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After cowardly backdown Costa, Iemma threaten back-door privatisation

Contents: Power retail sell-off plan punishes households and environment, Costa, Iemma must resign over back-door sale move, Costa's cowardly retreat from stunt gone wrong, speech by Dr John Kaye, speech by Sylvia Hale.

Power retail sell-off plan punishes households and environment

NSW Premier Morris Iemma's refusal to accept the will of the parliament and people of NSW is undermining the state's ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.

Dr Kaye said: "Public ownership of electricity retailers is just as important as the generators.

"In a time of rising wholesale energy prices, privately-owned retailers will treat households as cash cows.

"Privatisation will destroy important opportunities for demand management that can control increases in electricity bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"The Premier has treated the people of NSW and their parliament with complete contempt.

"He has allowed himself to yet again be bullied into an unpopular and undemocratic move by his Treasurer.

"NSW is in the grip of climate sceptic Michael Costa and his obsession with privatisation.

"At a time when reducing emissions is moving from being a personal commitment to becoming a national imperative, selling off the retailers will make it much harder to share the burden of climate change fairly.

"It is not surprising that the big business lobby has invested heavily in peddling privatisation.

"They are not just pushing the sell-off to help their mates in the banking industry skim off massive profits from the sale.

"They are making sure that when prices do rise, the costs will be born by households, not the big commercial and industrial consumers.

"NSW needs a Treasurer and a Premier who put the needs of the community and the environment ahead of the greed of big business," Dr Kaye said.

For more information:

NSW Greens Media release: 29 August 2008

Contact: John Kaye 0407 195 455

Costa, Iemma must resign over back-door sale move

The eleventh hour move by Morris Iemma to sell off electricity retailers after privatisation had been declared 'dead and buried' is a complete abuse of parliament, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.

Dr Kaye said: "The Treasurer has misled parliament. Michael Costa has no credibility and must resign.

"Michael Costa directly told the NSW Upper House that any sale would be determined by the parliament.

"He and his Premier have dishonoured the Westminster system.

"Premier Iemma’s manufactured excuse for the back-door sale is ludicrous. The so-called crisis in credit ratings comes from nowhere and is not believable.1

"The capital markets should know that the Greens will work with the unions to undo this commitment to sell the retailers.

"The Premier has swapped excuses in midstream. This was supposed to be about encouraging investment in power generation. Now we are told it is to solve an alleged credit crisis.

"The government has no mandate to sell the state’s electricity assets.

"The utter contempt they are showing for parliament, the people and the democratic process has brought NSW politics to a new low," Dr Kaye said.

(NSW Greens Media Release: 05:12 pm 28 August 2008)

For more information John Kaye 0407 195 455

Costa's cowardly retreat from stunt gone wrong

The move by the Iemma government to delay the inevitable defeat of power privatisation after squandering money on a parliamentary recall will destroy its credibility, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.

Dr Kaye said: "Michael Costa has condemned his privatisation to a coward's death.

"The Treasurer's henchmen in the Legislative Council manipulated the parliament process because they know the lies and propaganda behind his privatisation push would not withstand scrutiny.

"The community will be furious that the Iemma government has squandered their money on a parliamentary recall that achieved nothing.

"When parliament reconvenes in late September the Greens will ensure that the Treasurer's sell-off plans receive the scrutiny they so richly deserve.

"We will work with the Coalition and responsible Labor MPs to deliver the final defeat to Costa's privatisation legislation.

"If this government tries to bring in privatisation by the back door using ministerial powers then the community will come after them.

"The obligation is now on Morris Iemma to tell the people of NSW that electricity privatisation is dead on arrival.

"Michael Costa should now do the right thing and resign," Dr Kaye said.

