LEON BYNER: …Hey, boom-boom.  I don't know whether anybody running a business would have the forensic accounting ability to come up with that, but nevertheless at least it shows that people have got the right attitude.  Just be very careful to manage your expectations about what you're going to get back.  I'm not saying that you won't be better off; you might be.  Now, Simon Birmingham, the bells range, you had a division.  What did you agree or not agree to do by the way?  When you went away what did you vote on?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: This was a motion to do with the future of the National Water Commission, a matter that I'm sure we'll probably discuss at another day.  Legislation that will come up later this year about…

LEON BYNER: Okay.  Now, are you going to recess tomorrow or today or are you going to stay there until Sunday or something?  What are you going to do?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: How long it takes really is in the hands of the Senate, Leon.  We have a number of important Bills still to deal with regarding the mining tax, the asset recycling, investment in infrastructure legislation, the future of Qantas in terms of the structure of its ownership arrangements, so there are several Bills that we still expect to deal with and we've indicated we'll stay as long as it takes to deal with all of them.

LEON BYNER: Okay.  Now, here is a conundrum for you as part of the Government that campaigned before the election to get rid of the carbon tax.  We know it's gone, and you're saying there'll be hell to pay if people don't pass it on.  Now, let's say I run a supermarket, let's say.  And let's say that when the carbon tax came in I worked out pretty accurately that my energy costs were up 18 per cent.  Am I going to be running that business certain that I'm going to get that 18 per cent discount?  

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Absolutely, Leon.  There are incredibly strong powers as it relates to the energy industry and gas retailers, in particular, to make sure full pass-through of savings to households and businesses.  Across the economy we know that electricity prices went up by about nine per cent directly attributable to the carbon tax, that gas prices went up about seven per cent directly attributable to the carbon tax.  

We have given the ACCC extra powers and they now, once the repeal is given royal assent, will be releasing a statement outlining their responsibilities going forward and they will be contacting energy companies to make clear what their responsibilities are.  We've given the ACCC not just extra powers and indeed, clear penalties that will be applied to any energy company that fails to pass on savings.  We've also funded them with an extra $10 million to ensure they have the resources to deliver compliance so that all Australians benefit from the carbon tax repeal.

LEON BYNER: Okay. So let's say you run a business and your energy costs went up 18 per cent and you theoretically get that back.  What is the Government's attitude to what happens to that 18 per cent discount that then is in the hands of the supermarket owner?  Are they then obliged to pass that on to their customers or is it only that you'll worry about the people who bought the energy in the first place?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: We fully expect that what went up should come down when it relates to the carbon tax, and that applies to supermarkets, all small businesses.  The ACCC have further investigatory powers.  The Government has powers in the repeal legislation just passed to require additional penalties on certain industries if there is evidence that they are misbehaving in this regard.  We really are quite determined, having gone through a very long and tortuous battle to get this repeal through to make sure that households and businesses do get the full benefit right across our economy.

LEON BYNER: So you're telling us that not only will the ACCC be gifted with the powers to have a go at the gas and power companies, energy companies, but if the recipients of that discount don't then pass it on again you're going to hit them too?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: If need be, Leon.  We expect the ACCC to be very thorough in their work.  The chair of the ACCC…

LEON BYNER: How many more extra people are you hiring [laughs]?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well, as I said they're getting $10 million of assistance to make sure that the full effects of this tax, which of course was a $7.6 billion tax across the economy and only going to go up, that the full effects of its repeal are passed through.  

LEON BYNER: So if $7.6 billion annually were taken out of the economy, that's going to be put back.  Is that how it works?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: That's right, Leon.  So households, businesses should all feel benefits.

LEON BYNER: All right.  

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: The average Australian household we expect on Treasury modelling to be around $550 per annum better off.  People get to keep of course the tax cuts and the pension increases that came in with the carbon tax but no longer will they have to pay the carbon tax on their electricity or gas.

LEON BYNER: All right.  Now, I want to ask you about refrigerants because some of the refrigerants were not particularly friendly with regards to emissions, and the prices of some of those absolutely spiralled out of control.  


LEON BYNER: Does the repealing of this legislation affect that?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: It absolutely does, Leon, and whilst I've talked about there being very harsh penalties for electricity retailers and gas retailers, the same is also the case for importers of synthetic greenhouse gases which are these refrigerant gases.  So we fully expect, given the powers that are there and the penalties for anybody who seeks to profiteer, that those savings will pass through.  That of course is a big one for supermarkets given their fridges and anybody of course who has a need for those type of refrigerant gases.

LEON BYNER: This is going to be very interesting.  All right.  Well look, going back to your Senate, so would you guys be likely to be burning the midnight oil over the next few days because of all your legislation [laughs]?  I don't think you're going to leave today or tomorrow, are you?

SIMON BIRMINGHAM: Well look, we've got a little way to go.  We moved through the carbon tax quickly this morning and we're confident we can make [it] work and deliver them for all Australia.  

LEON BYNER: All right.  Simon Birmingham, well there you have it.  That's interesting, isn't it?  I just wanted to get some…