Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

Oppose NSW electricity privatisation!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In a betrayal of an election promise the NSW Labor government led by Morris Iemma plans to privatise the state owned electricity services. The jobs of hundreds of power workers are under threat, and all electricity consumers face higher charges and reduced services.

Iemma argues that the sell-off and leasing agreements will allow the private sector to build the new baseload generators, either gas or coal, required to meet demand by 2014. A report argues that this will save taxpayers $15 billion over the next 10 to 15 years with the sale of retail assets generating $10 billion.

These estimated savings have been calculated by well paid private consultants employed by the Iemma government. The Iemma government is planning to pay a private finance company upwards of $300 million to ‘advise’ on the sell off! But the other solution is to commit to a Government program of upgrading existing infrastructure without handing the resources to private business.

The plan to sell off NSW’s only source of electricity to the highest bidder will be devastating financially and environmentally. Environmental implications of a company operating for profit can be imagined – pollution controls cost money but a privatised electricity company will be motivated to maximise profit. The drive to maximise profits represents a clear danger to the jobs of power workers and to their and to public safety. When it comes to a choice between looking after safety or looking after shareholders private companies cannot be trusted.

Any company keen to make a big buck from buying into our state electricity services will make short term guarantees in terms of jobs and prices in order to win the bid. But in the long term these guarantees will only be worth as much as the Iemma’s government promise not to sell off the power industry at the last election! By the time power workers are being laid off and electricity consumers are being rorted, Iemma and his cronies would be long gone.

To support the privatisation, the myth that private companies can run things better than the State can is being used. It’s true that if the State doesn’t spend money on necessary infrastructure and lets it resources decline then the public faces problems. But selling assets at knock down prices is not the answer. Iemma should look to the recent mess of other privatisations such the chaos of the handover of the Sydney’s Cross City Tunnel, or the need to buy back Port Macquarie hospital from the private sector.

There has been no consultation with any community groups or trade unions representing workers. Any debate within the Labor Party has been suppressed with no chance to debate and vote on the issue at the annual conference. The decision to sell was taken through a vote at ministerial and caucus level – an indication of the lack of democracy within the NSW Labor Party! The State electricity services belong to the whole community, not just a few grubby politicians who probably hope to join the ranks of CEOs after they retire on full pensions.

The trade unions in NSW are organising a campaign with the first anti-privatisation rally called for Tuesday 26th February in Sydney. The rally is a good start, but needs to be the launching point for other mass local rallies and weekend rallies when the majority of workers can attend and bring families along. How to fight it was shown by electricity workers who walked off the job after a union meeting in January. To win this fight there needs to be a coordinated campaign of industrial action.

The Socialist Party demands:

-A broad based community and trade union campaign to defeat Labor’s privatisation plans
-A face-to-face all unions all delegates meeting to discuss a coordinated strategy of industrial action and mass rallies
-Call for union and community members to attend the 26th February rally in Sydney through the support of organized transport and strike action to allow workers from all over the state to attend
-No privatisation of any state owned company.

By Socialist Party reporters


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