JIM COOMBS. An energy crisis? My Hat!

The present ‘energy crisis’ is symptomatic of our nation’s leaders to obfuscate the truth to avoid doing what should be done.

Before getting to today’s “crises” let’s face genuine ones. The expulsion and murder of the Rohingya in Myanmar, with us leaving the refugees for our impoverished neighbour Bangladesh to cope. Meanwhile we smugly sit back and say we are saving lives by turning back the boats. On our watch, perhaps, sending them back to poorer neighbours to die at sea in their jurisdiction. Dishonest and hypocritical.

But now closer to home: the “energy crisis”. The only truth is that there is enough off-shore gas available at low price to fuel our energy needs into the next century. So arguments to allow CSG mining are simply a device to make more profit for the miners. Renewables are becoming cheaper by the day, at a cheaper price than any new power generation. The criticisms of renewable are disingenuous at best and probably plain dishonest. The idea that we need continuous base-load power is nonsense, we actually need to cover peak periods, so coal-fired stations are of no use. Battery storage and pumped hydro are now available to meet that need.

The next piece of dishonesty when we talk of energy is that we continue to ignore the pollution of our nation with carbon emissions, and even worse, congratulating ourselves on turning on the lights and choking the citizens of Indian cities, using coal from Australia, with the two fold detriment of destruction of the Barrier Reef combined with treating world climate change as a non-issue. But it will give us “Jobs and Growth”. Really ? Only this week the number of “jobs” from Adani has plummeted. How dishonest do we have to be to continue down the path of polluting the planet, adversely affecting the climate for our children and grand-children. And selfish too, you might say.

We are one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and too mean to accommodate a few refugees. We pretend we don’t have energy resources, when we do. Worse, we have allowed corporations to believe that our natural resources are theirs. They are not. They belong to the nation and extraction is by licence, with government happy to guarantee profits, often out of that great well politicians in other circumstances characterise as “tax-payers money”.

The next piece of idiocy (the list grows and grows) is NBN. The telecommunications of the nation are a public good (sorry, Public Good), not a birthright to be sold off prodigally for a mess of pottage. But we did. We privatised the whole lot and we now have the sorry spectacle of too many profit seekers occupying the space, all clamouring for their profits to be guaranteed. We have two (going on three) sets of phone infrastructure when one is all we need.  We have numerous ISPs, all using “marketing skills” to improve their share of the benefits of the future information technological world. That there are so many suggests that profits can easily be made, and who regulates that ?

A sorry tale of disingenuousness at the least, and an incapacity to admit mistakes. We might have to wait a long time to get a politician to say these truths:

  • We were wrong and dishonest in going into Iraq
  • We should never have deregulated the banks and sold the Commonwealth Bank
  • Privatisation of Telstra and the communications market was uneconomic
  • We should have welcomed and settled the small number of refugees in boats instead of demonising and mistreating them.

Jim Coombs is a retired magistrate and economist

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2 Responses to JIM COOMBS. An energy crisis? My Hat!

  1. Jaquix says:

    It all seems so simple – and in New Zealand it basically is – but in Australia you come up against a series of insurmountable walls. The current government erects them where there are none. Its so desperate now to retain their power, that they are bending over backwards to appease Pauline Hanson, the worst of them all. There are too many competing interests in Australia, working against the implementation of good policy. The current lot will be remembered for a long list of bad policy outcomes. The NBN a glaring example. We also have to remember that NZ has not endured 50 years of mind-bending by Rupert Murdoch. That matters. Lobby groups, registered and cunningly not registered (Larry Anthony for instance, but many others) mean its very hard to know what the difference is between the government and lobbying interested groups. Very depressing really, but so far we still stick to the democratic ideal of having regular elections, so we can toss out the tossers when they fail us.

  2. Dog's breakfast says:

    There’s a nice under-current of anger running through this Jim. We have got to the point where that anger is useful, and has to be harnessed. That is a bit socially dangerous, but now necessary.

    The billions we made selling off Telstra will leave us paying tens of billions to buy just the network back. This is yet another legacy of that appalling governance under Howard and Costello, and all the time boasting about the surpluses in the budget.

    It will continue to take decades to get over the profligacy. It’s much worse if you think about where we might be if we had a really good, strategic government at that time.

    We had short-sighted, ideologically driven fools. We still do.

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