Julia Gillard’s plan to cut power prices is to have more blackouts of the kind that kill pensioners.
Yes indeed: instead of dropping the carbon tax that makes pensioners too scared to turn on the power, she wants to slash spending on infrastructure and have more blackouts, especially on hot days:
One quarter of all retail electricity costs – more than $500 a year for a typical family – is spent to meet the costs of peak events that last for less than two days each year in total… It’s like building a ten lane freeway – but with two lanes that are only used or needed for one long weekend.
It’s a very good thing that more Australians can afford air conditioners to cool their families on our hottest days… It’s a very bad thing that the supply side response to this is so deeply costly and inefficient, and it’s a clear argument for reform to go further…
My challenge, to industry, regulators and state governments, is this: your job now is to ensure that you respond to this with efficient investments. Investment which gets the balance right between affordability and reliability….
This is a plan that will kill a few people, in the national interest, of course. From Adelaide’s Advertiser, 2009:
Health Minister John Hill last night told The Advertiser he was concerned there had been 22 sudden deaths in yesterday’s 43.1C heat – the third consecutive day above 40C. Today there have been eleven sudden deaths across metropolitan Adelaide and country SA…
“There is a high probability that a number of the deaths are associated with the hot weather,” he said.”About 14 of (the 22) deaths were elderly….”
Health officials are asking all GPs to contact vulnerable patients to ensure they are coping… Council on the Ageing chief executive John Yates yesterday told the elderly: “If you have airconditioning, use it.
“Many older South Australians were brought up in an era before airconditioning and some of them are reluctant to use it, partly from anxiety about the cost of running their system, given electricity costs have just been increased,” he said. “In the extreme weather conditions we are currently experiencing, it could literally be fatal for older people not to use it.”
In Victoria, 2009:
Victoria’s chief health officer, Dr John Carnie, this week said some 374 Victorians may have been killed by the January heat wave, most of them old…
Just how many died because power blackouts knocked out their airconditioning is not known… Deputy Premier Rob Hulls has urged people to avoid airconditioning…
Trouble is, airconditioning actually saves the lives of the elderly and sick. They are the first to die in extreme temperatures, as we saw as far back as Black Friday in 1939, when 438 people died from heat over just a few days, and despite the much smaller population…
Senior Victorians Minister Lisa Neville now concedes much the same, promising the Brumby Government will next time help councils cope with further heatwaves by “providing a cool place of respite” to older residents.
But in my house, Lisa, a “cool place of respite” is next to our airconditioner. So here’s an idea: how about building a more reliable power supply and making airconditioners cheaper for the poor?
Meanwhile, Gillard offers pensioners advice on how they may cut their bills:
Picture a smart phone app that means you can load the clothes dryer or a dishwasher before you leave home – and then turn it on when a low cost rate becomes available during the day.
Or consider new technology so home air conditioners can switch themselves between high and low power mode, keeping a house cool while limiting use in high-cost periods of peak demand.
In Gillard’s world, pensioners load up smart phone apps all the time, and buy ritzy new air condtioners with new low power mode features. Shops are full of these pensioners, especially the frail ones.
Andrew Bolt’s columns appear in Melbourne’s Herald Sun, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and Adelaide’s Advertiser. He runs the most-read political blog in Australia and hosts Channel 10’s The Bolt Report each Sunday at 10am, and his book Still Not Sorry remains very widely read.