Despite disconnecting the power of the Muliaga family and killing wife and mother Folole Muliaga, Mercury Energy recommenced the whole sordid basis of disconnecting people's power again today.

Despite Mrs's Muliaga's death, nothing substantial has changed.

The Labour Government has refused to intervene in any meaningful way, instead introducing some 'guidelines' that power companies will have to adhere to before cutting people's power off.

But, as of today, people are still being disconnected.

Meanwhile at Mercury Energy no-one has been held accountable for Ms Muliaga's death. In particular CEO Doug Heffernan, a man who played an influential role in splitting ECNZ into threee competing state enterprises, remains in the job.

He was part of the transition team that oversaw the restructuring of the electricity industry.

In a 7 April 1998 press release, Treasurer Winston Peters, Minister of Finance Bill Birch, Minister of Energy Max Bradford and Minister for State Owned Enterprises Tony Ryall commented;

"The new companies will make the wholesale electricity market in New Zealand highly competitive, and should lead to lower prices,"

Brendan Sheehan, a spokesperson for the Muliaga family, has been less than impressed with Heffernan's performance stating on several occasion's that Heffernan plays fast and loose with the facts

Heffernan, the chief executive of Might River Power, the state-owned enterprise which owns Mercury Energy, said at the time that 'they deeply regretted the death of Mrs Muliaga but they had done nothing wrong.'

Hefferman is a believer in electricity liberalisation. He thinks that electricity is a business and should be left to the private sector.

The argument from Heffernan and others of his ilk, was that liberalising electricity would foster competition and this in turn would improve efficiency and service, innovation and lower prices.

It has proven to be an empty promise - electricity prices for New Zealand consumers have skyrocketed.

Instead, liberalisation has seen the goal of a reliable, affordable, universal electricity service replaced by the goals of efficiency, competition and "consumer choice". Even where electricity companies have remained government-owned, they have been turned into commercial organisations oriented towards maximising returns rather than providing an essential service in the public interest.

In an often intemperate telephone conversation with this writer, Meridian Energy spokesperson Alan Seay flatly reflected the argument that supplying electricity was a public or social service. According to Seay, electricity is a business - and that's it. When I continued to challenge him on this, he hung up on me. Interestingly, Seay has never made such outlandish statements in the public arena.

Unfortunately we have a government that steadfastly refuses to intervene and has surrendered the country's electricity supply to free market forces and neo-liberal ideologues like Heffernan and Seay.

But electricity supply is not something that can be properly managed by market forces. It is a basic necessity for people's welfare and it needs to be brought under the control of a government that puts people's interests ahead of the narrow commercial interests represented by people like Doug Heffernan.

Simply sending people off to social agencies or offering 'installment' plans to pay the ever-increasing power bills is no solution at all.


Post a Comment

Comments are moderated.