NA­TION Power prices to force job cuts

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS - JOHN MCCARTHY

QUEENS­LAND b u s i n e s s e s have warned they will have to sack staff or in­crease prices for con­sumers to deal with ris­ing en­ergy costs.

En­ergy min­is­ters will meet in Bris­bane today to dis­cuss the rec­om­men­da­tions of the Finkel Review.

Ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary re­sults from a Cham­ber of Com­merce and In­dus­try Queens­land sur­vey, 20 per cent of busi­nesses will have to cut staff in the wake of ris­ing elec­tric­ity costs, which the busi­ness group said was the num­ber one is­sue now for busi­ness.

The CCIQ sur­vey also found about 60 per cent will have to pass the costs on while 6 per cent of busi­nesses will be forced to close.

About half say power price rises have had a crit­i­cal im­pact on busi­ness and 85 per cent said bills had risen by up to 50 per cent in the past two years.

Mean­while, South Aus­tralia’s En­ergy Min­is­ter Tom Kout­san­to­nis told Ade­laide ra­dio that Queens­land was gam­ing the sys­tem to in­crease prices, a claim de­nied by the Palaszczuk Gov­ern­ment, which said the price in­creases were demand- sup­ply im­bal­ance cre­ated by a lack of fed­eral pol­icy and the clo­sure of the Ha­zle­wood power sta­tion.

“Queens­land Trea­sury and the pri­vate op­er­a­tors of gener- ators are spik­ing elec­tric­ity prices,’’ Mr Kout­san­to­nis said.

He said gov­ern­ments made de­ci­sions about how to run their gen­er­a­tors and charge for power and Queens­land was match­ing the prices paid by pri­vate gen­er­a­tors rather than com­pet­ing with them.

“The pri­vate gen­er­a­tors are charg­ing much more for their elec­tric­ity. So rather than com­pet­ing with them as they should be, what they’re do­ing is they’re match­ing their higher prices,’’ he said.

Fed­eral En­ergy Min­is­ter Josh Fry­den­berg said there was ev­i­dence to back up the “gam­ing’’ claims.

“Queens­land fam­i­lies and busi­ness paid 30 per cent more than other states for their whole­sale elec­tric­ity prices over the first five months of this year. Since mid- 2014 Queens­land has had more price spikes than any other state,’’ Mr Fry­den­berg said.

“The ques­tion for the Palaszczuk Gov­ern­ment is how can they de­fend this hid­den elec­tric­ity tax which is hurt­ing Queens­land.”

Queens­land En­ergy Min­is­ter Mark Bai­ley said the in­de­pen­dent Aus­tralian En­ergy Reg­u­la­tor in­ves­ti­gated high price events ear­lier this year and found they were caused by high elec­tric­ity demand, heatre­lated net­work and gen­er­a­tion con­straints, not bid­ding be­hav­iour.

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