Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Heat Is On

Phil Heatley found himself in all sorts of trouble this afternoon, unable to answer some quite specific questions.  Lockwood Smith intervened immediately after the first attempt by the Minister to answer the primary question, and after some comparatively kind words about the question being on notice, quite specific and answerable said this:
The Minister’s officials have had a couple of hours to work out the arithmetic, and if they cannot work it out, they should be sacked. The House deserves an answer.
Not much room for interpretation over what the Speaker thinks in that statement.

Unfortunately for the Minister, and for people like me who are interested in the answer, Mr Heatley resorted to the "it's complex" excuse for not providing an answer.  Here's the primary question:
6. Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour) to the Minister of Energy and Resources: Does he agree with Molly Melhuish’s calculation that the amount charged by SOEs for electricity for an average consumer is $265 per annum less than is charged by non-SOE retailers, and if not, what was the weighted average of the annual total retail price charged by SOEs and their subsidiaries to a residential consumer using 8,000 kilowatt hours of electricity compared with the weighted average of the price charged by non-SOE suppliers, according to the most recent data?
I've underlined the bit that Mr Heatley apparently found too difficult to answer.  And here's the thing, with data available it's quite possible, and not that difficult to answer.

So why didn't Mr Heatley answer?  I can think of two reasons.  One, his support staff are incapable, or incompetent.  Possible, but unlikely.  Or two, Mr Heatley knew the answer, but didn't like it and is insufficiently clever to blag his way past the question.

Which leads inexorably to the question of how is it that Mr Heatley manages to hold Mr Key's confidence, and a ministerial warrant?  Send him to the back benches, it's inconceivable that he's the best National have.

The question raised by Clayton Cosgrove is an interesting one, and it cuts to the heart of the privatisation issue.  What is it about state owned power companies that means they charge less for electricity than privately owned ones?  If they are on an equal footing, and since they are both required to provide a return on investment, what's the difference?  Ideology aside, what's the answer?  I'm genuinely interested.

Glenn Frey - Beverley Hills Cop soundtrack, 1985

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