Is Australia Doomed to Live in Both Energy and Internet Poverty?

Australian Politics, Energy, Rundown

With Australians paying the highest electricity prices in the world and our governments preparing for a summer of blackouts, we appear to be a nation living on the verge of energy poverty. The Turnbull Government released their new energy policy last week the National Energy Guarantee which reversed Australia’s energy priorities from renewable to reliable power and pledged to end renewable subsides. Many commentators however doubted whether this would be enough to solve the nation’s energy crisis.

This week we learned that electricity was not the only essential service in our nation that was proving to be unreliable. This week the government funded and operated National Broadband Network was back under scrunity following an ABC Four Corners episode. It revealed that the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman had received 160 per cent increase in NBN complaints over the past year.

Both sides of politics blame each other for the botched roll out with Labor claiming that Malcolm Turnbull when Communications Minister shouldn’t have changed the rollout from fiber to the premises to fiber to the node. Malcolm Turnbull’s response was “no-one would’ve wanted to start from where Labor left us”.

This is true, if Kevin Rudd had not began the NBN project we would not be in a situation where the taxpayers’ have been charged billions of dollars over the past decade. We would also not be in a situation where Australia now has slower internet speeds than Kenya. A NBN tax on Australian internet consumers was also introduced earlier this year to help pay for the cost blowout.

During my recent trip to New Zealand it was easy to notice the faster internet speeds with uploading content and livestreaming. New Zealand’s National Government was smart enough to contract out faster internet rollout to a private company. Who knows what private sector innovation was stifled thanks to the NBN given it is illegal to compete with it.

Now Australia is facing a situation where both electricity and internet services are of almost third world quality. The worst part is you pay for for more unreliable service. Both of these situations are because of government intervention in the market, in the case of electricity it was because our governments thought that it alone could save the planet from climate change. In the case of the internet is because Kevin Rudd wanted to be seen to have a grand vision for Australia and the NBN would a great nation building project.

With this toxic combination it is no wonder the companies have been closing down their Australian operations, we saw the last Holden to be produced in Australia come off the production line last week. Added to this we as both taxpayers and consumers are footing the bill for this government largess and is partly why are currently nearly $500 billion in debt.

Other nations will soon be laughing at the self-sabotage Australia has made to its living standards and quality of life. One wonders what is the next essential service in Australia that is soon to be at risk? Water? Our governments don’t appear capable of solving both these calamities but Australians now look to be suffering the consequences more than ever.