Tasmanian Greens & ALP support electricity privatisation

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The Tasmanian Greens are pushing for the partial privatisation of the state-owned power industry. Their approach shows once again that the Greens have no economic or political alternative to the major parties.

Since 2010, the Tasmanian Greens have been in a coalition with the ALP in the State parliament. They have helped introduce wide-ranging spending cuts, slashed 1700 public sector jobs and taken money from education and healthcare while at the same time raising the price of water and increasing rents for those in public housing.

By David Elliott, Socialist Party

In 2011, plans to close 20 public schools were put off only after local communities organised parents and friends meetings to launch a hugely popular protest campaign against the closures.

Despite posing as a left-wing alternative, the Greens openly accept the parameters of the market system. Far from challenging the status quo they see their job as being ‘responsible managers’ of the system. They often act more like technocrats than representatives of ordinary people and the environment.

The majority of the state’s electricity comes from hydroelectric power built and operated through public investment. The electricity produced is sold at a fixed price to the state-owned energy retailer, which then sells it on to consumers.

The ALP has proposed introducing privately-owned energy retailers into the mix. This will mean part of the money raised from electricity sales will go into private profits. The Greens however have proposed going even further. They want to deregulate prices by splitting up power generation into three state-owned ‘trading rooms’. The plan would be to have them compete with each other to sell energy to retailers.

This arrangement would further remove controls over the price of electricity. In the long term it would inevitably mean consumers paying more.

Both the Greens and ALP claim that they want to increase competition in the sector. As has been seen in other examples of privatisation competition creates an incentive for the private operator to reduce services while increasing prices.

This is why electricity privatisation has led to job losses and higher prices around the world, even in situations where the cost of electricity generation itself fell. Victoria and South Australia both have forms of energy privatisation, and both states have seen electricity price rises as a result. Far from reducing prices, the main goal of these polices is to open up opportunities for business to raid our essential infrastructure for profit.

Workers and ordinary people in Tasmania need to oppose the Greens and ALP privatisation plans. Trade unions and community groups should join together to beat back this proposal, just as people did with the school closures.

Electricity generation should stay in public hands but in order to make it more efficient it should be democratically controlled and managed. That way a plan can be developed to make it even more environmentally friendly and cheaper for consumers. These are the socialist alternatives to privatisation and the market system.