Electricity prices continue to soar. Picture: Steve Tanner
Electricity prices continue to soar. Picture: Steve Tanner

'Debt crises': Price gouging accusation as profits surge

KEN O'Dowd has asked 'how much can a koala bear' as the region's businesses continue to be crippled by power bills.

Touting his 10-point power plan - which includes support for new coal-fired power stations and a reform of the energy market - the member for Flynn accused the State Government's electricity providers of price gouging.

"There are too many fingers in the pie all trying to scoop money out of the system ... State Governments are robbing Peter to pay Paul to fund their debt crises," Mr O'Dowd said in Federal Parliament.

Similar accusations were made by Boyne Smelter Limited general manager Joe Rea when he announced the company would cut jobs and production last year due to high power prices.

Mr O'Dowd said the Biggenden Meatworks, near Bundaberg, had a four per cent increase in its power bill in three months - to more than $20,000 in January.

"How much can a koala bear? The (meatworks) owner has told me that once he starts getting into a loss situation he'll have no alternative but to shutdown the meatworks," Mr O'Dowd said.

Ken O'Dowd. Picture: Lukas Coch/AAP
Ken O'Dowd. Picture: Lukas Coch/AAP

His fresh demands for a reformed energy market came ahead of the Queensland Audit Office's 2016-17 financial audit of the energy market, which revealed the sector's increasing profits and income.

It found the sector's profit increased by 45 per cent to $1.9billion and its income rose to $10.9billion, up from $9billion the previous year.

The report said the increased profits were a result of "record high" average energy market prices following high demand for generation.

"Demand for energy generation also increased in 2016-17, resulting in the generators increasing production by 24 per cent and increasing both income and operating expenses," it read.

Queensland Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington said the audit of state-owned energy business highlighted the State Government used electricity as a "secret tax".

"Market prices in Queensland reached record levels, as the Palaszczuk Labor government refused to act on the allegations state-owned generators were gaming the system," she said.

"Labor is addicted to the revenue these businesses provide."

Queensland Energy Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the government was re-investing dividends from state-owned electricity businesses into "driving down electricity prices for Queenslanders".

Dr Lynham said the opposition's spray on the latest audit report was "laughable" and highlighted the State Government's Affordable Energy Plan where every household will receive $50 to put towards power bills in 2018 and 2019.

He said power prices would be capped at average inflation for the next two years.



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