'Save Our Sparkies': merger bad for little guys says Bennett

LOCAL electricians are "facing ruin" under the state government's plan to merge two energy companies, Member for Burnett Stephen Bennett has declared.

The merger of Ergon and Energex is set to create the largest power company in Australia with $24 billion worth of assets. Treasurer Curtis Pitt has said it would deliver regional jobs and energy solutions to isolated communities around Queensland, and "remove duplication in areas like administration, shared services, boards, management and corporate costs".

But Stephen Bennett has said it would "cripple" small businesses by forcing them into competition for services like solar installations and maintenance of meter boxes.

"Labor's crazy plan to merge Energex with Ergon and allow the new company to unfairly bid against sparkies for bread and butter electrical work will have a huge impact on our local small businesses," Mr Bennett said. He claimed Member for Bundaberg Leanne Donaldson had "turned her back on (them)".

"If she was genuine about protecting jobs in our region," he said, "she would urge her government to pull the plug on this absurd plan."

But Ms Donaldson has hit back, saying the company would not compete for work with existing licenced contractors who do household solar or electrical work, but would offer services "where there are limited suppliers or resources such as in remote areas of Queensland".

"The focus will be on new and innovative products and services and expanding the market, especially in regional Queensland," she said.

"This is a shameless and cynical manoeuvre by the member for Burnett playing on the fears of electrical contractors and his hypocrisy on asset sales has been exposed.

"Don't forget if Mr Bennett had his way, Ergon and Energex would be up for sale and the private owners could do what they liked in this regard."

Brad Collins, who owns Bundaberg business Hemisphere Electrical and Solar, told Mr Bennett he was worried about the merge.

"It's hard enough dealing with the bigger companies in solar. They buy in bulk and they're cheaper than us smaller installers," Mr Collins said. "To have Ergon Energy Queensland-wide doing the same thing, it will be very hard to compete."

The LNP launched a petition, Save Our Sparkies, protesting the merger plan this week.



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