MPs pressure Turnbull on inquiry into power prices
GLADSTONE'S federal member has joined a cohort of Coalition backbenchers calling for the Prime Minister to instigate an inquiry into energy market pricing to crack down on companies "gaming" the system.
Member for Flynn Ken O'Dowd and other Nationals MPs including Capricorn's Michelle Landry and Dawson's George Christensen want Malcolm Turnbull to threaten energy retailers with an inquiry or a royal commission unless they cut prices.
Earlier this month a Grattan Institute report found companies created an artificial scarcity of electricity supply in order to keep prices high.
It said this had occurred in Queensland and South Australia but there were no official rules against it.
Boyne Smelter Limited general manager Joe Rea accused the energy retailers of "gaming" the system to force power prices higher in 2017, when the company blamed the price of power for its job losses and production cuts.
The company reduced production by a quarter, but in last month's CQIndustry Mr Rea said it was exploring ways to restore that capacity without using as much electricity.
Mr O'Dowd, one of the MPs who form the energy-focused Monash Forum, said Queensland-owned energy retailers increased power prices to "boost their bottom line".
"We should be having an inquiry into this, I'd be hesitant to say a royal commission because they cost a lot of money, but definitely an inquiry," he said.
Mr O'Dowd said Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg was expected to visit the Flynn electorate in a few weeks.
Where Mr Frydenberg will visit is not confirmed, but Mr O'Dowd said he would make him aware of the power price exposure the region's big businesses had.
The Australian reported crossbenchers Fraser Anning, Stirling Griff, Tim Storer and David Leyonhjelm had shown early signs of support for an inquiry into retail pricing.
Mr Anning said he "strongly agreed" with a push for a royal commission. He pointed to job losses at Boyne Smelter Limited as an example of the high cost of power hurting regional Queensland.
But they said a Turnbull government source had said it was unlikely to consider a royal commission because it was already trying to tackle high prices with its national energy guarantee. Meanwhile, results are expected soon from an electricity pricing inquiry by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.