electricity privatisation

In Australia, the National Electricity Market is rapidly becoming dysfunctional, with power shortages, blackouts and soaring prices making headlines.

Private companies are refusing to invest in new fossil fuel generators to replace those that have closed. This “investment strike” is due partly to uncertainty about carbon pricing and partly to increasingly volatile spot prices received by generators.

Up to 1000 people gathered outside state Parliament on November 15 to protest against plans by the Western Australian Coalition government to sell the state’s main electricity provider, Western Power.

The protest was organised by the Use your Power Group, headed by the Australian Services Union (ASU) and Electrical Trades Union. There was also strong support from the Maritime Union of Australia, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, United Voice, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and State School Teachers Union.

Privatisation continues to be touted as a quick fix, so the mantra goes “public sector bad, private sector good”. That is, using community funds and resources to build up a vital service or piece of infrastructure, usually over a period of many years, then when there is a “budget crisis” selling it off to yield a quick cash injection and the removal of an expense from the ledger — regardless of whether it is generating income or not — while giving sweetheart deals to the new owners to ensure monopoly-like conditions to maximise their profits.
The Baird Coalition government is rushing its legislation for the privatisation of NSW power assets through the Legislative Assembly, without waiting for the report of the Legislative Council’s inquiry into the sell-off, due on June 2. The move to fast track the bill before the inquiry, chaired by Christian Democrat leader Fred Nile, releases its report, exposes the inquiry as a sham, according to Greens NSW MLC John Kaye. Premier Mike Baird has ridden roughshod over the process and denied the public a proper investigation into the long-term impacts of the sale.
NSW Liberal Premier Mike Baird is likely to be called before the parliamentary inquiry into the state government's proposed privatisation of the "poles and wires" of the state's electricity industry in May. Baird will be questioned over allegations of government tampering with an expert report on the planned leasing of the power industry before the recent March state election.
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