Michael Baird, the recently appointed NSW Premier, has announced the proposed sale of 49% the state’s electricity poles and wires. Baird has said that at the next election he will be seeking a mandate for privatisation, in effect making it a referendum.
In February 2014 the then premier Barry O’Farrell assured NSW voters that the next election would not be a referendum on electricity privatisation.
No election is a referendum on a particular issue by itself. Voters usually end up voting for the major party (via preferential voting) that they least despise. This is based on many aspects of what the parties have done, or propose to do.
In NSW polls have consistently shown that most people oppose the privatisation of electricity. The most recent poll shows that 74% oppose it, including 67% of Coalition voters. This changes to only 47% in favour when people are told the proceeds will be used for roads and public transport infrastructure.
Privatising the poles and wires will not bring down electricity costs. It will merely transfer guaranteed returns on investment from the government to private shareholders. The Socialist Party opposes the plan and demands that electricity production be kept in public hands.
By Gary Duffy