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Power sell out: ALP

Thursday, 31st May, 2012

O’Farrell to privatise power generators

By Darrin Manuel

The privatisation of the State’s power generators could pave the way for energy industry sell-offs, according to local Labor branch President, Darriea Turley.

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell announced yesterday that the sale of the electricity generators would go ahead after he gained support for the legislation from Shooters party MPs on Tuesday.

In exchange for the Shooters’ support, Mr O’Farrell granted licensed shooters access to 79 of the State’s national parks.

Mr O’Farrell said the privatisation would provide $3 billion to spend on infrastructure and save $850 million in operational costs and a further $6 billion that would be required to meet future generation needs.

But the local Labor branch was unswayed by O’Farrell’s spruiking of the sell-off and described the deal as the latest in a long list of broken promises.

“He gave a complete promise that this was something he wouldn’t do ... it was a promise he made in order to get elected,” said Ms Turley.

“There were five conditions set down by the coalition in 2008 in regards to the privatisation of energy, and the second one was that there would be the completion, release and adoption of a rural community impact statement.

“So where is this statement? Why hasn’t it been released for debate?”

Opposition leader John Robertson predicted that the power sale would see electricity bills soar to new highs, citing South Australia’s 30 per cent rise in power costs following electricity privatisation there.

“On 28 January last year Barry O’Farrell promised to keep the State’s electricity generators in public hands. Today we are set to see the ultimate betrayal by the Premier,” said Mr Robertson.

“As we approach winter, families across the State are already having difficulty meeting the rising costs of heating their homes and Barry O’Farrell’s broken promise on electricity privatisation will only make things worse.  

Shadow Energy Minister Luke Foley said the decision would leave thousands of workers with “an axe hanging over their head”, a sentiment that was echoed by the Electrical Trades Union.

“Barry O’Farrell has today ignored the wishes of millions of people across NSW who believe electricity is an essential service that should remain in public ownership,” said ETU Secretary, Steve Butler.

“When the Kennett Government sold power stations in Victoria places like the Latrobe Valley were devastated by massive job losses and a downturn in that local economy. 

“The people of NSW must remember this act of betrayal at the next election and send a clear message to the Premier and his National Party colleagues that selling off essential services like electricity and water is simply unacceptable.” Mr Butler said. 

The privatisation of the power generators comes on the back of Mr O’Farrell’s confirmation in March that electricity distributors Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, and Essential Energy - which services Broken Hill - would be merged.

The new company, which is yet to be named, will be worth up to $30 billion and will become the largest electricity business in Australia.

Although Mr O’Farrell has ruled out the sale of “poles and wires” during his current term, industry analysts agreed the merger of the three distributors into a single company would allow for smooth privatisation in future.

Ms Turley such a sell off was a genuine possibility given the Premier’s readiness to break promises.

The privatisation of the amalgamated body would almost certainly mean job losses in Broken Hill, and Ms Turley called on local MP John Williams to ensure the sale does not happen.

“There would be a loss of jobs, we’d lose our skill base, and our services would be depleted,” she said.

“Look at what happened in Victoria after privatisation - their services were depleted and when people got disconnected in a storm they would have to wait up to 24 hours just to be reconnected.

“We need John Williams to guarantee that they won’t be sold and say that we want to see some genuine advocacy for our community.

“Is he an advocate for the local community or the O’Farrell government? He needs to be held accountable for looking after us.

“The people of Broken Hill voted him in. He should look after the voters or step aside for someone who will.”

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