INTEGRAL ENERGY CUSTOMER AND APPLIANCE SALES CENTRES
My question is to the Minister for Information Technology, Minister for Energy, Minister for Forestry, and Minister for Western Sydney. Given that today in another place the Treasurer confirmed that Integral Energy will close its 16 customer and appliance centres and associated warehouses on 30 June next, and that a number of staff face redundancy, will the Minister now advise the House why he could not confirm those facts yesterday and why the Treasurer knows more about his portfolio than he does?
It is quite clear that the first thing I have to do is educate the Leader of the National Party a little about how these matters are dealt with within government. First, there is a portfolio Minister, which is my role, whose responsibilities include regulations, customer satisfaction and the like.
Order! I call the honourable member for Coffs Harbour to order.
There are then two shareholder Ministers, one of which in relation to energy corporations and distributors is the Treasurer in the other place, and it is those shareholder Ministers who have the primary responsibility for the internal operations and workings of such corporations, their financial outcomes and so forth.
Order! I call the honourable member for Davidson to order. I place the honourable member for Epping on three calls to order. I call the honourable member for Baulkham Hills to order.
Those two shareholder Ministers have the chief responsibility for the issues that have been raised today by the Leader of the National Party and yesterday by the Deputy Leader of the National Party.
Order! I call the honourable member for Davidson to order for the second time. I call the member for Ku-ring-gai to order for the second time.
The question by the Deputy Leader of the National Party displayed a complete misunderstanding of the Integral situation. Integral is responding to changing customer needs and to a declining use of customer service centres. Prior to the election the Coalition had a policy of privatisation, which means being commercially competitive in a competitive market.
Order! I call the Leader of the National Party to order.
To take account of those changing customer needs and the declining use of customer service centres to pay accounts over the counter, there is the proposed closure of 16 centres.
In recent years payment of electricity bills at Integral customer service centres has fallen from just over 40 per cent to less than 13 per cent. I am sure all honourable members will be aware that customers are increasingly using options such as BPay, over the counter payments at Australia Post and various other methods of payment. Those new payment methods are not just confined to energy corporations or distributors.
Further, I am advised that staff will be offered redeployment to appropriate positions in other parts of Integral or will be offered voluntary redundancy under the Government’s voluntary redundancy program. This is an important part of Integral’s repositioning in the competitive electricity market, ensuring its survival and future growth. Very importantly, this will provide benefit not only for customers but also for employees.