Of course I am talking about the (unarguably tragic) death of Folole Muliaga.

The hyperbole surrounding this situation is amazing, with  Mercury energy and it’s contractor being called murderers and calls for knee jerk changes to avoid situations like this in the future.

DPF has, as usual, a great analysis of this situation over on his blog. But from my own perspective;

1) We don’t know the cause of death (and as a qualified paramedic it would surprise me if the removal of the oxygen backup machine caused sufficient damage to lead to death), finding the cause is the job of the coroner, not the media

2) The family were in fact in arrears on their power bill

3) It would appear that Mercury energy fulfilled their own process for advising the family of impending termination of supply

4) In this country there are a plethora of community groups who would help in this sort of situation – it appears none were informed of what was occurring

In any case, until the police and coroner have done their work, Mercury and the contractor have a right to due process and we should avoid making hasty, and uninformed, judgements.

The right wing amongst us would say that Mercury energy is a business and as such has no place subsidising the electricity supply of those unable or unwilling to pay. Perhaps a little too Adam Smith for modern society but some of the hyperbole surrounding this debate is a little too Karl Marx for modern society as well.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

1 Comment
  • I agree that the media blows most stories out of proportion but that’s ultimately a function of an opinionated and judgmental society and a reactive and controlling government.

    But i think this case asks bigger questions namely the right to have power conveyed to one’s house and only to be disconnected for flagrant unwillingness to pay.

    The media have milked this for all its worth and that is worth a discussion in itself but an overdue bill of less than $200 is no grounds for disconnection.

    I work with people in debt and i’ve never seen anything like that before. But i do see people struggling to get by and power is one of those basic necessities of life.

    Whilst i don’t want to prejudge this case it sounds like a very unreasonable disconnection at best.

    I would also add that most shareholders of any company wouldn’t approve of this type of action. As you note there are many agencies that can help people out when they get into this position and it’s usually just a case of not enough income coming in and cashflow available to pay.

    As a footnote i would suggest reading Adam Smith’s “Theory of Moral Sentiments”. For too long he has been trotted out as the founder of right wing economic thought when he was really the rather of modern economic thought itself at a time when the field was very much in its infancy.

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