Farmers ‘ripped off’ on power bills
QUEENSLAND farmers are being ripped off by state-owned Ergon and should be given a discount of up to 10 per cent off their bills, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says.
In a new clash between the federal and Queensland governments, Mr Littleproud has accused Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk of imposing a "tax by stealth" on farmers by milking energy companies for dividends instead of cutting power prices.
Queensland farmers are hit with some of the highest electricity prices in Australia, with bills at 27c a kilowatt hour compared to 22c in Tasmania and 19c in the ACT.
"I think farmers and regional Queenslanders should pay a fraction of that - a food and fibre discount of 5-10 per cent. After all, they grow and process the food we eat and if they're gone, we're buggered," Mr Littleproud said.
"Farmers and agricultural processors are big users of electricity - it's an unavoidable cost for their businesses.
"The Queensland Government shouldn't be making huge profits off the women and men of the land who are working to feed us."
The State Government pocketed a $1.65 billion dividend from its electricity companies last financial year.
High electricity prices have led to some drought-affected farmers being unable to pay to pump water from dams, he said.
But State Energy Minister Anthony Lynham accused Mr Littleproud of "cherrypicking facts".
"Victoria, NSW and South Australia all have higher average electricity usage rates," he said.
"It is ridiculous to compare Queensland to much smaller, less populated states or territories."
The move comes as the State Government announced a review of water costs imposed on energy-intensive irrigation.
Ergon has offered farmers to apply for discounts but has not endorsed savings of the size demanded by Mr Littleproud.