Thursday, 13th December, 2018
By Craig Brealey
State Government rushes to sell network
The NSW Government was in such a rush to sell the state’s electricity network that it sold it to the first bidder for less than it was worth, the Opposition said yesterday.
The NSW Auditor General reported this week that the government failed to set a reserve price and disclosed too early what it was prepared to accept.
The Coalition government sold 50.4 per cent of the Ausgrid network for $16 billion in 2016 and pledged to spend 30 per cent of the profits on infrastructure in country NSW.
But the Auditor-General revealed earlier this year that only 17 per cent had been spent to date, and Labor Leader Michael Daley said this meant the bush had been shortchanged by about $700 million.
“All the Liberal-Nationals are interesting is getting the deal done, getting the money in the bank,” Mr Daley said. “They never think about what it means for the ordinary person.”
Mr Daley said yesterday that Premier Gladys Berejiklian had to explain her role in the Ausgrid sale because she was the Treasurer at the time.
“Did Ms Berejiklian instruct the then Treasury Secretary to undertake unauthorised and undocumented negotiations to sell Ausgrid in contravention of ICAC guidelines? If not then who did?,” he asked.
“Why did the Treasury Secretary tell the potential buyers the amount the Government would accept for the sale before negotiations began?
“How much did that disclosure cost the people of NSW?”
This most recent revelation of the “botched” privatisation of public assets should not be forgotten as NSW heads to an election in March, according to the Public Service Association.
The General Secretary of the PSA, Stewart Little, was in Broken Hill this week for a community forum about jobs lost in the public service and yesterday he said the past was catching up with the government.
“The press is now reporting what we’ve been saying since March 2011; the Coalition’s sell-off agenda is a misguided disaster that has helped no-one but the Liberal Party’s mates at the big end of town,” Mr Little said.
“Revelations about the botched privatisations of the Port of Newcastle and Ausgrid are just the latest in a litany of expensive mistakes that will plague the people of the state for years to come.”
Mr Little said NSW was also the only state in Australia that did not have a government-run safety net for people with disability, yet it was pouring money into rebuilding football stadiums in Sydney.
The state’s land titles service was sold for much less than its was worth, he said, and now home buyers were paying the price in higher charges.
“We have seen TAFE slowly dismantled in favour of privately-run colleges that end up in the news for all the wrong reasons,” said Mr Little.
“National Parks are now understaffed, increasing the risk of bushfire risks and uncontrolled weed and feral animal outbreaks.”
Mr Little said the government did not deserve another term in office.
“In 100 days, we have the chance to change the government and help build NSW back.”