A JOKE: Neville Peach and Dougie at the Austral say power prices are a
A JOKE: Neville Peach and Dougie at the Austral say power prices are a "joke”. Jacob Miley

Power prices 'up the sh--': Mackay man lives alone, pays $300

'Power prices are up the sh--'; a statement just about every Queenslander would agree with.

The consumer watchdog has turned its attention to energy providers to try put an end to electricity price gouging. Just this week the ACCC confirmed the national electricity market had created "serious affordability" problems that was hurting households and businesses.

Here, in Mackay it's on everyone's mind.

For 13 years, Dougie -- as he's known -- has worked as one of Mackay's most well known bars - the Austral Hotel.

The difference between us and others in Mackay, he says, is there are always bums on seats. Right he was as, three or four blokes straight out of work on a Friday sat opposite the beer taps.

To the right is Peter Dryden who - sitting at the bar with his dad - watched the clock like a hawk for their 12pm lift.

"It was always going to head this way," he said. "When you took the control out of the government and gave it to the private sector, it was always going to go out this way.

"Prices were going to go up - and that's what's happening now."

Dryden came to Mackay two years ago to look after his Dad. Prior to that he was a fitter machinist and ran a machine shop in Wollongong, south of Sydney.

He ran it for 27 years and said prices were "reasonable".

"You could afford electricity bills and they were in line with water bills. They were a little bit more, back in Wollongong. You'd pay more in winter because of heating... but nowadays, they are just absolutely shocking."

"If I owned a shop here and I was doing the work I was doing, I'd be running night shifts so I could get off peak (prices) because the prices are huge."

Neville Peach is one of the many tradesman in the pub. He has just knocked off, after starting at 2am, he said. On a Friday and Saturday his boss likes to start earlier so they can finish earlier for the weekend.

Peach says prices are "up the sh--" with his bill more than $1000 for a quarter. Just two years ago, it was about $400 less but it just kept increasing.

But what are you going to do, he asks.

"I pay $75 towards my bill every week. Still at the end of (the quarter) I'm out-laying another $200-300 depending."

Next to Peach, is Dougie - who used the same adjective to describe the energy crisis after overhearing our conversation.

He's a single man who lives alone and yet his bill is close to $300. About this time every year, he turns his hot water off. He turns on the water during the day in summer and see how warm it is, he says.

He's got no washing machine, no microwave and barely watches TV - a "joke", he said.

As the state election nears, debate over whether north Queensland could invest in coal-fired power or see more solar, heats up..

Peach said coal wasn't a bad idea if it made it cheaper.

"They should never have got rid of the bastards (coal power stations) in the first place, but you know, the greenies go off."

"I'd prefer it to nuclear, that's for sure."

Greg Goody across the room proposes a destination for the plant. Why not Moranbah he asks, they've got the coal and they've got the water source.

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