Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Labor’s attempted theft of public assets

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The NSW state Labor government’s plan to sell off public electricity is theft on a grand scale. While the Iemma government is going ahead with the plan, opposition from the trade unions and the general public is growing. The Socialist Party stands totally opposed to this and all other privatisations.

The Carr Labor government tried to sell off electricity in NSW in 1997. Campaigning by the unions and the ALP state conference stopped the sale. The NSW ALP has not changed its colours since then and it is fully committed to trying to sell off the peoples assets so they can line the pockets of their big business supporters.

The Iemma government has decided to sell off the retail arm of electricity and lease generators saying that this is the only way that the states electricity needs can be funded. In order to try and sway union, dissenting ALP and public opinion, Iemma had a ten member committee headed by right wing former premier NSW Barry Unsworth examine the privatisation proposals and found that they meet Labor Party policy platform for the sale of public assets.. The result was not unanimous with the three union representatives remaining opposed and producing a dissenting report.

Kevin Rudd is also starting to show his true colours “I understand how politically problematic it is, but we need to make sure that we get proper generating capacity for the state for the future; I support Premier Iemma’s direction,” he said. Selling off electricity assets is also the policy of the NSW Coalition opposition led by Barry O’Farrel.

There has already been action to attempt to defeat this privatisation. Unions NSW held a rally outside the steps of Parliament House on February 26 with an estimated 12,000 turning up. Electricity workers also had a 24-hour stoppage on the day. As well, there is an on going campaign of petitions and emails.

In order to defeat the privatisation of electricity in NSW four steps need to be taken:

1) Industrial action not just by electricity workers but also by other unions in NSW – this action should be planned and coordinated by all unions, all delegates meetings which would coordinate mass rallies and industrial action.

2) An ideological struggle against privatisation and the idea of the market as the solution to every problem. Specific emphasis on electricity privatisation in this instance but as part of on going education of all union members and the community of dangers of free market and privatisation policies to workers rights, conditions and pay as well as community services and the environment. Leaflets should go to all union members in NSW outlining the case against privatisation. The main theme should be. No privatisation of any state owned company. You cannot control what you do not own.

3) Continued community campaign against the sell off including petitions, emails, rallies etc with coordination with industrial activity. Use community groups established through Rights at Work Campaign to further this campaign at NSW and local level with ongoing NSW wide and local action.

4) Unions must continue to put pressure on the ALP to stop privatisation including rallies and leafleting outside of NSW state conference. In the shorter term agitation from within the ALP and support from unions for those whose oppose privatisation within the ALP particularly those MP’s who do so, but in the longer term unions along with other progressive individuals and groups need to establish a political party that will defend rights and interest of workers.

By Socialist Party reporters


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