The Newman Government must end speculation once and for all that it is planning to close Ergon Energy depots in Far North Queensland says Shadow Energy Minister, Curtis Pitt.

“There are real fears in Ravenshoe that the local depot is to be closed because it would hit the community hard,” said Mr Pitt.

“The speculation is well founded, given the Government’s intentions to involve the private sector in power supply, but Andrew Cripps, the Acting Minister appears incapable of ending the justifiable concerns of the community.

“His statements on this issue have been less than crystal clear, only adding to speculation that the Government is yet again sitting on the release of bad news until after the Federal Election so it does not damage the Coalition’s prospects.

“This is just another example to go with the potential sale of school assets, school closures and cuts to emergency services.

“If there is no intention to close the Ravenshoe depot or other depots for that matter, why doesn’t the Acting Minister say so in plain English and rule it out?”

Mr Pitt said that fears of more cuts in remote areas had been heightened by Energy Minister Mark McArdle’s evasive responses to questions he asked during a budget estimates hearing last month.

“I asked for a guarantee that the Government would not sell off small remote generators with between eight and 15 employees and he wouldn’t give such a guarantee. Nor would he give a guarantee that further jobs would not be lost in the proposed merger of Ergon and Energex,” Mr Pitt said.

“In the past year Ergon has shed 690 staff and contractors while Energex has cut 460 jobs.

“The Opposition holds concerns about the impact on regional communities of depot closures, but I doubt the Newman Government shares those concerns.

“The loss of Ergon jobs would hit Ravenshoe disproportionately hard because people would have to leave the area to find alternative jobs. There is the potential for considerable impacts on families and on the local business community as a result.”