Business

Turnbull hoses down calls for royal commission into power prices

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The PM and his energy minister are facing calls from the Greens, and from some on the Coalition’s own backbench, to give energy retailers the same grilling as the banks

The prime minister has dismissed calls for a royal commission into the energy sector, despite pressure from a group within the Coalition who said they may support an inquiry.

The proposal has been brought forward by the Greens, who want a royal commission similar to the recent probe into the banking sector to investigate energy retailers and the prices they set.

The move has found some support across the aisle, with Coalition backbenchers Rick Wilson and Michelle Landry indicating they would consider backing the inquiry.

Liberal MP Craig Kelly, who leads a group of backbenchers pushing for new investment in coal, said while his “default position” was to support the prime minister, he would “keep all options on the table”.

Mr Turnbull is urging colleagues to wait for the findings of a recent power price inquiry by the consumer watchdog.

The ACCC handed its final report on energy prices to the treasurer on June 30, but the government is yet to reveal its contents or a response.

“They have already conducted a very extensive inquiry,” Mr Turnbull told reporters outside a mine site in Tasmania on Monday morning.  

“It will be a very, very illuminating report,” he said, promising the report would be released this week.

Mr Turnbull has also been under pressure from former prime minister Tony Abbott, who has been publicly calling for the government to walk away from the Paris international climate accord – despite the fact he was the one who signed it as leader.

“There' s only one thing that matters: lower prices. Lower prices. Everything should be a means to that end,” Mr Turnbull said.

Mr Kelly said he would await the findings of the ACCC report, but did not close the door to future inquiries with the full investigative power of a royal commission.

“Let's have a look what their recommendations are. Then, if further inquiries are needed, by all means,” Mr Kelly said.

Labor’s shadow energy minister Mark Butler told The Australian the opposition had no plans for a royal commission into energy retailers.

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