I had this discussion in another thread but I thought it was valuable to bust a few misconceptions about what products and services should be considered ‘Essential’ in Australia (and therefore regulated as such). I volunteered at a low cost op shop and food bank for about a year, and here’s the big things people needed to have:
Access to Cash at a Reasonable Cost/Convenience
Both banks and the government are slowly moving away from cash, closing ATMs and branches and withdrawing post office services. These are still essential for many people. The op shop I volunteered at sold things as cheap as possible, and therefore didn’t have the facilities or money for card services. Additionally many market places which sell fresh produce below supermarket prices only accept cash. We’re not ready to go cashless yet.
Internet, and a Device to Access It
The vast majority of services rely on the internet these days, including government services. Here are a few:
- Employment services and job searching
- Communication, particularly emails and social media. Accessing almost anything requires email these days, and many people no longer use phone or print services to communicate. Some services even ditch email in favour of social media, not to mention it’s unreasonable to expect anyone to be forcibly cut out of communication with their friends/family
- Government Services including Centrelink, pensions and medical services
- Accessing finances such as bank accounts when ATMs aren’t always easy to reach. Especially regarding budgeting and seeing when debits have occurred.
- Accessing basic news such as weather forecasts and safety alerts (especially for rural areas prone to bushfires or extreme weather)
- Finding accommodation if you’ve just been made homeless, especially since I’ve seen cases of this happening literally within the space of a few days
This is especially a challenge for people who don’t live in big cities or have accessibility/mobility issues which make it hard/impossible to get around
Transport and Associated Services
Few people would deny a car can be essential, but we rarely apply the same scrutiny to other automotive services. Once again this disproportionately affects people in rural areas where it may be 100km between petrol stations, and even more between mechanics. This creates effective monopolies on an essential service, and needs to be addressed as such.
If anyone has any more suggestions or questions please let me know your thoughts. In 2019 I think we need to really look at expanding our definition of an essential and putting them under scrutiny as such.