliament of the Moree Solar Farm, sprawling across 350 hectares about 10 kilometres to the south of Moree.

“There are 222,000 solar photovoltaic panels erected almost three metres above the ground, each of them individually tracking the sun’s path to maximise output,” he said.

“It is a staggering sight and it will generate enough electricity to supply around 15,000 homes each year. This infrastructure delivers tangible benefits to the community and the region.”

The solar farm will be formally commissioned next month.

In the east of the Northern Tablelands, between Glen Innes and Inverell, Mr Marshall said there was a “beautiful wind farm cluster” about to begin construction.

“Goldwind’s White Rock Windfarm, stage 1, involves the construction of 70 turbines in the next few months,” the MP said.

“The Sapphire Wind Farm is a 159-turbine development by CWP Renewables. That company has just picked up a multi-million dollar contract with the ACT Government to provide electricity to 110,000 homes.

“The money derived from that contract underpins the finances for the development of the Sapphire Wind Farm at Glen Innes. Construction should get underway in October this year.

“This will mean hundreds of millions of dollars worth of investment in the Glen Innes and Inverell communities. There will be over 100 jobs in the construction phase and ongoing jobs to keep the windfarms running.”

Mr Marshall also mentioned progress on Uralla’s Australian-first Zero Net Energy Town (ZNET) initiative, supported by the state government and his push for TransGrid to construct a renewable energy hub near Glen Innes.

“This hub will facilitate easier and cheaper access for wind and solar projects to the electricity grid in the Glen Innes district,” he said.

“This may encourage more projects to begin as grid connection costs will be greatly reduced.

“It is all happening for renewables in the Northern Tablelands and as usual we are powering along.”


Wednesday, 16 March 2016



Second Reading

Debate resumed from 8 March 2016.

Mr ADAM MARSHALL (Northern Tablelands) [10.40 a.m.]: I support the Fair Trading Amendment (Fuel Price Transparency) Bill 2016. The objects of the bill are to amend the Fair Trading Act 1987, the principal Act, to provide for the establishment of a scheme for the publication of service station fuel prices on an ongoing and up-to-date basis and to make a consequential amendment to the Fair Trading Regulation 2012. For the benefit of all members of this House—particularly those who have not read the bill—that will make sure the regulation reflects the provision to make it an offence for fuel stations throughout New South Wales not to display their up-to-date fuel pricing on the online portal.

I strongly support the bill. It will help to give motorists in country New South Wales an edge over some fuel retailers who are unscrupulous, who are cruel and who are ripping off people at the bowser for no reason other than to simply gouge cash from those motorists who can least afford it, given the many kilometres they travel. This fuel price transparency bill will make it easier for motorists to compare fuel prices at different service stations, allowing them to make informed decisions that will ultimately save them dollars at the bowser.

Before I continue, I reflect on a few comments made by the shadow Minister in leading for the Opposition. She said that this legislation will duplicate what is happening at the Federal level with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission [ACCC] announcing a similar scheme to that contained within this bill. It will not.

The ACCC has announced, by agreement, a voluntary scheme where the commission will seek to publish on a regular basis fuel prices at stations operated by the big four operators in Australia. That is all well and good for those who live in a large metropolitan area. However, in country New South Wales—particularly my electorate that does not have a high prevalence of larger stations but, rather, many smaller, independent mum-and dad-operators—lots of service stations will not be captured by the efforts of the ACCC voluntary scheme. The bill proposes a mandatory scheme that will capture all service stations—large, small, independent operators, the mums and dads, and the big service stations such as BP and Caltex—to ensure full fuel pricing transparency in real time.

I do not believe this will be onerous on the fuel station sector; indeed, I talked to a number of smaller operators in anticipation of speaking on the bill. They fully support the bill because they believe they offer a better price than the big fuel stations. Certainly the evidence I have seen in my travels across the 60,000 square kilometres of my electorate is that they do. They want every motorist, every consumer, to know that they have the cheapest prices because they want more people to come and buy their fuel rather than propping up the big guys, who are simply gouging consumers—particularly in the city of Armidale, and I will touch on that in a moment.

