Should we sell the Snowy?


Sylvia Hale

Today [May 4] at lunchtime, Ian Cohen and I hosted a public forum about the proposed privatisation of Snowy Hydro. The response to the awful possibility that this government, a desperate government in decline, a government more concerned about hanging on to its power than the future of our water supply, would sell the jewel in the crown of Australian infrastructure is rightly provoking outrage and a sense of betrayal.

The speakers today reflected widespread concern and may augur an emerging united front of people opposed to the sale. The speakers were: Vicki Wallis from the Snowy Alliance; Max Talbot, who worked on the Snowy Mountains scheme for 24 years; Siobhan McHugh, who wrote a social history of the Snowy; Adrian Piccoli, Nationals member for Murrumbidgee; Dr John Kaye, Greens energy expert; and Reverend Dr Gordon Moyes, Christian Democrats [NSW] Legislative Council member and chairperson of the inquiry that we yesterday forced the government into having; John Gallard, former national park ranger; Acacia rose, local environmentalist; and federal Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan. There were also many members of the public there, all concerned and all with things to say.

The meeting carried the following motion by acclamation: "That Snowy Hydro not be sold, and remain in public hands." I don't think you can get any clearer than that.

The government should stop, and think. Think for one second about what a bad decision they are making.

I say to them, there is no disgrace now in backing down. The desalination plant was a bad idea. It was dropped. This proposed privatisation is a worse idea. The government should change its mind. The finance minister has said it's too late. It is not too late. No contract has been signed.

I can promise the government that if it does not suspend the sale, the Greens will be working in alliance with others, including people from the Snowy region, the Nationals, farmers, irrigators and others, whoever it takes, to stop this sale.

I expect that opposition to the sale will snowball. In the not too distant future, we are going to have hundreds of people demonstrating outside parliament, outside Governor Macquarie Tower and outside Mr Della Bosca's electoral office.

Spare yourself the pain, NSW Labor. Selling the Snowy to prop up your budget will not save this government; in fact, you will be hastening its demise. Do not sell the Snowy; it is wrong in so many ways economically, environmentally.

What you are selling out is the public good; what you are selling out is our control over water.

[Sylvia Hale is a Greens member of the NSW Legislative Council. This is abridged from her May 4 adjournment speech to parliament.]

From Green Left Weekly, May 10, 2006.
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