Vot­ers want power in their hands

Townsville Bulletin - - COMMENT -

ONE les­son both ma­jor par­ties claim to have learnt from the 2015 state elec­tion is that Queens­lan­ders don’t want their power as­sets sold off.

Apart from a surge of per­sonal re­sent­ment against then- pre­mier Camp­bell New­man, the LNP’s plan to pri­va­tise poles and wires was cited as a de­ci­sive fac­tor in An­nasta­cia Palaszczuk’s re­mark­able vic­tory.

So it is ac­cepted wis­dom that most peo­ple want the gov­ern­ment to run our power sys­tem, from gen­er­a­tion, along the grid and into our homes. But how stead­fast is that sup­port? What if it emerged that the gov­ern­ment was ma­nip­u­lat­ing the power mar­ket to jack up prices in or­der to max­imise its rev­enue?

It’s hard to say, but we may go some way to an­swer­ing it this week, when the com­pe­ti­tion watch­dog comes to town.

The Aus­tralian Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion will fo­cus on the ac­tions of gov­ern­ment- owned gen­er­a­tors in the na­tional en­ergy mar­ket dur­ing a fo­rum in Townsville this Mon­day.

Specif­i­cally, it will delve into al­le­ga­tions the gen­er­a­tors have been gam­ing the mar­ket to boost prof­its and div­i­dends at the ex­pense of consumers.

If the ACCC can sub­stan­ti­ate that, it will be a telling blow against gov­ern­ment own­er­ship of these as­sets.

The main rea­son peo­ple want to keep them in pub­lic hands is to stop pri­vate cor­po­ra­tions from driv­ing up their power bills.

This is a par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant is­sue here in Townsville where our work­force is more re­liant on en­er­gy­hun­gry busi­nesses, such as re­fin­ery op­er­a­tors Sun Me­tals and Glen­core.

The launched its high- volt­age rip off cam­paign against surg­ing power prices based on grow­ing ev­i­dence of gov­ern­ment greed.

It is crit­i­cal that the ACCC in­ter­ro­gates this mat­ter with max­i­mum rigour. It must look past gov­ern­ment spin and prop­erly an­a­lyse power prices and the at times in­ex­pli­ca­ble spikes that have hurt our lo­cal busi­nesses, and there­fore the job se­cu­rity of our work­ers.

Queens­land has an en­ergy sur­plus. There should be no rea­son for us to suf­fer the same price surges that have plagued the south­ern states re­sult­ing from their fool­ish ap­proach to en­ergy se­cu­rity.

We will mon­i­tor the ACCC in­ves­ti­ga­tion with in­ter­est.

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