'Don't privatise electricity'
By Alex Bainbridge
NEWCASTLE — One hundred people heard Victorian Trades Hall Council secretary Leigh Hubbard address an open meeting of the Newcastle Trades Hall on July 24. He argued that the privatisation of NSW electricity services should be resisted, based on the negative privatisation experience in Victoria.
Hubbard said that electricity privatisation was a step backwards for all electricity consumers except large corporations.
In Victoria, the quality of household supply has decreased, people are paying more, and necessary maintenance is not being done, leading to frequent brownouts or blackouts. As well, the number of electricity workers has been massively reduced, and those remaining are forced to work in unsafe conditions.
Having advised people that they should fight the NSW privatisation, Hubbard commented that the Victorian anti-privatisation campaign (Public First) had been powerless in the face of the Kennett offensive. He did not comment on how a potentially strong industrial and community campaign was demobilised by the ALP-dominated trade unions and Trades Hall in the first years of the Kennett government.
Ironically, the same meeting featured the launch of a new Trades Hall financial services scheme, through which union members will be able to get cheap mortgage rates. The scheme was presented as a way to promote unionism in the 1990s — an idea endorsed by Hubbard.
The state ALP member for Newcastle, Bryce Gaudry, told the meeting that he opposed the electricity privatisation and would vote against it in parliament, unless the ALP state conference in October decided otherwise.
Newcastle THC secretary Peter Barrack successfully moved a resolution calling for an open campaign committee to organise an anti-privatisation rally. For more information, telephone (049) 291 162.