NSW power sale plan a 'disaster'

March 13, 2015
Duncan Roden.

The Socialist Alliance released this statement on March 12.


"The state government's plan to privatise the power industry’s 'poles and wires' would be a disaster for the people of NSW," Duncan Roden, Socialist Alliance candidate for the Legislative Council in the March 28 state elections, said on March 12.

"The sell-off would be an economic and political setback for the public interest, and a windfall hand-out to former merchant banker [and now Premier] Mike Baird's big business mates.

"The proposed 99-year 'leasing' of 49% of the main government-owned electricity companies in NSW would mean short-term funds for the Coalition's monstrous WestConnex toll road, and the permanent loss of $1 billion or more in annual dividends to the public purse.

"Yet Baird and Co, along with the federal government, complain about a budget deficit. That $1 billion income is sorely needed for funding public schools, hospitals and other essential public services in this state.

"Baird is desperately trying to cover his back by proposing to appoint former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Allan Fels as an electricity pricing 'tsar', who certainly will not prevent private power companies ripping off the consumers. Moreover, Baird's utter hypocrisy is shown by the fact that he is simultaneously appealing against a decision by the Australian Energy Regulator to lower prices by limiting power companies’ spending on capital works, among other issues.

"Selling key public assets is highway robbery of the people's property. Socialist Alliance condemns the Baird government's plan to privatise the state's critical power infrastructure.

"We stand for maintaining all our essential assets in public hands. Moreover, we call for the re-nationalisation of sectors of the power and other key industries that have been sold off in past years, by both Liberal and Labor governments.”

"We need to defend and extend the public sector, and place these industries under worker and community control. Only then can we utilise these critical resources in the interests of the people, the environment and Aboriginal rights."

Meanwhile, the debate continues in the mainstream media about the controversial issue of privatisation of power and other public assets. An opinion piece by Clancy Yeates in the Sydney Morning Herald on March 11 was headed, "Privatisation should not mean paying highest price".

"Business Council of Australia chief executive Jennifer Westcott this week put the widespread opposition to planned public asset sales in NSW down to a 'scare campaign' and argued the evidence of its benefits was 'overwhelming'...

"What claims like these ignore, however, is that the economic debate about state government asset sales is nowhere near as clear-cut as proponents like to claim.

"Even some strong supporters of privatisation are concerned consumers may bear the long-term cost from state government attempts to extract the highest price possible from asset sales -- something they have an even bigger incentive to do thanks to [federal] Treasurer Joe Hockey's 'asset recycling' payments."

Roden said: "This lets the cat out of the bag. Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey is offering to bribe state governments to sell off public assets, using federal taxpayers' money. Yet Hockey and Abbott want to cut back on Medicare, university funding and countless other public services, supposedly because of the 'great Commonwealth budget deficit'.

"Instead of selling off the people's property, let's increase taxes on big corporations and the rich. Then we can have plenty of resources to build new public transport projects, renewable energy facilities and other essential public infrastructure.”

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