Thursday, July 8, 2010

Western Australia and Public utilities.

It is a sad reflection on the modern Australian Society that in the State with the strongest economy – Western Australia – there are elderly people, reportedly dying from cold during the current unprecedented spell of cold weather. Certainly there are many people unable to afford their utility bills. Any why is this? – because some years ago, the then government, saw fit to sell its gas and electricity production and supply capabilities to private enterprise to raise money. This in itself is no bad thing. All governments need money to operate but when money is considered pre-eminent and more important than people, we have a real problem. It must be remembered, at all times, that money and commercial enterprise (and governments) are tools for the benefit of Man (as in human beings) and not Man as pieces on some economic game board to be moved at will for the benefit of money, governments and commercial enterprise.

Public utilities are just that – they are essential ‘public utilities’ for the well being of the community as a whole. They supply essentials – water, electricity and gas. Without these modern society as we know it would not exist. The present owners of the utilities have been placed, by successive governments, in a monopolistic situation. They can basically charge what they like and their various stakeholders want to see a return on their investments. So what happens? The obvious – prices go up to meet the expectations of the stakeholders. The corollary is that someone – the government or more likely the various welfare agencies - have to step in and subsidise the poor and disadvantaged who can no longer afford the increasing costs imposed by the utility providers. This means that the government and private enterprise has to step in and provide funds to support these unfortunate people.

There is a certain (I am sure unintentional) irony in this whole process. We have now travelled a full circle to be back where we started from! The State Government, to raise money, sold the utilities to private enterprise – who, to please their stakeholders, increased prices which the poor and disadvantaged cannot now afford - so the State Government will be required to step in and subsidise the low income earners (through the welfare system) to help them pay for the utility services the State Government sold to private enterprise so as to raise money.

Can you see the sense in all this? This is bureaurocracy and capitalism gone mad. Unfortunately Nature did not see fit to always combine intelligence with a compassionate heart.