The price of a call

If anyone was still in any doubt that the Bligh Government has completely lost its political will to live it surely has been extinguished by the latest government-approved electricity price hike.

The latest 13.29% increase takes the total boost over the past four years to 52%. The extraordinary aspect of that massive surge is that it follows former Premier Peter Beattie’s unequivocal assurance that no Queenslanders would pay more for electricity in the wake of Labor’s privatisation of the industry. If the Liberal National Party doesn’t already have a TV commercial in the can which shows Beattie offering this bare-faced lie, it should quit politics.

There are several other galling aspects to the ham-fisted efforts of responsible Minister Stephen Robertson to sell this latest Labor outrage to Queenslanders.

The first is the bleat that this wasn’t the government’s doing: that the rise was authorised by the Queensland Competition Authority. This is true but it completely ignores that the Minister has the power to intervene and set the rate increase at any level he likes. His predecessor, Geoff Wilson, went down this path a couple of years ago. So, the Bligh government is fully complicit.

The second is the Minister’s assertion that if he was to intervene to hold prices back it would reduce investment in the industry and lead to blackouts and brownouts. We are supposed to believe that it is the massive population surge in Queensland that is forcing up prices – allegedly because of the necessary new infrastructure. But since this population surge has been part of Queensland’s way of life for decades now, how come no-one in government or the industry can adequately plan for new demand? And, if the available population – consumers – is growing massively, how can profits be threatened? We are being played for mugs.

The third is just farcical. Without even a hint of embarrassment, the Minister tells us that a good part of the price rise is to cover the cost of the power companies using telemarketing to get us to buy their product! And not just telemarketing but advertising and door-to-door sales people. How weird that Labor assured us piously that competition in the industry would lead to cheaper prices. The harsh reality is we are paying higher prices so the competition can harass us.

One thing is for sure, the lights are going to go out for Labor. With average families now having to find more than $2000 a year just to pay for power, they are going to take power away from Labor. And it can’t happen a moment too soon.