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'PM in the dark on power issue'

Thursday, 9th August, 2012

The SC Cinema is among businesses hit by higher power bills. The SC Cinema is among businesses hit by higher power bills.

By Kurtis J Eichler

Nationals MP John Williams has hit back at Prime Minister Julia Gillard after her threat to take action against state governments over their involvement in soaring power bills.

The member for Murray- Darling responded to Ms Gillard's attack on the states for their apparent role in the exorbitant power prices.

She singled out the NSW Government as the main culprit.

Ms Gillard has given the states four months to find solutions to soaring electricity prices or face the wrath of market watchdogs.

"Australian's can't afford the same kind of increases over the next four years," Ms Gillard said.

Mr Williams refuted the PM's claims, saying IPART actually set the prices.

"There's no doubt the state government has gone out and done some maintenance work in renewing infrastructure, you've even seen that money spent in Broken Hill," he said from Sydney.

"Now the fact is this work had to be done and I don't know who other than the consumers of electricity is going to pay for it unless the federal government stump up.

"I think that the sort of criticism she's offered is ridiculous because someone had to pay the bill and people want to know that their supply's secured."

For every $100 of the typical power bill, $9 is set aside as part of the carbon tax, which was introduced on July 1.

When householders get sent their quarterly bills, Mr Williams said the amount of carbon tax paid will be clearly visible.

"What you'll see when the electricity bills come out under the O'Farrell Government is the amount of carbon tax being paid will be highlighted so people know exactly what the carbon tax is and how much it's costing the consumer," Mr Williams said.

In another swipe at the PM, Mr Williams said Ms Gillard never intervened when power prices skyrocketed under the former Kristina Keneally-led Labor Government.

Mr Williams offered her a word of advice: less said the better.

"I think she'd be better leaving the whole electricity thing alone."

The Silver City Cinema's Ashton Wren wasn't buying Ms Gillard's excuse either.

Hailed as the region's last cinema, the assistant manager has seen power bills jump $3000 in the last 12 months.

"I think she's covering up the carbon tax because I've got our same statement from last year and the period last year was $8000 and the bill this time was $11,000," Mr Wren said.

"We've had no extra equipment and we've had no extras."

Mr Wren said the only way to stay afloat was to be "electricity smart."

And higher ticket prices would be a bitter pill to swallow for movie-goers, he said. "It's hard, it's bloody hard.

"We just have to learn to cut back on our sessions and cut back on a lot of things from operations.

"It's the worst I've ever seen and it's going to get worse in our lifetime - that's the tragic part about it."

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