Power and port customers face rising fees
Ministers pass the buck
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.”