Reject NSW power sell-off: Socialist candidate

February 6, 2015
Susan Price, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Summer Hill in the 2015 NSW elections.

"The people of NSW should rise up and reject the Baird government's plan to sell off the state's power industry, just as Queensland voters did last weekend," Susan Price, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Summer Hill in the March 28 NSW elections, said on February 5.

"The massive rejection of Premier Campbell Newman and his Liberal-National Party (LNP) government in the Queensland state election on January 31 has been sheeted home by most commentators to the LNP's disastrous plan to privatise the state's publicly owned electricity industry.

"It seems that mainstream party politicians never learn from past mistakes. Newman arrogantly ignored the central lesson of the previous Queensland election in 2012, when the Labor government was dumped and reduced to a rump of seven MPs, primarily because it had sold off the state's freight rail, ports, roads and forests.

"The Liberal National Party government has pledged to sell off NSW power assets, primarily the 'poles and wires', for an alleged price of $20 billion, if it is re-elected. The NSW poll has been described as a 'referendum' on power privatisation.

"Up to now, the Mike Baird government has been sailing along, confident it will be re-elected, albeit with a reduced majority, facing an ALP opposition attempting to recover from its discredited past in office and with few positive policies.

"Now, the Queensland result has hit Australian politics like a bombshell. No government is safe.

"The Abbott federal government is in crisis. The Northern Territory Liberal-Country Party regime is a disunited shambles.

"The Socialist Alliance welcomes Baird's challenge to make the NSW election, in effect, a referendum on power privatisation. We will do our utmost to campaign against the sell-off of the people's assets to benefit only the rich and wealthy corporations.

"Our team in the Upper House, together with our lower house candidates, will oppose this rip-off of the people's property as strongly as resources allow. And what is the money received for this massive theft of public assets being spent on?

"A large amount of it is supposed to go toward funding private road and rail projects, primarily Baird's monstrous white elephant, the WestConnex tollway.

"This exposes Baird's lame argument that the difference between the Queensland and NSW government plans is that the Newman government was proposing to use the funds from the sale of the power industry mainly to pay off state debt, while NSW is planning to use most of the funds to build 'infrastructure'.

"In both cases, a Liberal National Party state government was pledging to privatise essential, profitable public assets, eliminating future dividends of billions of dollars available to fund schools, hospitals and other services, to benefit their super-rich mates.

"Whether the funds are spent on so-called debt repayment, or on a useless and environmentally unsound private tollway, which will merely create more car traffic instead of expanding public railways, is beside the point.

"The NSW power industry must not be sold off — it must remain in public ownership. And control of the facilities should be placed in the hands of its workers and the community," Price said.

Meanwhile, a ReachTEL poll conducted for the NSW Stop the Sell Off campaign, which is campaigning against the Baird government's proposed 99-year leasing of the state's electricity assets, found that consumers in Victoria and South Australia, where the power industry is fully privatised, believe prices are now higher, with the vast majority in support of a government buy-back to return power assets to full public ownership.

The phone poll conducted on January 28 found that in South Australia, 74% said they were now worse off due to the privatisation of the power industry, with 67% of Victorians agreeing.

Moreover, 73% of Victorian respondents and 71% of South Australians support the return of the electricity network to public hands.

Stop the Sell Off campaign director Adam Kerslake said the polling was an "extraordinary rejection" of Premier Baird's claim privatisation would be good for the people of NSW.

"This poll reveals the reality of power privatisation in Victoria and South Australia, where there have been cuts to services and increased prices as private multinationals seek to maximise their profits from these essential services," she told the February 2 Sydney Morning Herald.

"These results explain why the people of Queensland so emphatically rejected Campbell Newman's almost identical attempt to sell publicly-owned electricity assets, dumping him and his government."

Kerslake told the Sydney Morning Herald the polling showed that after nearly two decades of power privatisation, the people of Victoria and South Australia still overwhelmingly reject the claim that private companies should own and operate the monopoly electricity network assets.

"The Liberal and National parties need to heed these warnings, as well as the fate of their Queensland colleagues, and stop selling public assets against the will of the people of NSW."

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