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Monday, 3 December 2018
Page: 12176


Mr CHRISTENSEN (Dawson) (11:37): Our use of energy in the family home, in businesses and in all kinds of industry is what enables us to live comfortable lives. It's a fundamental driver of our economy. So it doesn't take an economist to understand that higher energy costs lead to a weaker economy and that higher electricity costs result in lower productivity and less money in the household budget. It beggars belief that any government could rip off its own constituents with a massive energy tax, but that is exactly what the Queensland Labor government has done. Queensland Labor is ripping off everyday Queenslanders with secret energy taxes hidden in each and every one of their quarterly energy bills. In what The Courier Mail describes as 'a sophisticated scam run by the state government', Labor has pushed up the cost of electricity so much that Queenslanders are paying about 25 per cent more than what they should.

The Queensland Labor government has the ability to lower power prices. They could pass on reductions in wholesale prices. They could write down the state energy provider's assets. They could agree to a reduction in its rate of return. They could subsidise electricity customers to make up for Labor's dodgy deals with debt. That would cut the power bill for an average family in my electorate by 25 per cent. Sadly, just because the Labor government has the ability to cut those power prices doesn't mean they will. They don't have the will, because they're using this secret electricity tax to prop up their budget.

Mums and dads in my electorate and across Queensland are paying for Labor's inability to manage the books. Farmers and small businesses are paying for Labor's waste. An Australian Competition and Consumer Commission report found that the Queensland Labor government could save householders $419 a year on average by adopting some of their recommendations. That would effectively remove about one of the quarterly bills for every family across the state. While the federal government is looking for ways to bring power prices down, the Queensland Labor government is looking for ways to push power prices up.

I encourage all Queenslanders to go to a simple website called energytax.com.au to see how much Labor is taxing their family budget. They can enter the cost of their last power bill and it will tell them how much of that bill the state Labor government is gouging from them. It's almost 25 per cent, which is a massive impost on mums and dads. It makes the cost of business so high that it impacts on jobs and it forces businesses to shut down or reduce in capacity.

In North Queensland, the Thomas Borthwick and Sons abattoir in Mackay have got an energy bill ballooning into the millions of dollars. That's money that would better spent on employing locals, job creation and making the end product more affordable for families. Farmers are already paying exorbitant prices for power without the Queensland Labor government adding a secret energy tax on top.

The escalating cost of water is made even more unaffordable when the price of electricity used to pump the water gets out of control. Unaffordable costs have already pushed the Pioneer Valley irrigation scheme to the verge of collapse.

To make matters worse in North Queensland, we have only one energy provider. Such a monopoly—it's the state government mind you—means families and businesses are forced to take whatever price is offered to them. It is not unusual for a government to move to break up such a monopoly and it is probably time that the federal government take a closer look at what the Queensland Labor government has done with the energy market and what it has failed to do. While the Queensland Labor government is happy to price gouge, kill jobs and industry and make families in North Queensland across the state even poorer, I am not.

I am very pleased that the energy minister and the Prime Minister have talked about considering setting up competition to the electricity market in Queensland, because we need fairer prices. We need fairer prices for north Queenslanders.

I would call on the federal government to take note of the strong support for building a high-efficiency, low-emissions coal-fired power plant in North Queensland.

Earlier this year I started a petition, which again can be signed at powerthenorth.com.au. The campaign has attracted tremendous support from North Queenslanders because, unlike the Greens and Labor, we are not afraid of coal. We are not afraid of coal. North Queenslanders know modern generators reduce emissions by up to 50 per cent. They know they're a better option than Labor's dangerous 45 per cent emissions reduction target. North Queenslanders want to see jobs in construction and in operation, and they appreciate the benefits that affordable and reliable power can bring to their family and to local jobs, because energy is what drives our economy and improves our standard of living. Outrageous taxes from the Labor Party on your electricity bill are driving down our economy, driving down our standard of living, costing local jobs and costing your family budget.