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.
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The situation at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear reactors seems to be improving, but the long-term fallout remains unclear. The Punch spoke to Associate Professor Haydon Manning - head of politics and public policy at Flinders University and a man with a particular interest in nuclear power - and asked him what it means for the political future of nuclear.
What’s the history of nuclear fear in Australia?
In the Australian community we’ve never had to confront the stark reality - like the French, the Japanese and South Korea have - of real energy shortage. Given our abundance of coal and gas we’ve never had to focus on any of the positive arguments for nuclear power as the answer to a problem or energy security.
Rather, we associated nuclear power with weapons. This is certainly true of someone like me, who as a student marched on the streets in opposition to Olympic Dam in the late 70s. Then in 1979 we had the ‘icing on the anti nuclear cake’ when Three Mile Island had its minor meltdown.
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A utilities representative recently came to my front door offering a better deal on our gas and electricity prices if we changed to a different supplier. He was offering a larger discount than the existing supplier.
The visit prompted me to look back at the cost of electricity over the past few years. The results were startling. Last year, the costs were more than 50 per cent higher than five years ago. Our usage was about the same.
The price increases are being felt by households across Australia. According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, power bills increased by 50 per cent. In the same period, total expenses only increased by 16 per cent. Since Labor has been in government, the prices have risen by more than 42 per cent.
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