COAG decision to help reduce power prices

HOUSEHOLDS could be the biggest beneficiaries of a national reform of Australia's energy markets, as part of a COAG decision on Friday to help reduce power prices for Australians.

Commitment to the major reform was the main agreement reached during a day of heated negotiation between state and territory leaders and the Prime Minister on several reforms.

Among the reforms discussed were the National Disability Insurance Scheme, green tape, mental health and schools' reform, as well as energy.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said COAG agreed the reforms would tackle gold-plating of the electricity networks, and the Commonwealth will cover the costs.

She said based on estimates by the Productivity Commission, the reforms should prevent an additional $250 being added to household power bills in the years following reform.

The reforms would improve affordability of electricity for consumers, as well as better informing people about what contributes to their power bills, and how to cut costs.

While some states had voiced support for the full privatisation and deregulation of the electricity market, the reforms will instead create more stringent laws for the big suppliers to follow.

Queensland Premier Campbell Newman and New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell welcomed the reforms, while Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu said the plans were still "a bit gummy".

On the disability scheme, all state and territories agreed the launch sites would go ahead, but no further concrete action was made to initiate the scheme in Queensland.

A plan to move Commonwealth environmental laws to a state responsibility - touted by the minority party as "a Greens victory" - was based on differences between each states' approach to the issue.

Ms Gillard said some states wanted to keep 25% of federal environment laws, while others wanted to control as much as 95% of the laws.

She described the current approach at COAG as the spots of a Dalmatian.

The meeting also saw every state and territory commit to the Commonwealth's Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse, on the basis the Federal Government would provide all the funding.

Changes to the way the nation's school were funded was also on the agenda, marked for further discussion at COAG summits next year, while no common ground was found on the GST Distribution Review.

Topics:  coag electricity julia gillard

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