‘Unfair advantage’: MP calls out Warwick electricity rort
SOUTHERN Downs MP James Lister is leading the charge for regional electricity prices to be lowered, with concerns the State Government could be crippling our agricultural sector.
Mr Lister, alongside shadow Minister for Energy Michael Hart met in Warwick yesterday to advocate for more regional competition in the lead up to the October election.
"The LNP is looking to instigate competition in regional areas, as we're fully aware that in Warwick you can only buy basically from Ergon Energy," Mr Hart said.
"In southeast Queensland where I'm from, I can pick up the phone and call 27 different electricity providers and play them off against each other to get the best price."
Mr Hart said the monopoly was due to a Community Service Obligation, which meant Ergon Energy was subsidised by the state - and that without it, he LNP could save households $300 a year in electricity bills.
"If you ask other retailers who could come here, they will say Ergon Energy has the unfair advantage," he said.
"We want to make an even playing field for other retailers to come into the marketplace."
An even marketplace would make even more of an impact for struggling farmers who were seeking out alternatives in the face of staggering electricity bills.
"For farmers especially horticulturists growing fruits, veggies and crops that are irrigated, the cost of pumping water for irrigation is phenomenal," Mr Lister said.
"Any reduction in cost to inputs like electricity multiplies through the chain and makes business more profitable, employing people easier and ensuring better prosperity in the Southern Downs."
Mr Lister said he heard of producers switching to diesel pumps to cut costs.
It was a move Southern Downs Deputy Mayor Ross Bartley, who ran a diesel irrigation system himself, understood.
Cr Bartley also said many farmers turned to buying their own generator to cut the costs of pumping water.
"We used to have off-peak rates to irrigate but there's no cheaper tariffs anymore," he said.
"It's very expensive to turn irrigation on, and in the dry, everything seems to pile and work against you."
Energy Minister Anthony Lynham said Queensland had the lowest average prices on Australia's Eastern seaboard as well as a reliable supply.
"As of 1 July last week, prices in regional Queensland - including Warwick - have now fallen for three years in a row," he said.
"This comes on top of two annual $50 dividend payments over the past two years and $200 COVID relief off utility bills (power and water) and $500 for small business. The government has also locked in in another two annual $50 dividend payments for the next two years.
"This is possible because the Palaszczuk Government has retained public ownership of our energy assets - including Ergon.
"The dividends from our energy businesses go right back into putting downward pressure on electricity prices - through measures like the subsidy of almost half-a-billion dollars to Ergon to keep prices down for Warwick households and small businesses.
"Instead of this, the LNP want to give those dividends in subsidies to private companies instead of investing them in lowering prices."
Mr Lynham also said irrigators were on tariffs that didn't reflect the cost of providing them power.
"Those prices have now been frozen for three years, and the Government continues to assist farmers reduce their energy use through initiatives such as free energy audits and grants to implement energy efficiency," he said.