The Abbott government has delivered on its long-standing election promise to repeal the carbon tax, effective from July 1, 2014. A condition of the repeal receiving crucial crossbench support from the Palmer United Party (PUP) was that savings be directly passed on to consumers and small businesses. As a result, the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) has been given extended powers to fine parties failing to do so.
Initially this stipulation created anxiety amongst the business community, as the government failed to clarify whether or not all businesses would be required to provide proof of passing on savings. However, it has now been established that the ACCC is only required to ensure that electricity, natural gas and refrigerant gas companies pass on their carbon tax savings.
The repeal has been largely welcomed by the business community, with predictions indicating that electricity prices will fall by approximately 9%, and gas prices by 7%. However, energy providers have indicated that there may be other factors that are contributing to rising prices, including increased electricity infrastructure spending and new legislation allowing the international sale of Australian gas. This means that the energy savings from the carbon tax repeal may not be as significant as originally thought.
Businesses operating in other industries have indicated that their capacity to pass savings on to consumers will be largely dependent upon the savings that they incur from their suppliers. Some small business owners, in particular providers of luxury goods, have expressed the hope that they will experience a boost in business as consumers experience an increase in their disposable incomes. Whether or not this eventuates will depend largely on whether or not there is, in fact, a significant decrease in energy costs, as well as the fate of the tax breaks and cash handouts implemented by the Gillard government to counteract the costs of the carbon tax for households.