Get ready for the disaster that looms on July 1. Not the carbon tax, necessarily, but the barrage of tabloid media beat-ups that will document — or at least guess — every cent of every price increase on every supermarket shelf and in every bill on the household fridge.

In fact, they won’t even wait for actual increases — there’s plenty of guesstimates to be made. Take electricity prices for example …

That story on April 6 was in response to the ACT electricity price regulator and its draft electricity pricing decision. The nuance of the numbers was lost on the media, as climate change policy expert Andrew Macintosh and The Australia Institute’s Richard Denniss write for Crikey today:

“For reasons known best to themselves, the ACT electricity regulator and the media have focused heavily on the apparently large annual increase rather than the apparently small impact on weekly household budgets, and that is before compensation is provided to most households …

“Using averages brushes over impacts on poorer households; for some, an additional $3.20 per week can cause true hardship. To account for this, these households will receive the most compensation. This is not only fair but it reflects the fact that those who earn the least will find it hardest to cut their bills.”

There’s some firmer numbers out today: the NSW Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, or IPART, has recommended an average price hike of 16% across the state. Journalists have already sheeted blame home to a carbon tax that doesn’t yet exist, will only be responsible for half of the increase, and ignored the generous compensation payouts by the government.

It’s not in the media’s nature to wait and see. But as July 1 approaches, be wary of the dodgy maths employed to predict the future.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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