“So you reckon you’re paying too much for electricity. What if I told you that at the latest official count you spent no more on it than you would have in 1984?”
~ Peter Martin, economics editor of The Age

Again and again, we see politicians, candidates and media editors raising the topic of electricity prices, ‘baseload power’, rates and parking fees – used as ammunition in an aggressive mud-fight.

I would like to shift that discussion. I’d suggest that our time and energy could be better spent on topics that really matter:

How we create new jobs which are meaningful, engaging and sustainable.

How we provide the best education and training, which can assist us with improving the quality of our lives and prepare us for the future.

How we engage our entire community in the necessary journey towards zero carbon, zero waste and putting an end to our bad habits of polluting.

How we create a thriving city-region where crime rates and suicide rates are decreasing as a result of it.

Rates, roads and CCTV cameras
A Council should be about rates, roads and rubbish and nothing else, I hear people say. So let’s talk about those three things.

• Rates: We are usually happy to pay for services that we appreciate and that add genuine quality to our lives. When people are unhappy with paying rates to Council, my claim is that this has very little to do with the level of the rates. It has to do with the way things work in Council and the quality of the services that are provided. If we have a Council that is doing great work and showing great results, residents will usually be happily paying their rates. So the real issue when we talk about rates is not actually the rates, but Council and its relationship with its rate-payers.

• Roads: We need safe roads for everyone. That includes pedestrians and cyclists. To begin with: We need zebra crossings – similar to those seen at the hospitals and at the waterfront – everywhere in town. And we need a basic network of roads that are safe to ride a bike along.

• Rubbish: We need much better recycling in this city. Why doesn’t Council provide recycling services for small businesses in the CBD, for instance?

• Speaking of safety: The election promise that CCTV cameras and more police is the way to solve problems with theft and crime is wishful thinking. CCTV cameras may move the problem to somewhere else, but it doesn’t solve any problems for those people who commit the crimes. All research into these matters show that what we need is a much deeper shift in how we talk, work and live together in our local communities.

Stuff that really matters
Optimism and entrepreneurship, better health, how we eat, exercise and relate to one another – it is all connected.

Denmark has some of the highest electricity prices in the world, yet the Danes again and again come out in the UN Happiness Report as being one of the happiest people on the planet. Take that as a hint that there is more to life than the price of electricity – or parking fees, for that matter.

In Copenhagen parking fees are high, yet for a number of years the city has ranked high in international surveys for its quality of life.

In this Geelong Council election, with the ‘Clever and Creative Future’ vision paper put right in front us, it is time to raise the bar and talk about the kind of stuff that really matters and makes a difference in our lives.

Why not talk energy efficiency?
The Age’s economics editor asks: “Why the anguish about electricity?”. I would like to pose that same question to my fellow candidates, every time the topic is raised.

If we have to talk electricity, it would make a lot more sense to be talking about how much money we can save on our bills, even when the price per kilowatt is going up. Let me give you a quick example from the business world:

When the hair salon Suki Hairdressing joined Sustainable Salons Australia in 2015, the annual electricity costs for their business were around $20,000, equivalent to approximately 75 tonnes of CO2-equivalent per annum. They succeeded in reducing Suki Hairdressing’s electricity consumption by 30 per cent, which means that in just those two years since they started, they have saved around $13,000. And they have spared the atmosphere from around 50 tonnes of climate-disruptive carbon.

Put solar on the roof, and you will be able to save even more.

If you are annoyed with your electricity bills, maybe its time for you to start learning about the new possibilities for saving money by becoming energy efficient and generating your own electricity with a solar system?

Peter Martin writes:

“Why the anguish about electricity? Why is the prime minister concerned that the bills could bring him down? It could be because, unlike communications bills, we can’t see what we are getting for electricity bills.” (…) “Until recently we didn’t much seem to mind. For more than a century through two World Wars and the Great Depression we consumed more of it each year than the year before. Then from 2010 (well before the introduction of the carbon price) the price became suddenly visible, and for the first time in living memory we cut back. Tony Abbott had sounded the alarm about a “great big new tax on everything”. The Sunday roast was going to cost $100, Whyalla was going to be wiped out. Politics became about electricity prices. And it didn’t stop.”

» The Age – 16 September 2017:
Household expenditure survey. Get real. Electricity isn’t that expensive

What makes a good life

Lessons from the longest study on happiness

» www.ted.com

» Blogpost by Mik Aidt – 22 February 2017:
Restore a safe climate? First we must restore trust

» Facebook post – 17 September 2017:

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