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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John Laurence Menadue is the publisher of Pearls & Irritations. He has had a distinguished career both in the private sector and in the Public Service.

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