Energex policy that will really shih tzu
LIKE numerous other dog owners, I've recently had a run-in with Energex's new "safe entry" rules that were introduced in January, writes Steven Wardill.
Like numerous other dog owners, I've recently had a run-in with Energex's new "safe entry" rules which the behemoth electricity distributor introduced in January.
According to this edict, Energex's contractors will no longer read my electricity meter unless Harry is suitably restrained with a rope or chain.
Instead, the company will simply just estimate our household's electricity consumption and our energy retailer will provide us with a bill.
Call me a cynic but I find it somewhat incongruous that a company whose only responsibility is to supply and charge for electricity can simply resort to guesswork for properties it no longer likes to enter.
Let me rewind here a little and explain that my contact with Energex had nothing to do with our fluffy white hair ball bailing up, biting or even barking at someone trying to read our electricity meter.
In fact, the only aggression Harry has ever shown is when he used to vigorously hump his dog bed.
Yet Energex's call centre staffer was quick to inform me when I contacted them on another matter that their contractors would no longer enter my property unless Harry was restrained despite the dozen years prior when they did precisely that without issue.
Worse still, the company won't provide a date in advance when the meter reader will want to access my backyard.
All they offer is a five-day window when the reading will occur.
What a joke.
Surely, it's inhumane to leave a dog tied up for days on end waiting for someone to come around and read an electricity meter, particularly during hot Queensland summers?
The RSPCA certainly thinks so with spokesman Michael Beatty describing Energex and Ergon Energy's safe entry policy as "overkill".
Yet the State Government-owned companies ploughed ahead anyway.
According to the rules, they won't even let owners who are at home hold their animals when they enter.
Energex's website states "if you offer to hold a dog by hand i.e. via a collar, holding part of the dog's body, or having the dog in your arms, this is not adequate. We will consider the premises unsafe to enter if you offer to do this."
It also appears that the company isn't restricting its policy to canines. In one recent case, an Energex contractor wouldn't read a meter because the owner's chicken wasn't restrained.
And a friend reckons his sister had a similar problem after the company complained she had "wildlife" in her yard. She owns three cats.
The Energex call centre reckons I could just do what some other households are doing and read my own meter.
But that's a bit bloody rich given they won't remove the daily charge for meter reading that appears on my and everyone else's electricity bills.
The other option I was offered was to install a smart meter so my household's usage can be read remotely.
But this costs hundreds of dollars and still wouldn't involve meter reading charges being removed and all because Energex wants to avoid contact with a fluffy white dog who has never been an issue.
Don't get me wrong, I think the energy companies have every right not to require their contractors to enter properties where there's a dog, chicken, cat, goat or wildlife of whatever description with a history of aggression.
The safe entry policy was introduced after Energex and Ergon staff recorded 71 injuries from dog bites and 199 other incidents and close calls between July 2017 and October last year.
And some of these incidents were terrible with one meter reader hospitalised when a dog bit her on the back of her head.
But surely there's some scope for flexibility and common sense in how this policy is applied rather instituting a blanket ban.
If there's a history of aggression then pet owners should be required to report their own usage or pay for a smart meter to be installed. However, requiring dogs (and possibly chickens) to be restrained for five days so a meter reader can rock up at some point is unfair on owners and on animals.
Surely this reality dawned on someone? Surely they realised that charging households to read meters but not actually reading the meters was going to be an issue for customers?
There must be thousands of Queensland households who are now getting electricity bills that bear no resemblance to their consumption simply because they've got a dog.
Contractors should not be required to play chicken with, well, chickens, but energy companies have a responsibility to do their job and not to apply a policy to a half-breed shih tzu who once had an unfortunate humping habit.
What next? Contractors not entering properties where pet birds have been taught to chirp swear words? Some might consider Harry a mutt but it's this policy which is the real mongrel.
TOUGH CALL FOR MAYOR
LORD Mayor Adrian Schrinner will soon make a call on whether electric scooters stay on Brisbane's streets.
If exhaustive research undertaken for e-scooter company Lime is any guide, the trendy new travel option has had an enormously positive impact and should be allowed to continue.
The research undertaken in mid-May shows that traffic congestion (33 per cent) and public transport costs (18 per cent) are the biggest gripes among Brisbane residents.
Yet the scooters are tackling both with riders indicating in the research that their last trip meant they didn't take public transport (25 per cent), hail a taxi or Uber (23 per cent) or use their car (23 per cent).
With Lime chalking up more than 1.2 million rides since it began operating in November, that equates to more than 500,000 less vehicle journeys on Brisbane streets.
Most riders are using them to travel to work (32 per cent), get to the shops (19 per cent) and trek to train stations and bus stops (18 per cent).
And despite the commotion and scaremongering among some about safety, the scooters are viewed positively among every age group from 18 years and up. Only those older than 60 viewed the scooters negatively.
Users were obviously the most enthusiastic but even those who had never ridden a scooter thought they were a positive for the city and should be allowed to continue. However, the research also shows Lime has some work to do.
Only 49 per cent of residents thought Lime had a track record of working with governments on safety despite the campaign around the city urging users to wear helmets.
According to some sources, the Brisbane City Council will make a decision "within weeks" on whether to allow the scooters to continue and which two companies should be given the contract.
Despite the naysayers, it appears the people have spoken already.
WATCHING THE WATCHERS
BURIED in Budget papers was a rather intriguing initiative.
Treasury is setting up a new board which will be charged with "overseeing the economic and financial risks to the state's balance sheet".
Call me a sceptic, but isn't that just another case of unnecessary outsourcing, given keeping a watchful eye on the dollars coming in and out is actually Treasury's primary function?
It will be interesting to see who Labor picks to be on this board.
Treasurer Jackie Trad's office assures us that the board is all above board and similar is done in other states.
BUDGET PITCH DRAWS A BLANK
AND finally on Budget, Trad hit the corporate luncheon set during the week to sell her fiscal blueprint.
The Treasurer pulled a big crowd for the annual Centre for Economic Development gig with around 800 gathering to hear her speak.
Trad was at her effusive best, telling the audience about how Labor was steering Queensland towards an economic nirvana.
However a rather uncomfortable silence ensued when the forum turned to questions from the audience and no one had anything to ask.
Was it a bad omen for the Treasurer or a perfect pitch? I'll let others decide.
WEEK THAT WAS
Good week: Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch got a few things off her chest about the Adani Carmichael mine approval while in Cairns.
Bad week: Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch inadvertently was pictured next to an activist who pulled up her top to reveal a #StopAdani logo printed on her T-shirt.
Quote of the week: "I had to obey the law" - Enoch really gets behind the decree that Labor MPs must now feign support forAdani after her department approved the mine's final management plan.