(Source: NSW Greens Media Release: 02:53 pm 28 August 2008)

Speech to NSW Parliament by Greens MLC Dr John Kaye on the issue of Privatisation of Electricity

*Dr JOHN KAYE *[1.22 p.m.]: I join with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in opposing the motion for adjournment. It is an act of total cowardice to avoid debate on a central plank. Treasurer Michael Costa and Premier Morris Iemma have said that the vote on the electricity industry privatisation legislation was the most important single vote to be taken in this Parliament. But what did the Labor Iemma Government do? It ran away from the vote, and it seeks to hide from the inevitable defeat that this bill would have inflicted. Why did the Government do that? It knows that 80 per cent of the New South Wales population is opposed to electricity privatisation. The Government knows that 80 per cent of its own party is opposed to electricity privatisation, and it knows that every sensible and independent observer of the electricity industry agrees.

Handing public assets into private hands would be a complete and total disaster. To adjourn the debate is simply an attempt to avoid inevitable humiliation. It must be accepted now that the Costa-Iemma electricity privatisation is dead in the water. And it is dead in the water without appropriate debate and vote, and they have inflicted a cowardly death on the legislation. I note that Minister Kelly is now leaving the Chamber; he is embarrassed by what he had to deliver for the Costa-Iemma Government, and embarrassed by his failure to allow the bills to be debated appropriately.

The underpinning of privatisation was the Owen inquiry. The Chamber has not had the opportunity to debate the Owen inquiry, or the opportunity to determine whether the State needs new baseload capacity. The Chamber has not had the opportunity to test the presumption that we cannot afford to buy new baseload capacity, or to test the assumption that the private sector will not invest in the New South Wales electricity industry as long as it is publicly owned. As long as those assumptions are not tested in this Chamber, the Owen inquiry remains a document of propaganda and ideology. The Government lacks the courage to allow that document to be subjected to the scrutiny of the New South Wales upper House. In doing so, the Government denies the people of New South Wales the debate that Michael Costa and Morris Iemma promised them.

For the past 12 months, Premier Iemma and Treasurer Costa said that there would be debate on the privatisation of the electricity industry, but that has now been denied us. If Premier Iemma and Treasurer Costa sneak away from this Chamber and try to privatise the industry behind closed doors, this Chamber will go after them as will the New South Wales union movement---the activists who have campaigned long and hard against privatisation---and 80 per cent of the New South Wales population who are opposed to it. We will find whatever rock they will hide under, and we will make sure that they pay the price for selling off assets.

It is time this Chamber had a debate about privatisation. We will make sure when the Chamber resumes that that debate is held; it has to happen. The Government cannot run the propaganda and lies in the media that have been heard from Michael Costa and Morris Iemma and not conduct that debate in this Chamber. Adjourning the Chamber now will not avoid debate at a future time. The Government has extended the agony for itself. The Government does not have the majority in this Chamber---the media and the people know that. People who have campaigned against privatisation know that, and Government members know that full well. Running away and hiding will not destroy the evidence that power privatisation was always going to be bad for the people, bad for households, bad for the economy and bad for the environment.

It remains absolutely true that the Government cannot continue down the path of spreading myths from Tony Owen that have been propagated by the Business Council of Australia, the Alliance for a Better New South Wales, the business lobby and the Premier and the Treasurer. The Government cannot keep relying on those myths unless it is prepared to hold debate in this Chamber; if it is not, it will have no public credibility. By hiding from this debate, all it has done is guaranteed that the people know what is really going on. The Government will not stand up to the scrutiny of this Chamber; and it cannot, because what it is doing is a complete and total tissue of lies. If debate on this matter is not listed for when the Chamber resumes on 23 September 2008, we will have to take matters into our own hands to ensure that it is held. The Greens oppose the adjournment.

Speech by Greens MLC Sylvia Hale to NSW Parliament on issue of Privatising Electricity

Ms SYLVIA HALE [1.32 p.m.]: Two years ago this Government attempted to privatise the Snowy Hydro scheme. That time it was saved from itself by a statewide campaign of opposition that made it clear that privatisation was unacceptable to the community. Protests and opposition started in the Snowy region and spread across the State, from village to town and into the cities. The State Government tried to tough it out, but ultimately the Federal Government's withdrawal from the process forced the hand of the State Government, which then withdrew from its attempted privatisation of Snowy Hydro. That decision was significant in saving the Government at the subsequent State election in March 2007.


