Power and port cus­tomers face ris­ing fees

Min­is­ters pass the buck

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - AN­THONY GAL­LOWAY an­thony. gal­loway@ news. com. au

PORT of Townsville and Er­gon Energy could be forced to charge cus­tomers more for their ser­vices af­ter the Gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to shift debt on to the com­pa­nies.

The Queens­land Gov­ern­ment’s Bud­get re­pair strat­egy hinges on trans­fer­ring about $ 4 bil­lion of gen­eral gov­ern- ment sec­tor debt back to its power and port com­pa­nies.

Port of Townsville and Er­gon de­clined to com­ment on the con­se­quences of tak­ing on the Gov­ern­ment’s debt.

Queens­land Trea­surer Curtis Pitt in­sisted the mea­sure would not im­pact on the com­pa­nies’ abil­ity to op­er­ate com­mer­cially. But Townsville economist Colin Dwyer said the mea­sure would likely im- pact on the com­pa­nies’ oper­a­tions with ei­ther re­duced ex­pen­di­ture or in­creased charges for their ser­vices.

“Most of this debt was driven out of Bris­bane be­tween 2004 and 2010 with the ma­jor­ity go­ing to re­cur­rent ex­pen­di­ture into staff in Ge­orge and Mary St and build­ing tun­nels and over­passes in Bris­bane and the south­east cor­ner – it was not com­ing out of North Queens­land,” Mr Dwyer said. “It’s not fair for them to be re­lo­cat­ing debt to re­gional cor­po­ra­tions.”

The move comes af­ter La­bor de­layed the ma­jor deb­tre­duc­tion strate­gies it took to the elec­tion – merg­ing energy busi­nesses and us­ing div­i­dends from gov­ern­ment- owned cor­po­ra­tions. Mr Pitt said the Gov­ern­ment was com­mit­ted to pro­ceed­ing with the merger of energy dis­trib­u­tors Er­gon, En­ergex and Pow­er­link.

“It’s im­por­tant that we con­tinue our dis­cus­sions with the ACCC and its con­cerns re­gard­ing com­pe­ti­tion be­tween the gen­er­a­tor com­pa­nies as well as de­liv­er­ing the com­bi­na­tion of merged en­ti­ties that will de­liver the best out­come for Queens­lan­ders,” Mr Pitt said.

The LNP’s state de­vel­op­ment and north­ern de­velop- ment spokesman An­drew Cripps said shift­ing debt on to Port of Townsville would af­fect the de­ci­sion- mak­ing for its $ 1.3 bil­lion ex­pan­sion plans.

“Who­ever is as­sess­ing the ap­pli­ca­tion to fi­nance the cap­i­tal will have to look at the ad­di­tional level of debt that the port is pay­ing and the in­ter­est on that debt,” Mr Cripps said.

“This Gov­ern­ment is im­ple­ment­ing a whole lot of poli­cies they never said a word about, and not go­ing ahead with the poli­cies they said they would do at the elec­tion.”

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