This legislation will create a greater level of transparency around fuel pricing, which is what I and the community of the Northern Tablelands, in particular Armidale, have been demanding for a very long time. For the past few years we have had an ongoing issue—which I have spoken about in this House previously—with fuel prices in the city of Armidale. While ACCC is in the midst of yet another investigation this new online fuel pricing board will certainly help motorists in that city and across my electorate. The major concern in Armidale is the perception of collusion between the retailers, which leaves consumers reeling from fuel prices that are higher than in other communities. Indeed, at any particular time motorist could be paying between 8¢ and 10¢ more for unleaded petrol in Armidale than in Uralla, which is 22 kilometres down the road; Guyra, which is 41 kilometres up the highway; or even out at Invergowrie at the general store, which is only 13½ kilometres away and is operated as an independent outlet. For diesel, the gap between the cost of fuel in Armidale and in other centres is up to 13¢ or 15¢ per litre. It is absolutely ridiculous.

Under this scheme, operators will be required to post their prices online immediately to a new website, allowing consumers to make informed decisions not when they pull into a service station but before they even get in their car. In 2014 legislation was passed through this Parliament to make it mandatory for all fuel stations to display the price of their fuel on a price board in clear view of motorists approaching the service station. All this legislation does is to require that their prices, in addition to being displayed on price boards in real time, are displayed on an online portal. At the moment if a fuel station changes its prices throughout the day—which I must say is not common in the country but may be more so in metropolitan areas—it must adjust the prices immediately on its price board. It will have to do the same on the online portal. The difference—particularly in a country context, where motorists must sometimes travel long distances between service stations—is that instead of having to wait until motorists reach a service station they will be able to go online using their smart phone or tablet device and find the cheapest fuel in their locality before they even get into their car.

Shopping around for the cheapest fuel price will no longer mean physically driving around looking at fuel station price boards. Indeed, many people in my region who make lengthy trips up the New England Highway, the Newell Highway or across the Gwydir—travelling east to west or north to south; going from Uralla in the south to Tenterfield in the north or way out to Moree or Mungindi—will be able to plan their trip and where they are going to stop for fuel before they even start their journey. At the moment motorists in country areas generally drive until they are low on fuel and then just fill up at the nearest service station. We are susceptible to being ripped off because we do not have the ability to shop around. We will be able to do that with this website. It will give a little more power to the consumer and take a little more power from the big four service station chains, which, as we know, often do not have the interests of motorists—particularly country motorists—at heart.

There will be no fee for service station operators to register or use the database or to upload data. It will be a very simple process, no matter where they are. However, there will be penalties for selling fuel at a price other than that notified on the online price board, which is exactly the same as occurs now with the physical price boards out the front of service stations. It is anticipated that apps will be developed by third parties using the information available that will enhance the consumer experience—for example, combining price data with maps that can be easily accessed using smart phones or tablet devices. I think that will be welcomed by people in country areas.

I am pleased to say that social media has played a significant role recently in bringing our Armidale fuel sellers to heel. The use of Facebook and Twitter to shame retailers has been critical to bringing prices down. I thank the community for its role in that campaign. Again, it shows the power that the online portal can have. By making fuel pricing transparent, we can bring about changes in consumer behaviour—in this case, motorists who are purchasing fuel—and indeed shame some retailers into making their prices more competitive with other independent retailers in country areas.

The beauty of this is it allows for information to be shared very quickly. When fuel prices change in an area, it is reflected on the online portal. People who are looking to get fuel at lunchtime or after work can easily check it immediately before they jump into their vehicle. It is a simple change but one that will provide motorists with reliable information that captures the entire market, from the big players down to the corner store. The smaller fuel stations really want this innovation because they have a better product, better service and a better price—and they want the world to know about it. This portal will help them do that.

Service station operators want to reach out to customers and potential customers with their current information. In this age of modern technology it makes sense to have an online portal that allows them to do that so everyone can be treated the same and consumers get the edge. In my view this is a win-win situation for the smaller retailers and for the motorists in country New South Wales. I look forward to seeing this bill pass not only through this House but also the other place, and come into law. I wholeheartedly commend the bill to the House.

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