Here’s Something Infuriating…

Our lovely local member Rebekha Sharkie asked a question at Question Time yesterday. That’s not the infuriating thing. Enough nice things cannot be said about Rebekha, who lives just a few towns over from me and who attended every single one of the community meetings we had in January about the blackout in December. In fact, those community meetings are where she was “commissioned” to ask this very question.

Here’s her question:

And here’s the PM’s… well, I’m not going to call it an “answer”:

Okay, so

(a) the question wasn’t even about the blackout, let alone the renewable power problem about which the blackout had nothing to do. The one in September, perhaps, but the December one was entirely down to trees (and Stobie poles!) falling on the lines, and repair crews taking up to five days to respond. (Which also meant that the CFS couldn’t clear the trees, which they’re capable of, because they hadn’t been told if there was a current in the lines or not, but that’s another matter). Yes, the PM makes a reasonable point about there maybe being some hypocrisy in drawing increasing non-renewable power from Victoria while saying that we’re entirely “green”, but if he knew even Thing One about either of the blackouts, he would know that wasn’t even relevant.

(b) who cares about what Labour did several years ago? The question is what are you, the current national leader, going to do to make things better now? How are you going to safeguard our telecommunications during bushfire season? Don’t deflect the blame. We’re not looking to place blame. We’re looking to fix it, but apparently you’re not willing to help with that.

(c) the question wasn’t about mobile phone black-spots, although that’s closer than his first reply. The fact is, most of the Hills does have mobile phone access. A little dodgy at times in valleys, but it’s there. Just, you know, not when the power’s been out for several days and the relay towers only have battery back-up for between four and eight hours. Something Rebekha was cut off from saying was that, when the NBN rolls out (and supercedes the current coverage, becoming the only telecommunications network in the area), their back-up lasts for only three hours. What we need is LONGER battery back-up, perhaps even generators on the relay towers, not SHORTER.

(d) it’s not a matter of “the lights going out in Mayo”. As I’ve said, we don’t care if the lights go out. Not in summer, when we have sixteen or more hours of really quite decent light every day. What we do care about is not having any water or sewage. And what we really, really worry about is not having any contact with the outside world at a time of year when a bushfire could run through the area and burn everything to the ground – including us, if we don’t have any way of knowing that it’s there and we have to evacuate.

So, what can I say? Not much more, really, except “poor Rebekha”. I wish there was some way of posting over all the comforting hugs her constituents want to give her right now.

Also… I didn’t mind the PM, inasmuch as I didn’t really think he was either good or bad, just as ineffective as the last dozen we’ve had since I finished primary school. But now… now I really don’t like him.


Preamble (written weeks later):

Has anyone else heard the phrase “first-world problems”? It exists to describe the trivial problems people in the developed world encounter, such as a phone being an older model, or not knowing whether to choose between lamb and beef at a meal. Things like that that don’t even hit the radar of people living in a developing nation, struggling to go to school and eat once a day whilst working a full-time job for $1 a day.

Well, here’s my “first-world problem”, and I don’t think it should be. Because, you know, I do live in the first world. I live in an incredibly rich nation which is at the cutting edge of technology and highly-ranked worldwide in wages and education.

Why, then, is my “first-world problem” something that sounds like it should be part of the life of my friend’s great-aunt living in rural Zimbabwe? Four days or a week without electricity, water, sewage, or telephones sounds like something one should experience under Taliban occupation or Nazi blitz, not in peaceful modern Australia.

Update, 01.01.2017: There are still several hundred houses, primarily in the Adelaide Hills as well as in Onkaparinga, which went into the New Year without power, #90hoursandcounting

Update, 10.01.2017: There are still some towns in the Adelaide Hills which remain without power, #2weeksandcounting, #330hoursandcountingHello! Is there anyone out there?

Hello! Is there anyone out there?

“Where have you been?” You might ask me.

Well, I’ve been right here. Yes, it’s true that I haven’t posted anything in quite a while. Well, I’ve been very busy. But I’m posting something now, because, while I’ve been here, I’ve had no electricity.

For forty-three and a half hours.

That’s right, almost two full days.

And ordinarily I wouldn’t mention it on my blog – after all, I didn’t mention it when we had no electricity for around thirty hours, a few months ago – except that it seems that no-one noticed it this time.

At least, last time, the other states were looking at us and going, “Backward hellhole. Can’t even get electricity. The scandal!”

This time, the three suburbs of Adelaide that still had power had no idea that the rest of the state was without. We know this, because after the food in the house went off, we went and ate out, and no-one we mentioned it to had any idea. And also because we listened to a couple of radio newses, and it wasn’t mentioned there at all, either.

So I feel like I should let someone know. Or everyone. Or something.

Because, forty-four hours. No electricity. In the middle of summer.

At least when it happened in winter, it was cold enough that the food didn’t go off.

And yes, it was cool, only around thirty degrees, but that’s twenty-five degrees too high for the fridge (we lost everything, included the lamb and duck carcasses from Christmas which were due to be turned into stock yesterday), much too high for the freezer (we lost a lot), and eight degrees too low for the incubator (they’re ALL DEAD).

It’s not that we can’t live without electricity. I mean, people did it for thousands of years. Some people still do it. But, you know, with a few days’ warning, so we can set up a Coolgardie for the food, and make sure we have gas for the camping stove…

… And to fill up the bath and every other available container with water.

Because, that’s right. We’re on rain water, with an electric pump. If we have no electricity, we have no water. No taps. No showers. Nothing.

No telephones. No way of contacting anyone.

So that’s where I’ve been.

That’s where most of South Australia’s been for the last two days.

And no-one knows about it.