Energy crisis risk? It’s criminal

Business columnist, Melbourne @BGottliebsen

I have a shock for any politician, public servant or political advisor found by the courts to be misleading the public about the dangers of their power and gas policies — they can be jailed.

Back in 1995 the parliament of the day passed legislation that they hoped would never be necessary against ministers of the crown. I have been alerted that in the 1995 Federal Criminal Code under Section 137.1 in Chapter 7 there is a section entitled ‘Good administration of government’.

We have a situation in Australia where a group of politicians and their advisers are putting at risk the jobs of tens of thousands of Australians and vast losses in the community by their power and gas policies.

But we might be lucky and in the next two or three years the combination of weather and spending money on new measures might save us from blackouts, brownouts and/ or gas shortages.

My information from the best possible sources is that if Victoria’s Hazelwood power station is shut on April 2, there is a 75 per cent chance of blackouts in NSW and Victoria next summer.

South Australia has already had its dose and is trying to do something about it. Such sums are not exact and the politicians and their advisors who forecast that there would be no blackouts have one in four or perhaps one in three chance of being right.

But what ever the odds if the gamble fails and they are wrong almost certainly the courts will be asked to decide whether they have breached the “good administration of government” criminal code.

I can’t prejudge the courts but there appears to be no statute of limitation in the legislation so every statement made by any politician may be available to be examined by the courts to see if it is false or misleading. If we get damaging blackouts or gas shortages then my guess is that any politicians and advisors who are charged will face the next five to 10 years defending themselves in the courts. The government of the day will decide whether they should have legal aid.

This legislation is about promoting public service and political honesty. If Hazelwood is closed the Victorian government needs to tell the people that there is a good chance of blackouts but, (if it’s true), say that they are bringing in the best experts from around the world to lessen the chance. Maybe the Commonwealth should bring in the experts but they too must tell the people the truth.

And the NSW and Victorian governments should prepare their voters for gas shortages possibly this winter because of the run down in the Longford and Iona storages. In the 2018 and 2019 winters shortages are certain unless other actions are taken.

If the politicians and their advisors actually believe the above risk assessments are wrong then let them set out their claims which will be tested by events and, if they mislead, the courts.

But now we know about this legislation what about requiring truth from our politicians and their advisors on other matters. In the last decade misleading voters has become an art form by politicians of all parties and in all jurisdictions. The public no longer trusts them.

It will take only one charge and we will have a new code if honesty among our politicians and their advisors. Have a look at the legislation yourself!


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