All posts by Eloise Shepherd

Rising gas prices will hurt, but government must hold the line against protection

Huge changes in Australia’s gas market will push up the average household bill in Melbourne by more than $300 a year, and in Sydney and Adelaide by more than $100 a year, according to a new Grattan Institute report.

Electricity and gas prices for Australian households have already increased in real terms by 61 and 36 per cent respectively over the past five years.

However, the report finds that most households are unlikely to switch from gas to electricity appliances because they still prefer gas, or they aren’t able to justify the immediate cost of switching or they are just confused by the competing choices.

Gas at the crossroads: Australia’s hard choice shows that gas price increases will put severe pressure on some manufacturing industries, including food processing, paper and packaging, explosives and fertilisers.

Gas price increases are also likely to price gas-fired power out of the electricity market, except to meet short-term peaks in demand.

This will lead to more coal being used for electricity generation, with a damaging effect on the climate and Australia’s hopes of meeting its 2020 emissions reduction target.

The emergence of an Australian gas export industry projected to be worth $60 billion a year by 2018 is driving the latest price increases, since domestic consumers will have to pay gas suppliers the same high price that suppliers can fetch on the global market.

But Grattan Energy Program Director Tony Wood says that despite the increases, the emerging export industry will deliver overwhelmingly positive economic benefits for Australia.

“Governments are already coming under pressure to protect Australian industry and consumers from the price rises. They should resist it,” Mr Wood says.

“Reserving or subsidising gas for domestic use will add more costs than benefits and do nothing to increase supply. And in the long run, protection harms everyone.”

It urges government to remove the remaining barriers to a well-functioning market to ensure the nation gets proper value from its gas exports.

“A massive export industry is rising on our northern shores. All Australians have the right to share in its bounty,” Mr Wood says.

Read the report

For further enquiries:
Tony Wood, Energy Program Director
T. 03 8344 3637 E. tony.wood@grattan.edu.au

New attitudes and policies needed to change the Australian way of death

Seventy per cent of Australians want to die at home, yet only 14 per cent do so, according to a new Grattan Institute report showing that dying in Australia is more institutionalised than in most countries in the world.

Dying Well finds that despite their wishes, about half of Australians die in hospital and a third in residential care.

Medical and community attitudes plus a lack of funds for formal, home-based care mean that Australians die at home at half the rate that people do in New Zealand, the United States, Ireland and France, among other countries.

The report urges policy and attitudinal change to enable more people to die comfortably at home and in home-like environments, surrounded by family, friends and effective services.

“More than at any time in history, most people die when they are old, and are more likely than past generations to know when in the near future they are going to die,” says report co-author, Professor Hal Swerissen.

“That gives us a great opportunity to help people plan to die well – but we’re not taking it.”

Dying Well finds that because most people do not speak up about the way they would like to die, they often experience a disconnected, confusing and distressing array of services, interventions and relationships with health professionals.

The report recommends more public discussion, including an education campaign, about the limits of health care as death approaches and the need to focus on end-of-life care.

It also proposes the widespread adoption of advance care plans that ensure people’s desires for the end of life are met.

Finally, it recommends greater investment in community-based care to enable services for those dying of chronic illness to shift their focus from cures and institutional care to supporting people’s wishes to die at home.

Doubling the number of people who die at home will cost $237 million a year, but about the same amount of institutional care funds could be released to pay for it.

“The baby boomers are growing old and in the next 25 years the number of Australians who die each year will double,” Professor Swerissen says.

“We need the courage to promote a national discussion about a subject that we might dislike but cannot avoid.”

Read the report

Further enquiries: Hal Swerissen
M. +61 (0) 418509062
E. hal.swerissen@grattaninstitute.edu.au