Farm­ers con­tinue bat­tle with power

Gatton Star - - NEWS - Meg Bolton Meg.bolton@gat­ton­star.com.au

TAX­PAY­ERS con­tinue to foot the bill for ris­ing elec­tric­ity costs in Queens­land while politi­cians play the blame game for tar­iffs al­most dou­bling.

Kal­fresh di­rec­tor Robert Hin­rich­sen said he es­ti­mated the ris­ing tar­iff prices were cost­ing his Kal­bar and Lower Tenthill op­er­a­tions an ex­tra $40,000 a year com­bined.

“It’s not bet­ter qual­ity power, it’s the same damn thing we’ve been buy­ing for the last 30 years, it just costs us a lot more, so some­body is mak­ing a lot of money at our ex­pense,” Mr Hin­rich­sen said.

“At the time of the loss of the ir­ri­ga­tion tar­iff I’m pretty sure (the cost of elec­tric­ity) was about 11c per kilo­watt-hour off-peak and 21c peak.

“My lat­est bill is 21c off-peak and 36c peak.”

The veg­etable grower said he’d tried to re­duce his elec­tric­ity bill but en­ergy prices were ris­ing faster than his abil­ity to become more ef­fi­cient.

“I’ve have spent over a mil­lion dol­lars in the last two years from gun to pivot ir­ri­ga­tors for lower pres­sure and our power bill still hasn’t gone down,” Mr Hin­rich­sen said.

“When it comes to talk­ing about elec­tric­ity prices, the me­dia al­ways talks about what it’s done for house­hold power prices, but what it’s done for ru­ral and in­dus­try power is just hor­ren­dous.”

Mr Hin­rich­sen is one of many farm­ers call­ing for a cut to en­ergy prices, with Queens­land Farm­ers’ Fed­er­a­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive Travis Tobin say­ing the State Gov­ern­ment con­tin­ues to make money off res­i­dents by charg­ing a pre­mium cost for elec­tric­ity.

“For every dol­lar that Queens­land en­ergy con­sumers paid for net­work charges over the past three years, the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment col­lected 47c in prof­its,” Mr Tobin said.

De­spite crit­i­cisms, En­ergy Min­is­ter Dr An­thony Lyn­ham said the Queens­land Gov­ern­ment had sta­bilised prices for farm­ing and ir­ri­ga­tion tar­iffs.

“In 2018-19, the Palaszczuk Gov­ern­ment will spend al­most $464 mil­lion to sub­sidise the cost of elec­tric­ity for con­sumers in re­gional Queens­land,” Dr Lyn­ham said.

“To help cus­tomers ad­just to the stan­dard busi­ness tar­iffs – par­tic­u­larly farm­ers and ir­ri­ga­tors – the gov­ern­ment is de­liv­er­ing a range of pro­grams, in­clud­ing a $10 mil­lion Re­gional Busi­ness Sup­port Pack­age and a $20 mil­lion Busi­ness En­ergy Savers Pro­gram.”

But Mr Hin­rich­sen said elec­tric­ity prices were the high­est they had ever been, which made it hard for the state’s pri­mary pro­duc­ers to com­pete in in­ter­na­tional mar­kets.

“Mar­kets where we used to com­pete, now we don’t com­pete any­more,” Mr Hin­rich­sen said.

“We find our­selves in a place where we can’t even com­pete in our own mar­ket against im­ports.”

Mem­ber for Lock­yer Jim Mcdon­ald said while sub­sid­ing the cost of elec­tric­ity sounded help­ful, many busi­nesses would re­ceive no ad­van­tage.

“What the La­bor party are very good at do­ing is rais­ing the price of elec­tric­ity and giv­ing a sub­sidy for pay­ment,” Mr Mcdon­ald said.

PHOTO: CON­TRIBUTED

BIG BILL: Kal­fresh di­rec­tor Robert Hin­rich­sen says farm­ers are still pay­ing too much for elec­tric­ity.

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