Why politicians should see the ‘bigger picture’

By John Hewson

One of the most difficult aspects of our political system for the average voter to understand and accept is how major issues of longer term national significance are essentially ignored in the day-by-day political contest – simply left to drift!

Indeed, the short-term, opportunistic, populous, mostly negative, daily political game playing, focusing on blame shifting and point scoring, is often counter-productive to the effective handling of these key issues, and to good government.

Yet, these issues which are significantly more important to the longer term future of our nation than the careers of any of those involved in politics today, are being left as an important and constraining legacy for future generations.

Voters can’t understand why the major political parties and players simply can’t ‘work together’ in the longer term national interest.

Energy and climate policy are a clear case in point. The bottom line of what has been a ‘climate war’ now over many years is a blow-out in electricity and gas prices, with no guarantee of future power supply. This comes at a time when the average householder is struggling to meet the costs of living, with their wages flatlining and job insecurity increasing, and many power-dependent industries are struggling to ensure their viability.

The discussion has been riddled with false claims, misrepresentations, accusations, exaggerations, and hypocrisy, compounded by a multiplicity of ‘solutions’ including carbon pricing, more or less coal, more or less gas, more or less renewables, batteries and storage, Snowy Hydro, even ‘shirt-fronting’ power company CEOs and so on.Gas supplies to the domestic market have been restricted, and major private power companies and a state government, operating as both generators and retailers, have been able to exploit the situation by gouging both the wholesale and retail prices.

The result is total confusion and uncertainty, with most consumers convinced they are being ‘ripped off’ because governments have failed to recognise the severity of the problem and deliver a solution.

Tragically, solutions do exist and are there to be embraced, if only our politicians could set their differences aside. The COAG-initiated Finkel Review has set out the key ingredients of a deliverable strategy to facilitate the essential transition to meet our Paris commitments on emissions reductions through to 2030, while working to lower power prices.