Queensland energy users’ rights and interests are the focus of a new Queensland energy consumer advocacy body being considered by the Newman Government.
Minister for Energy Mark McArdle said several consumer representative groups met last week and had provided in principle agreement to terms of reference and the intent to establish the body by March 2014.
“The Newman Government is investigating this body as a way of continuing the fight against the cost of living increases that began under Labor,” Mr McArdle said.
“The formation of a Queensland energy consumer advocacy body would strengthen government and consumer interests ensuring benefits and protections are delivered to electricity customers.
“I envisage the body would work closely with the Energy and Water Ombudsman identifying further opportunities for improvements to energy issues impacting on Queenslander consumers.
“The Body may coordinate with the proposed National Energy Consumer Advocacy body to ensure Queensland interests are represented.”
Unlike other consumer groups, this body will represent many energy consumers and have direct access to the Minister for Energy.
Mr McArdle said because of Labor’s failure to address rising energy prices, the Newman Government would provide substantial support this financial year to help Queenslanders with their bills.
“The Queensland Government has committed $153 million in 2013-14 – a $35.9 million increase on the previous financial year – to support pensioners, families who suffer significant financial hardship and people with a disability or illness,” he said.
The consumer advocacy body has received support with the Queensland Council of Social Services (QCOSS) and Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland (CCIQ) strongly welcoming the announcement.
QCOSS CEO Mark Henley said the Queensland Consumer Advocacy Body is critical for ensuring the needs and interests of residential customers are front and centre in policy and planning for energy services and in future energy market reforms.CCIQ General Manager of Advocacy Nick Behrens said rising electricity prices remained one of the biggest issues for Queensland small businesses.
“A consumer focus group will be an opportunity for all parties to sit in the one room and be part of the discussion and solution about future energy matters in Queensland,” Mr Behrens said.