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it takes a blackout to see the light « Previous | |Next »
July 8, 2004

John Howard is in Adelaide for three days. An interview with Gushing Cordeaux. This is Howard's second visit to South Australia. It is an election battleground. I would say that Hindmarsh has been lost. Howard is hanging onto Adelaide. I don't know about Makim. It is unknown territory for me.

Whilst in SA the PM is delivering a big vision speech--what was once called a headland speech back in 1996. You know, they're the ones that outline the government's policy goals for the next three years. They outline general themes and plans without saying anything specific. The detail---- how you actually get the water for the River Murray-- comes latter.

This particular speech is entitled Getting the Big Things Right: Goals and Responsibilities in a Fourth Term. What does it say?

The goals will include Australia becoming an enterprise-oriented nation, a fair and decent society and a sustainable continent. Australia will only reach its full potential with an enterprise culture – a culture that encourages and rewards hard work, ambition and calculated risk-taking. A fair and decent society would reconcile a desire for personal freedom with the need for social belonging and order. A sustainable continent is a continent where our prosperity and development does not come at the expense of our environment.

What underpins, and enables, this vision of a better world for all Australians are the twin pillars of economic strength and national security. These two responsibilities allow us to reach our other goals.

Reading this good feeling vibe I kept wondering how the creation of the national electricity market fitted into the vision. Is this an example of sustainable continent where our prosperity and development does not come at the expense of our environment?

The answer has to be no. The electricity reform (privatisation and deregulation) of the 1990s was all about replacing regulations that protect the public and the environment with rules that ensure the smooth and efficient running of the market and the electricity system. These reforms diminish public ownership and control and increase private ownership and control; they shift subsidies away from rural consumers and households to big business; and they shift the burden of paying for non-commercial objectives (equity and sustainability) from business to general taxpayers.

The electricity reforms were less about cutting prices, become more efficient and maintaining the same level of service as the lobbyists maintained. The reforms are more about energy companies making big profits from increasing prices. Moreover, these profits are increasingly being made by using old, polluting, coal-fired power plants in the eastern states; by relying more on more on dirty bown coal in Victoria to generate electricity; and by using the competitive market to foster the uptake of renewable energy.

Using the national electricity market to judge how serious the PM is to sustainable continent is not being unfair. The PM mentions his energy White Paper. This, he says, offers a strategy that retains Australia’s competitive advantage in energy but also takes action to address greenhouse emissions and aloows Adelaide to play a part in initiatives like a Solar Cities trials. He claims that both these develop a smarter energy scenario for the future.

Not really John. It's spin and gloss to cover up your protection of, and subsidies for, the coal and energy-intensive industries. Just another strategy to shore your base.

Has it got the big things right? Well, too much is left unsaid. And how do those common values of the nation, which bind us together as one people, fit with us in SA being taken for a ride over the creation of a national electricity market.
CS over at Backpages is not so polite.

9 July
More gushing interviews with Howard by Adelaide radio. This time it is a fawning Leon Byner. Yawn. However, it was a lot tougher with Mathew Abraham on the ABC.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:13 PM | | Comments (0)