Shadow Treasurer and Shadow Energy and Water Supply Minister, Curtis Pitt, says if the Newman Government is truly opposed to privatisation of Queensland’s power assets it should release the next secret volume of the Costello Audit when it’s completed this month.
Mr Pitt said the government also should tread cautiously if it went down the path of trading off reliability of power supply for price cuts.
“The interim report by the Independent Review Panel examining the state’s power industry released today recommends the privatisation of power industry assets in Queensland,” Mr Pitt said.
“This is also clearly the goal of the Newman Government. In fact in State Parliament on 30 November 2006 Tim Nicholls who is now Treasurer advocated selling everything in the industry, saying: ‘Why not sell the poles and wires as well? Why not sell the generators as well?’
“The Treasurer’s view is certain to be replicated in the next volume of the Costello Audit which Mr Nicholls and the Premier insist should be kept secret from Queenslanders who incidentally are paying Mr Costello $13,400 a month.
“It is known that Peter Costello’s audit team has been examining the future of all state government-owned corporations including power industry bodies such as CS Energy, Energex, Ergon, Powerlink and Stanwell Corporation.
“The secret Costello Audit report will most likely recommend their privatisation but the Premier and the Treasurer want it kept under lock and key.
“The Labor Party has stated it will not privatise public assets including power generators or other assets such as ‘poles and wires’. We heard the anti-privatisation message loud and clear at the last election.
“The Independent Review Panel looking at the power industry has made its views on privatisation known openly and frankly. If the Costello Audit is also as independent as the Treasurer keeps claiming there should be nothing to stop its next secret volume seeing the light of day.
“The Premier keeps parroting lines about his government being open and accountable, yet he and the Treasurer want to keep the Costello Audit secret for fear of what is says about privatisation, not just of the power industry, but of all GOCs,” he said.
Mr Pitt said the government needed to tread carefully if it believed consumers were willing to trade off reliability of supply for lower power prices.
“The national Australian Energy Market Commission published a survey in August showing 60% of those canvassed were willing to pay at least 1% more for their power if it meant at least one hour less of power outages a year,” he said.
“The survey of almost 1,300 customers in NSW also revealed more than one-third of respondents would expect price cuts of a minimum 2% if they were expected to endure an extra one hour of power outages a year.
“The AMEC survey showed 60% of those participating wanted power industry operators to invest in reducing the number of power outages.”
Mr Pitt said the AMEC had also advised state and federal energy ministers that NSW residential customers would save only $3 to $15 a year on their power bills by 2028 under scenarios that traded off reliability for lower prices.
“We should not forget that outages can disrupt hundreds and sometimes thousands of households,” he said.
“In addition business and industry can pay a high price during power outages in terms of lost production or stock, so a trade-off between pricing and reliability is not as simple as it sounds.”