Friday, 30 November 2012

Gold-plating power in the King's navy

I have just received a letter from our erstwhile local state MP, Mr 72%. As the new Co-coordinator of Climate Change Australia Hastings Branch, I get to sign the letters we write on various issues to politicians.

This particular letter was to ask why the NSW State government was using electricity bills as a political forum by including a statement on how much the "carbon tax" had increased electricity bills. This information appears in a little red box on the bill. Like a Readers’ Digest competition, it screams “Important! Read me because I am in red letters and there is a box around me and therefore I must be true!”
For those of you who do not read the Readers Digest and therefore ignore important red lettered messages in boxes, the message says:

"NSW Government estimates that the Federal carbon tax and green energy schemes add about $316 a year to a typical 7MWh household bill – see"

As it happens, our CCA group think that this box is a misuse of legislative powers, in that it requires that this negative message be included on public companies' bills. In our opinion, this message is solely there to have political impact and is selectively misinformative. The red coloured message is clearly meant to stand as a protest against current Federal policy and law in Australia.

As most of us in CCA objected to our household bills becoming political capital, we asked it be removed. Alternatively, we reasoned, if the State government thought this unreasonable, we thought that all extra taxes and charges should be shown. So a full breakup, including infrastructure costs, wholesale pricing and profits, a full and honest disclosure of the true economics of electricity pricing for each consumer, could all have their own important boxes. Heck, we could even colour coordinate them, so our bills looked like little rainbows.

We also suggested that there should be corresponding details about how the Federal government's compensation package had offset any rises caused by the carbon price.

And there are those little details in a report, released in April 2011, from the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPRT). They found the average price increases of 18 per cent for electricity in 2011/2012 were due to a number of factors including:

•Federal Labor's Renewable Energy Target (RET) (34 per cent)
•additional generation costs, (5.5 per cent )
•additional network costs (poles and wires), (55 per cent)
•retail increases in billing, marketing and metering, (5.5 per cent)

Note that 66% of the above increases are due to State costs.

Not surprisingly, Mr 72% and the State government do not see things this way. Mr 72% has helpfully replied that it is the State government's business to inform consumers of the Federal government's ‘carbon tax’ but not the State government’s business to tell the consumer that they are compensated by the Federal government because that is the business of the Federal government and not of the State government. It would also seem that those huge price hikes as detailed above – caused by the State government's business with power companies, to do with pricing and infrastructure – aren't anyone's business either as they don't get a mention in his letter. Mmmmmmmm.

A friend has suggested to me that this reads like the plot line of a Gilbert and Sullivan Opera. I believe he is right. It particularly reminds me of the Admiral in HMS Pinafore:

”Stay at your desk and never go to sea…and you could be ruler of the King’s Navy”.
Or to paraphrase: “Ignore all the facts and avoid coming clean…and you could be interviewed by Ray Hadley” Or maybe: “I gold-plated infrastructure so carefully, that now I am the NSW deputy.”

The bottom line is that for those of us who have fought long and hard for effective action on climate change, this manipulative political message is offensive, to say the least. The studied ignorance of Mr 72% and his government cronies is offensive. Their aim is not to address climate change. Their aim is not preserve our planet from the catastrophe now being grimly predicted by climate scientists. No, their aim is no higher than scoring cheap political points at the expense of our world and our children.

Tonight John and I attended the annual concert and dinner for our church’s children’s club. We sat at a table with a pleasant young couple and their two children. Someone at one point commented on the weather being hot, as you do at such events. The little girl, who is about 8 years old, informed me that the hot weather was NOT climate change. She was emphatic that there was no climate change.

Despite what some people may think, I am not given to arguing with 8 year olds who can only be parroting what they are taught by their parents (who did not contradict her). Those parents are being taught well by the National Party and their ilk, aided and abetted by News Limited, Fox News, Ray Hadley and Alan Jones.

Mr 72%, the people of this electorate voted for you in good faith. They expect you to make the right decisions for them, in terms of their health, their towns and their future. You are meant to represent them, not your party. Playing political games with their future for the short term gain is doing no one any favours, including yourself.

So one day I really hope you have the grace to be ashamed of yourself. I hope that you come to the full realisation that the sneaking partisan actions of you and your colleagues, aided by the parrot and the budgerigar of 2GB radio, may have devastating consequences far beyond which party is in power in the Federal arena.

Ignoring the science and the problem will not make it go away. Not only will it not mitigate the effects, but it will delay vital adaption strategies, that will adversely affect our water supplies and the land we rely on to produce food.

Do we want a clean energy future or not? Heck, do we want a future? The 4 degree warming predicted now by climate scientists is a grim scenario of species extinctions, floods, droughts, extreme weather events and decreasing food and water. Not to mention climate refugees from low lying nations such as Kiribati and Tuvalu.

Climate change is taking place before our eyes. Time for our politicians – all of them – to take off those partisan spectacles and replace them with for-the-common-good-glasses.

Time in fact, to stand up and be counted, all of us, all of you.

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