Williams' Word with Ray Williams | September 11

NO GREEN IN THE LANDSCAPE

Where are the Greens now that we need them?

The record floods and terrible weather in the Northern Hemisphere, including extensive flooding rains in America and Asia plus bushfires in Canada and killer cyclones, would surely indicate that the scientists are right and global warming is already upon us.

Of course you wouldn’t know that if you depended on some of our shock jocks and some popular newspapers – whose journalists must have been told by their American master that global warming and damage to the Great Barrier Reef are never to be mentioned – but those of us who believe the scientists would really like our decision makers to simply accept those scientific findings. And also accept that an early election being called is a real possibility. 

If the Greens stopped their squabbling and concentrated on the future of the planet we could ask them to carry out a survey of all current MPs (and those aspiring to join their ranks) to assess their response to climate change. That survey could then be published for the benefit of the voters who are concerned about the future and our future generations. Those named could correct the estimate on their climate ratings if they wished to do so but would have to explain what actions they would promote.

The results could be published before the next election as a guide for the voters. It would also indicate those who should take the blame in the future if our climate goes the way the scientists are predicting. It should be a worthy campaign for the Greens.

FOREIGN TAKEOVERS OF THE MEDIA?

The leader of the opposition Bill Shorten says he would not stand in the way of a takeover of the Ten TV network by the US giant CBS but it does leave some worrying questions. For instance, when Rupert Murdoch took over extensive media outlets in the United States he had to adopt American citizenship.

It does seem strange that our laws prohibit anyone with even remote loyalties to another country from standing for parliament but we allow a foreign corporation to take control of an Australia-wide TV network. 

There is some difference, however, between control of newspapers and the electronic media of radio and TV stations. They are required, by the licences from the Federal Government, to provide fair and balanced news and current affairs programs. Newspapers are not – and Australia has, sadly, some of the most blatantly biased one-sided newspapers in the world.

The government laws on licences for the electronic media are vital if we are to make sure we are able to receive reasonably balanced news reporting. Well balanced media is vital for any really democratic country. 

BLAME PRIVATISATION

If you are looking for someone or something to blame for the cost of energy, look no further than incompetent politicians, privatisation and lack of planning – but it all centres on privatisation.

Traditionally, in Australia at least, it has been the task of our elected representatives (from local councils to state and federal parliaments) to undertake difficult and costly developments for the sake of the people, such as bridges, big dams, roads, water supplies and electricity services, all financed by the people. Most of these were created in the time when Australia had ‘amateur’ politicians who had a vision for the future, as opposed to our present ‘professionals’ who seek election because it is a well-paid job that gives them great powers. (This might seem to be cynical but it is the view of many or the older voters.)

Initially electricity generation was in the hands of local councils. Goulburn City, for example, had its first electric street lights back in 1914 after many debates by the then council.

Later, because of the increasing importance of electricity, the state created county councils consisting of representatives of groups of councils such as the Southern Tablelands County Council which was responsible for providing electricity to a much larger area.

Then the state governments took over and they soon found that, instead of having to finance new generating systems, they could privatise a system that was owned by the people and sell it to profit-making private enterprise, thus giving themselves funds for other (and often far less important) works.

That was it. They didn’t even put conditions into the sales documents that insisted the buyers keep the generating systems in working order and to guarantee a supply of energy in the longer term. The buyers simply pocketed the profits and let the systems run down.

It consolidates the theory that the ordinary citizens take the big risks in creating infrastructure and, through bad decision making, the investors take the profits.

At the same time, we elected some decision makers who refused to accept the facts of science and believed that making money through selling coal was more important than the future of our planet.

So, who should we blame for the high prices of power? 

HOW MANY IS TOO MANY?

Dick Smith has met some strong opposition over his call for Australia to severely reduce our rate of immigration. The main critics to his call to reduce the rate of immigration are politicians who argue that increased population creates jobs and boosts the economy. That is true – but where does it end?

It’s not that the immigrants are farmers or inventors or experts in mass production. It seems they all plan to live in Sydney or Melbourne building homes for the next lot of immigrants. Indeed the increasing population is the reason we have housing problems and the shortage of homes leads to astronomically high house prices, which makes Australian manufacturing uncompetitive because the ordinary worker needs a really big pay packet just for somewhere to live.

Very simply, despite our steadily increasing population – probably because of it – Australia can no longer compete in the world market because our production costs are so high. Without reducing our immigration and tightening our belts a little can we expect to compete with the rest of the world?

Surviving on immigration is just a short term solution. Dick Smith is probably right – but our politicians don’t seem to be interested in long-term thinking.

  • Ray Williams has been a Post columnist since retiring from the newsroom in 1993.
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