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ACCC to clear up 'big stick' law confusion

A Senate committee expects the competition watchdog to clear up confusion around the Morrison government's proposal to interfere in the energy market.

The Senate's economics legislation committee on Thursday released its report on the government's so called "big stick" legislation, giving it the nod of approval to pass.

The government says the powers are necessary to stamp out misconduct in the energy market, for the sake of lowering power bills.

In the most serious cases, energy companies could be forced to divest generators or other parts of their business.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission plays a key role in the regime.

The Law Council of Australia had flagged concerns to the committee about unclear definitions in the bill, saying energy giants would have to spend up on legal advice to feel comfortable they weren't breaking the law.

This could have a chilling effect on innovation or pricing, the Law Council warned.

But the Senate committee said the six-month window between the legislation passing the upper house and officially becoming law would give companies enough time to learn what's expected of them.

"Much of the uncertainty around definitions and the operation of the legislation will be resolved when the ACCC releases guidelines that will make its interpretation and enforcement approach clear," the report says.

The six-person committee includes three government senators, two Labor and Centre Alliance's Rex Patrick.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale - who participates in the committee but did not take part in the public hearing on the bill - flatly rejected the proposal.

The minor party doesn't want the bill to pass, but will attempt to change it so the powers can't be used to delay the closure of coal-fired power stations.

"The government, with the support of the Labor opposition, has pushed ahead with this bill which will be used to keep Australia's ageing dirty coal energy fleet running longer and holding off the energy transition that is so desperately needed," Senator Di Natale's dissenting report says.

"The amendments secured in Labor's deal with the government to protect workers' entitlements do not justify any support for the bill as a whole."

© AAP 2019