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The former energy minister, Angus Taylor, asked his department to consider delaying telling voters about electricity price rises before the May election, then made the decision to do so.

Taylor told media in October that he didn’t know about incoming price rises and that he didn’t see the Australian Energy Regulator’s (AER) report proposing to increase the default market offer. In May last year, a spokesperson for Taylor rejected claims the delay was for political reasons.

Answers to questions on notice from the department of the prime minister and cabinet also reveal that then prime minister, Scott Morrison, was informed by treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, that he had given Taylor power to delay notification of the price rise.

Since the “price safety net” was introduced in July 2019, the AER has been required to release its so-called default market offer on 1 May each year.

But on 7 April 2022, the Morrison government amended regulations so that the offer was not revealed until 26 May, delaying the news that prices were expected to rise by 11.3% to 12.6%, or about double the expected inflation rate, until days after the election.

In opposition, the Coalition has pursued Labor over power price rises, targeting the government’s projection that renewables can help bring bills down by $275 and downplaying or denying it was aware of price spikes before the election.

On 26 October Taylor was asked if he knew before the election prices would rise and replied “no, I didn’t”.

Taylor told Sky News that notice of price rises was in “a report from the Australian Energy Regulator” but said “it puts it out, not me, and I didn’t see it”.

On 1 November, when asked if he had signed the regulation delaying notification of the price rise, Taylor told the National Press Club: “I did, as was recommended by the industry department, and by the regulator. So it’s what they wanted.”

According to the answers to questions on notice, the industry department undertook a review of the default market offer “in late 2021 and early 2022 … on behalf of the former minister for industry, energy and emissions reduction [Taylor], which included a review of whether the date on which the AER is required to release its final determination is appropriate”.

“A final decision regarding the date on which the AER must release its final [offer] determination was made by the then minister for industry, energy and emissions reduction,” it said, a power delegated by the treasurer.

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“On 8 March 2022, the former prime minister [Morrison] was copied on the then treasurer’s letter to the then minister for industry, energy and emissions reduction, which provided authority to act on his behalf and make the regulatory changes to the [offer regulation].”

The answers note “the final determination (ie the price level at which the [offer] will be set) is at the sole discretion of the AER”.

Labor won the election on 21 May as Australians were being slugged with price rises driven, in part, by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

In December the federal government legislated to cap gas prices temporarily at $12 a gigajoule and cap coal prices at $125 a tonne and set aside $1.5bn for consumer rebates, to be distributed after the May budget.

According to Treasury analysis of ASX data in December Australian households are expected to save $230 on their electricity bills in the next financial year, due to wholesale price falls recorded after Labor’s market intervention.

Angus Taylor declined to comment.


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