This has evolved into an ideological to and fro. First it is a given we have a small market distributed over a wide area. Historically government has run major infrastructure as a service (for better or worse but took responsibility) and treated all business with a wink and nod and as hands off as they could.
In recent times it became fashionable to follow the US in privatising everything they could as fast as they could, absolving themselves of responsibility to the Nth degree possible and still with that wink and nod oversight.
So what if private enterprise cannot ‘compete’ with the cost of government bonds? It is supposed to be a free market and they are free to complete with each other as well s with government. But they want special treatment to handicap governmental entities so they can compete with that wink and nod that delivers high profits and often ridiculous contemptible ‘attitude’ and so-called ‘service’.
Government’s response? It varies from nothing to see to give it time to OMG how do we address or sweep away this mess we made?
In the case of a national electricity grid everyone is absolutely on that decisions should be made with the public interest as the priority, but that is where the ideological inclined vary. On the extremes one side espouses that ‘gold plated’ (over engineered) grid of yesteryear at whatever cost, and the other extreme espouses allowing private enterprise to solve the problem however they want with wink and nod oversight because it delivers profits and thus dividends to investors as well as making investment in the grid as efficient (eg as minimal) as possible.
I trust I have summarised the sides as well as put in my own postscript. I am not on the side of privatising infrastructure, especially on a continent like ours where there are 3 worlds to serve, metro, regional, and bush. Regardless of who one thinks should pay premiums for living in regions or the bush they are there to be dealt with.
Problem 1 is the defensive nature of government wishing to protect businesses operating under the wink nod protocols. The banks (and hopefully soon the electricity retailers) are being exposed for how they operate, but will that really change their long time behaviour beyond the specifics they are called out for? I suggest not.
Problem 2 is the self serving nature of our governments from top to bottom, left to right, that seem to lack internal expertise and refuse non-partisan expertise that can withstand scrutiny to defend recommendations.
Problem 3 is us. We elect governments and must do so as a basket of policies. We often do not hold pollies to task for records of outright lies, or outright incompetence, or outright self serving activities. About 78% of the electorate votes for ideology (eg welded on to a party) regardless of how they perform or not perform when in government. That leaves a small number to change government, many of thoser being quite ignorant and detached from public affairs. Here we are.