NSW: Reverse the power sell-off

February 19, 2011
Jess Moore. Photo: Andrew Anthony

Below is Jess Moore's speech to the “Stop the sell-off” rally in Wollongong on February 6. Moore is a Socialist Alliance candidate for the Legislative Council in the NSW elections. She addressed the rally on behalf of the Wollongong Climate Action Network (WCAN).


We all know that privatisation means increased prices, we know that it means less reliable services, we know that it means job cuts to the public sector, and it means disregard for the environment.

The environment is a social justice question — all people need a safe environment. Those who will suffer most if our environment becomes unstable are the poor and the disadvantaged because they will have the least protection from dangerous climate change.

The public sector can and should be used for the public good. When things are privately owned, the bottom line is how much money they make and that cuts out social justice.

The fire sale of NSW electricity — we’re looking at about net $400 million if we’re lucky — is not even going to come close to covering the costs of increased prices and service cuts. More importantly, we’re not going to have the economic ability to respond to climate change.

Dangerous climate change is here. The floods in Queensland, Victoria and other parts of Australia, Cyclone Yasi, the record droughts and so on, show that we’re witnessing greater extremes.

To tackle this, we need to reduce our carbon emissions. Taking electricity out of public hands reduces our collective ability to reduce those emissions. Fifty-one percent of emissions in Australia currently come from the stationary energy sector and related industries.

A report by Beyond Zero Emissions shows that by using technology that is commercially available right now, we can transition the whole of Australia to 100% renewable energy in 10 years.

I talk about “transition”, because we’re not just saying, “shut down coal.” We can’t just shut down coal, we can’t have the lights go out, and we can’t have people who have jobs in that sector become jobless.

What we need is a massive increase in jobs — for every job that currently exists in the fossil fuel energy sector, renewable energy can produce twice as many jobs.

This won’t cost more money because it cuts out fuel costs. There’s no cost for wind, there’s no cost for the sun. There is with gas, uranium and coal. Therefore we can increase employment through a transition to renewable energy and it means we can ensure a safe climate.

In the scientific community there are zero peer-reviewed papers that say climate change isn’t happening. There’s conjecture about how it will happen, what speed it will happen, but there’s no conjecture about whether it is actually happening.

Like big tobacco companies who said they “weren’t sure” whether there were links between cancer and smoking, or James Hardie who said it “wasn’t sure” about the impacts of asbestos on human health, big coal and fossil fuel companies are saying, “we’re not sure” about climate change.

These are the very people who stand to make enormous profits from the continued use of fossil fuels.

Our mainstream media and our major parties are perpetuating this message of the fossil fuel lobby. We need to challenge this because climate change is not a belief; it’s not a religion, it’s scientific fact.

The NSW Liberal Party has criticised the electricity sell-off but it has focused on the legal aspects and the price, not on privatisation.

The reality is there will be a Liberal Party victory in this election and that Barry O’ Farrell will continue Kristina Keneally’s policies of privatisation.

We need to support progressive candidates and parties in these elections—people that will fight for us in parliament, but also fight with us on the street.

But immediately after the state elections, we’re going to have to come out again to tell the government it cannot continue with privatisation and further, it needs to annul the privatisation and reverse it.

We also need an immediate price freeze on household electricity prices. More and more ordinary people are hurting as a result of increasing living costs and electricity prices are a major part of that. More and more people will be thrown into poverty as a result of privatisation.

I encourage everyone in the progressive community to come out and protest this. Unless we raise our voice and take action then we’re not going to see this overturned and this is so essential both for rights of ordinary people and the future of our planet.

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