ELECTION: Hinkler MP Keith Pitt says power prices are a significant issue.
ELECTION: Hinkler MP Keith Pitt says power prices are a significant issue. Alistair Brightman

Power prices spark debate ahead of federal election

CLIMATE change won't be on the radar for most regional voters ahead of the federal election, Hinkler MP Keith Pitt says.

The cost of living, in particular the rising cost of electricity, was a top issue people are talking to him about.

"Cost of living and power prices are one of the biggest concerns for the constituents of Hinkler," Mr Pitt said.

"It's been constant, for many years, families, seniors and businesses contacting my office about rising electricity costs and in our region, it is entirely the state government that is responsible for setting the price."

His comments come amid reports that climate change would be a key issue ahead of the federal election, expected to be held in May.

Mr Pitt has spoken out in recent days, sharing the view that coal-generated electricity would probably be the most affordable, efficient and reliable power source for people in North Queensland.

But he's open to anything that would make electricity more affordable.

"I am technology agnostic when it comes to power generation, but I expect that coal will be in the mix," he said.

"Any future power generation needs to be affordable and reliable."

The subject of energy policy has caused something of a rift within the coalition government of late, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison rejecting a push to fund new coal-fired power plants in central Queensland.

Barnaby Joyce and other senior Nationals MPs were behind the idea of a clean coal plant, but Mr Morrison said renewable projects were the focus of his attention.

Last week Mr Pitt was challenged on the issue of power prices by Richard Pascoe, the Labor candidate for the seat of Hinkler.

Mr Pascoe accused the federal government of failing to produce a clear energy policy.

He said Mr Pitt was pushing for the privatisation of Queensland's electricity generators, adding that the incumbent member had said he didn't care if a "power station runs on chook manure".

"After six years and 11 separate energy policies the best the member for Hinkler can come up with is privatising energy assets and chook manure," Mr Pascoe said.

"Queenslanders know that privatisation of energy assets leads to higher prices."

Mr Pascoe said Labor had a clear energy policy designed to create certainty for investment in energy assets and support households.

But Mr Pitt hit back at Mr Pascoe, accusing him of having little knowledge about power prices in the sunshine state.

"Clearly the Labor candidate for Hinkler knows nothing about energy in regional Queensland," Mr Pitt said.

"It is completely controlled by the state Labor government who are robbing $1.5 billion from Queensland electricity consumers.

"He should ring his state Labor mates and tell them to put the price down."

The Chronicle contacted One Nation candidate for Hinkler, Damian Huxham but he was unable to provide a response ahead of deadline.

In the Wide Bay electorate, federal member Llew O'Brien doesn't care where energy comes from - he just wants the best options to be explored to lower prices and ensure reliable supply.

"When it comes to a preferred electricity energy source or generation technology, I don't have one, I take an agnostic approach," he said.

"I want to ensure that people in Wide Bay have access to the cheapest and most reliable source of electricity at the lowest possible price."

There is one Labor policy that worries Mr O'Brien.

"I am concerned about the impact that Labor's 50 per cent renewable energy target would have on jobs in Maryborough's heavy industries, which rely on a secure supply of base load power," he said.

Wide Bay Labor candidate Jason Scanes said a balance needed to be struck between coal-fired energy and renewable energy.

"I'm a huge fan of getting household costs and electricity prices down," he said.

Mr Scanes said arguments against the reliability of renewable energy that insisted that the "sun doesn't always shine and the wind doesn't always blow" were unfounded.

"Yes it does, since the dawn of time," he said.

Mr Scanes said he'd had solar panels installed at his home, which had taken his power bill from $900 to $300.

He said investing in renewables and further subsidising businesses and home owners who wanted to put solar panels in place were good options.

Mr Scanes said subsidies or grants to encourage people towards renewable energy had to be widely accessible to everyone.