Your electricity company, telling you who to vote for
I was standing in my significant other’s kitchen, doing what I usually do: eating her food, creating a mess and accidentally knocking things over.
She was letting me do my thing while she read her electricity bill. She slapped it down on the bench. “Jeeeeeeez. Thanks bloody Julia Gillard.”
It was a whopper - like most of them nowadays. According to Australian Bureau of Statistics figures released yesterday, the most significant consumer price rises in the September quarter were for electricity, up more than 15 per cent.
Economists came out and said that obviously the carbon tax had a significant impact on the numbers. And for Julia Gillard’s chances, it might have been a red letter day. There’s a pun in that - the following was written in stark red lettering, on a white background, on the front page of every power bill delivered in New South Wales:
NSW Govt estimates that Federal carbon tax and green energy schemes add about $316 a year to a typical 7MWh household bill - see ipart.nsw.gov.au
Every electricity company was required to have the warning on their bills, right down to its colour and placement, as a condition of power companies retaining their licence. As The Sun-Herald reported earlier this year:
...the NSW government dictates the exact wording of the warning, the size and colour of the font, and where it should appear on the bill.
The directive said the words must appear on the first page of the bill, ‘‘be published in Arial font with a minimum font size of 12 points’‘, be ‘‘in red colour known as Pantone 186C’’ and ‘‘appear with no other words against a white background within a border’‘.
How ridiculous. No, Pantone is not a shampoo. It might be the colour they use to provoke the bulls in Pamplona though. I reckon those warnings made families across the state similarly furious at the Federal Government, given how high bills have been lately. Australian electricity prices have soared 60 per cent in real terms since 2007, according to the ACCC - especially in Queensland and NSW.
But there’s a few problems with the NSW example. IPART says the carbon tax itself will only cost households $168 a year, the rest of the $316 consists of federal and state green energy schemes, some of which have the support of both parties.
The warning seems to give the impression the carbon tax is solely responsible for your ever-higher bills. It’s misleading, just like if your taxi driver told you your fare was substantially higher because of the carbon tax, or if some nutter told you that carbon is harmless because it’s in the bubbles in fizzy drinks. A nakedly politically motivated move from the O’Farrell Government designed to bolster their buddies in the federal opposition.
It should be a good thing when governments tell people why their electricity bills are so high. But the state governments, especially Queensland (the state that also promised to advertise the carbon tax on bills) and NSW, would never tell the whole story because it would expose how badly they’ve let us down in stopping electricity price rises over the years.
While they’ve been blame-shifting, the NSW government and the Queensland government have declined to sign on to a national framework for protecting energy consumers. It’s not as wishy-washy as the word “framework” tends to suggest. It would have provided us with a way to compare electricity companies and products with each another online.
But it’s only of any use now if you live in Tasmania or ACT. The corker is NSW even pointed to their labelling of the carbon tax on bills as a reason they couldn’t jump onboard the national scheme.
Unless you’ve managed to avoid the radio, the newspaper, the TV, the Internet and human interaction over the past few years, I think you might’ve already heard the carbon tax was going to have an impact on your power bill.
The story about power companies being forced to spend an unnecessary amount of money on poles and wires because of onerous state regulations - that’s one we haven’t heard, but should be hearing a lot more about.
Next time we get a Pantone 186C warning on our bills, let’s hope it details all the issues driving price rises.
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