Olsen reneges on privatisation promise

February 25, 1998

Olsen reneges on privatisation promise

By Melanie Sjoberg

ADELAIDE — Prior to the December 1996 state election, Liberal leader John Olsen declared that he would not sell off public assets. He specifically promised that ETSA, the state electricity corporation, would not be sold.

On February 17, the people of South Australia were greeted with the news that not only would ETSA be privatised, so too would the Lotteries Commission, the TAB, Ports Corporation and Optima. Workcover and the Motor Accident Corporation were identified as other possibilities. Olsen claims the state will be bankrupt if the sales do not take place.

The Lotteries Commission generates income rather draining the state purse. It provides millions of dollars each year to subsidise the public health system.

During the 1996-97 financial year, the TAB returned $52 million in profit. TAB management also attempted to introduce workplace agreements but was defeated by a union campaign.

Since 1993, the state public sector has undergone massive restructuring. At the end of 1997, the government introduced another major reorganisation of portfolios, which resulted in 10 "super" government departments, saving millions of dollars.

ETSA workers have participated in significant changes to work practices that have resulted in extensive productivity increases. Their reward is to face losing their jobs and handing the private sector a windfall.

Olsen has pledged that selling off ETSA will not increase electricity charges. He has also claimed that low income and country subsidies will be maintained.

Big business has supported the proposal, describing electricity supply as risky business. Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett has reportedly praised Olsen's announcement as "a bold move".

Hidden inside the Adelaide Advertiser on February 20 was a single sentence declaring that TV polls had shown 92% of South Australians opposed to the privatisations.

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