Aussies starv­ing over power bills

The Coffs Coast Advocate - - NEWS -

AUS­TRALIANS are hav­ing to choose be­tween pay­ing their med­i­cal bills and pay­ing their elec­tric­ity costs, ac­cord­ing to the na­tion’s con­sumer watch­dog.

The Aus­tralian Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion has also iden­ti­fied cases of peo­ple ra­tioning food to pay their power bills and rent.

That’s ac­cord­ing to ACCC chair­man Rod Sims, who has also warned of wide­spread job losses in man­u­fac­tur­ing, along with small busi­ness clo­sures, if Aus­tralia’s soar­ing elec­tric­ity and gas prices aren’t reined in.

Speaking at the Na­tional Press Club in Can­berra , Mr Sims said in­dus­try play­ers who blamed in­vest­ment un­cer­tainty were ig­nor­ing a “hell of a lot” of other fac­tors.

More than 40% of power price hikes in the past decade were due to costs as­so­ci­ated with net­work in­fra­struc­ture, such as power poles, he said.

Other causes were higher re­tail costs, which contributed 24% to prices hikes, gen­er­a­tion costs (19%) and green scheme costs (16%).

State gov­ern­ment mora­to­ri­ums on gas ex­por­ta­tion had contributed to gas sup­ply short­ages and price hikes, he said.

But pri­vati­sa­tion was not the cause.

“Those poles and wires that run down your street are the main rea­son you are pay­ing too much for elec­tric­ity,” Mr Sims said.

“It was state gov­ern­ments, when they owned th­ese poles and wires, that de­lib­er­ately loos­ened the rules which made it very hard for the AER to make sure that con­sumers are only pay­ing ef­fi­cient costs.

“The pri­va­tised ones in Vic­to­ria, the in­creases were much, much less.

“If you want to look at the ev­i­dence of pri­vati­sa­tion and gov­ern­ment own­er­ship in net­work busi­nesses, I am afraid the ev­i­dence is that the big­gest cost in­creases have been with the Gov­ern­ment-owned net­work busi­nesses.”

Out­lin­ing the con­se­quences of the power price rises on the east coast, Mr Sims warned jobs would be lost in re­gions where new jobs would be hard to find.

The fu­tures of man­u­fac­tur­ers or ex­plo­sives, glass, pa­per, steel, fer­tilis­ers, chem­i­cals and other ar­eas that to­tally re­lied on gas were at stake, he said.

The ACCC is cur­rently con­duct­ing two in­quiries into Aus­tralia’s en­ergy mar­ket; one into elec­tric­ity and one into gas.

FAIR DEAL?: Cabi­net meets with elec­tric­ity com­pany bosses.

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