South East Queensland Councils have today invited the State Government to commission an independent review of water prices to inform the public once and for all what is causing the large rises in water prices.
Council of Mayors (SEQ) Chair Campbell Newman and Local Government Association (Queensland) CEO Greg Hallam said councils were willing to cooperate with a review by an independent interstate body such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and/or the Productivity Commission.
“We are happy for the Government to ask the water companies to open up their books. We have nothing to hide,” Cr Newman said.
“The simple fact remains that when Councils had full control of the water businesses household water bills were a lot lower than they are now. It was the State Government’s water reforms that removed Council control over water bills.
“The biggest impact on household water bills in Brisbane has been the massive increases in bulk water prices – up from $628/ML two years ago and on a State Government price path headed to more than $2700/ML by 2017,” he said.
Cr Newman said if the State Government honestly believed Councils were price ‘gouging’ SEQ residents then it should be thoroughly investigated.
“This is a very serious allegation by the State Government – so let’s investigate it,” he said.
Mr Hallam said if the State Government was not prepared to investigate its own allegation, then it should stop the political blame game and give Councils full control and accountability for the water businesses.
“Councils will then be able to run water businesses a lot cheaper, which will mean lower water bills,” Mr Hallam said.
“Before the State Government’s un-necessary reforms, Councils provided water services much cheaper. This also means we can do it again.”
Under State Law, water prices are subject to price monitoring by the Queensland Competition Authority, with the first report due before 31 March next year.
Cr Newman and Mr Hallam said this report should also be brought forward.