Remember the ALP promise to go to war on petrol prices, even though every price inquiry has resulted in a finding that, shrug, petrol prices are what they are?
Now a new one, but more perverse. (Is that possible? Yes, yes it is.)
The Gillard government is going to do for electricity pricing what they did for grocery and petrol prices, only worse.
Having introduced a carbon emissions tax - and beforehand not noticing that electricity prices have been going through the roof for years, yet consumer usage has been dropping, and dropping, in a useless bid to out-drop the price increases - the Gillard government has suddenly become aware of what the rest of already know.
Their solution? Market deregulation and smart meters.
In Victoria, we started paying for the fully-paid-for-by-the-government smart meters a couple of years ago, meaning: before we even got the meters, and we are paying twice. We also got meters that aren't smart at all, since there's no ability to see the meter unless you wonder around outside.
The Auditor's report on Victorian smart meters found that, contrary to the claims that ushered in this wonderful technology, there was no benefit, real or imagined, to consumers.
Of course, smart meters do mean that power companies can sack every worker who used to drive around doing the old-fashioned meter read. They're not needed anymore. For this, and for the meter that isn't smart, we pay more.
As for "deregulation": Victoria sold off power to the private sector long ago, and the prices have never stopped rising. Yes, all power companies have to submit price increases to a regulator who approves or denies, rarely the later, but sometimes there is a bit of argy-bargy over just how high the price should go, which offers some sort of break on the private sector.
Imagine, then, with a fully-deregulated private sector, the gloves off, the naked greed running rampant up the polls!
Year on year on year, I've used less and less electricity during each quarter. Yet, my most recent winter quarterly bill was a splutter-worthy $100 more than for the same period last year. That extra was the most recent power increase, approved by the government regulator, on top of every increase during the last five years, and on top of the smart meter charge, of which I've been paying for more than a year and will be paying for years to come (I got my "smart" meter a couple of months ago, coinciding nicely with the whopping latest usage price increase).
Are the people in this Labor government lunatics? Do they understand anything about what is going on in the utilities sector? Have they looked at pricing in the States that have already sold utilities to the private sector? The States that are already rolling-out smart meters? Do they understand power pricing? The margins? Simple economics - supply and demand? Which in the utilities industry means the less the consumer uses, the more they put up the prices so as to maintain their margins? The water industry is exactly the same - the regulator grants increases to price to make up for lost profits when consumers insist on being responsible citizens by curbing their water usage, just as the government insists they do.
Kar-rist! Kar-rist! Kar-rist!
This new big announcement from the Gillard government melts my poor little brain cells.
The Gillard government will unveil an all-out assault on power bills, recommending the deregulation of prices for households and small business and "time of use" pricing to prevent wasteful investments in poles and wires that are used for only a few hours a year.Oh bullshit! Utter, utter bullshit.
The major shake-up which would do away with retail price controls set by state-based regulators and allow energy retailers across the nation to set their own charges will be hammered out by Julia Gillard and state leaders at next month's meeting of the Council of Australian Governments.
It could involve a roll-out of smart meters, which would allow consumers to avoid high tariffs during peak periods such as hot spells in summer.
Releasing the final energy white paper today, Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson will also reject policies of reserving gas for local industry and declare that Australia must cut the costs on resources projects if a $230 billion pipeline of works is to be delivered.
And he will warn that if Australia is to secure the second $230bn pipeline of investment "we must reduce the costs of production in Australia", including cutting red tape and streamlining best-practice environmental approvals for major projects.
He will argue that realising the potential of the future will require "significant levels of investment in domestic infrastructure and further development of our resource base".
The paper will also reveal that Australia's domestic oil refinery capacity will plunge by 28 per cent between this year and 2014 because of the planned closure of Shell's Clyde and Caltex's Kurnell refineries in NSW, and that making greater use of "clean" energy could require more than $200bn in new electricity generation capacity by 2050.
Mr Ferguson will use the launch of the paper to declare that soaring energy prices are hurting households and businesses and are not sustainable, and will urge the states to resist populism and dump price controls set by state-based regulators.
"The willingness of other state governments to take on these hard reforms will be essential," he says in a speech to be delivered today, obtained by The Australian. "It will take political courage where others have failed."
The only thing (not) keeping a check on prices in Victoria is the government regulator. Take away the regulator and it really will be back to candles, kerosine and an esky to keep the milk and butter from going sour.
Labor takes aim at power bills