One can hear the eager, servile capitulation of the Premier, the Treasurer, and the Minister for Planning: "Rewrite the planning laws the way you want them? Certainly, Mr Morrison. Hand the State's electricity assets over to the corporate sector? Of course, Mr Morrison". I do not know why Labor does not simply appoint Ken Morrison as Premier and cut out the middleman! The policy outcomes would be the same.

Unfortunately, the State Labor Government has wilfully chosen not to learn from its mistaken attempt to sell Snowy Hydro. In 2008 the New South Wales Labor Government is determined not to save itself. It is so determined to thumb its nose at the people of New South Wales who overwhelmingly oppose privatisation that it took the extraordinary step of recalling Parliament to try to push through its bills. It has now taken the extraordinarily cowardly step of adjourning Parliament rather than face a defeat on the floor of the House. The Government has lost its commitment to the best interests of the residents of New South Wales, its ability to read the electorate, and its instincts for self-preservation. In the face once again of statewide community opposition, the Government appeared initially determined to push ahead with a privatisation proposal for which it has no mandate and to which the vast majority of the people of this State is opposed.

In the face of overwhelming opposition from the community, from the trade union movement and from its own rank and file members, why is the New South Wales Labor Government so keen to tread this self-destructive road? Many people in New South Wales will look at what has happened today and wonder what the Labor Party has become and whose interests it now serves. It appears that the leadership of the parliamentary Labor Party has determined that the future of the New South Wales Labor Party is as the party of big business. It has deliberately turned its back on its own members, on the trade unions and on the community generally in order to embrace the agenda of the State's large corporate interests.

It was instructive this week to see the pro-privatisation urgings of the corporate sector being led by the so-called Alliance for New South Wales' Future. This is the latest front group set up by the head of the Property Council, Ken Morrison, and his corporate lobby group mates. The last such group Mr Morrison fronted was the Coalition for Planning Reform. That was the group whose wish list formed the basis of the Government's deeply unpopular changes to the planning system—changes that, like the privatisation proposal before us, pretty well every Labor candidate in the upcoming local council elections is trying to disown. All these various coalitions and alliances that Mr Morrison fronts are supposedly motivated solely by the best interests of the residents of New South Wales, and their members become deeply offended by any suggestion that they are merely pursuing the financial interests of the corporations that make up their membership. They may claim public altruism, but there is no doubt that they are really lobbying in the financial interests of the big end of town. That is fair enough; it is what their corporate sponsors pay them to do.

What is disturbing, however, is the extent to which the so-called Labor Government has embraced the agenda of these corporate interests. One can hear the eager, servile capitulation of the Premier, the Treasurer, and the Minister for Planning: "Rewrite the planning laws the way you want them? Certainly, Mr Morrison. Hand the State's electricity assets over to the corporate sector? Of course, Mr Morrison". I do not know why Labor does not simply appoint Ken Morrison as Premier and cut out the middleman! The policy outcomes would be the same. The relevant bills were introduced in the lower House on the same day that Frank Sartor introduced his developers' wish list of a planning bill. This demonstrates clearly and finally for all to see that Labor's parliamentary leadership has turned its back on its rank and file members and its trade union base in order to fall into the loving embrace of the corporate sector that now funds its election campaigns and sets its policy agenda. As with Snowy Hydro, from the outset the Greens have opposed the privatisation of the State's electricity assets. We are united in our condemnation of the Government's pro-privatisation agenda.

Footnotes

1. On pages 257-259 of Naomi Klein's "The Shock Doctrine" there is a narrative of another manufactured credit crisis in Canada in 1993:

In September 1995, a video was leaked to the Canadian press of John Snobelen, Ontario's minister of education, telling a closed door meeting of civil servants that before cuts to education and other unpopular reforms could be announced, a climate of panic needed to be created by leaking information that painted a more dire picture than "He would be inclined to talk about". He called it "creating a useful crisis."(p259)

See also: NSW electricity privatisation can be stopped!, Open letter to NSW state Opposition members urging a vote against electricity privatisation, Open letter to NSW Labor parliamentary caucus members to urging a vote against electricity privatisation