NSW electricity privatisation
Electricity privatisation continues to cause bizarre consequences as yet another State Premier will apparently do anything to push it through, despite almost total lack of electoral support. See our history of attempts to privatise electricity in NSW. It reads like a war on democracy. Now that war is against the State's wildlife. During his first week in government, the NSW Premier, Barry O`Farrell, made a strong promise to environment groups and the people of NSW that he would not allow shooting in National Parks. Now he has done a deal with the Shooters and Fishers Party so that they will support his electricity privatisation bill. Shame on Barry, Shame on the Shooters and Fishers who many see as just another front for the Libs in NSW, posing as another party.
Barry O'Farrell gunning down democracy
The Premier of NSW has today broken a pre-election promise to keep recreational shooting out of our National Parks. He has announced that the government will be opening up 34 National Parks, 31 Nature Reserves and 14 State Conservation Areas across the state to recreational hunters.
During his first week in government, the Premier made a strong promise to environment groups and the people of NSW that he would not allow shooting in National Parks. Now he has done a deal with the Shooters and Fishers Party so that they will support his electricity privatisation bill.
National Parks are for the protection of nature and for the enjoyment of the NSW public, not for blood sport. This decision by the government shows complete disregard for public safety and for the purpose of our National Park system.
The government is ‘greenwashing’ this deal as a way of managing feral animals, but control of feral animals is best achieved by professionals, not by sporting hunters.
If you are as horrified about this as we are, please take a few quick actions:
1) Give your local member a call today and tell them how you feel about this appalling decision. You can follow this link to look up your local MP's contact details.
2) Visit the SMH website and vote in their poll against shooting in national parks. (Poll closes at midnight 31 May.)
3) If you have time, please write a letter to editor (either of your local paper or one of the State-wide papers), and/or make a call to talkback radio about this issue.
4) Comment below this article.
The National Parks Association of New South Wales (NPA) has a number of key concerns about this decision:
1) The purpose of National Parks is to protect the environment and allow the quiet enjoyment of nature, not for blood sports.
2) This decision poses a huge risk to the safety of the public, who just want to bushwalk, have a picnic or enjoy nature with their families.
3) Control of feral animals should be left to the professionals. Recreational hunting is not an efficient or cost-effective tool for feral animal control in National Parks, and may have serious impacts on our native wildlife.
4) This is a major betrayal of the public by the Premier, who has consistently promised that there will be no recreational hunting in National Parks. It is completely unacceptable for our protected areas to be used as a pawn in a political trade-off.
See below for a list of parks that the government proposes to open up for shooting.
The website of the Invasive Species Council has more information about why so called 'conservation hunting' by amateur hunters is not an effective means of controlling feral animals.
"The NSW and Victorian governments have been funding recreational hunting and opening access to public lands on the basis that hunters can control feral animals.
But evidence (including the failure of numerous bounties) shows that, at best, hunters can supplement more effective methods of feral animal control or provide control in small, accessible areas.
Funding recreational hunting as a primary method of control is a waste of taxpayers’ money. There is also the risk that opening up public lands to hunting creates an incentive for maverick hunters to shift feral animals into new areas – as has occurred particularly with pigs and deer.
The Invasive Species Council has been working with other environment groups to oppose the NSW Shooters Party legislation to expand hunting into national parks, allow private hunting reserves, and permit the release of exotic birds rated as a serious or extreme pest threat by Australian governments."
More information at National Parks Association of New South Wales.
Affected National Parks, Nature Reserves and State Conservation Areas
Abercrombie River National Park
Turon National Park
Coolah Tops National Park
Warrumbungle National Park
Goulburn River National Park
New England Tablelands
Bald Rock National Park
Nowendoc National Park
Basket Swamp National Park
Piliga East National Park
Boonoo National Park
Piliga West National Park
Gibraltar Range National Park
Oxley Wild Rivers National Park
South Coast and Highlands
Benambra National Park
Tallaganda National Park
Brindabella National Park
Woomargama National Park
Kosciuszko National Park (excluding ski fields)
Morton National Park
Wadbilliga National Park
South East Forests National Park
Goonoo National Park
Paroo-Darling National Park
Gundabooka National Park
Yanga National Park
Mallee Cliffs National Park
Murray Valley National Park
Yabbra National Park
Nightcap National Park
Richmond Range National Park
Hunter/Mid North Coast
Dorrigo National Park
Watagans National Park
Myall Lakes National Park
Barrington Tops National Park
Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve
Pilliga Nature Reserve
New England Tablelands
Gibraltar Nature Reserve
Big Bush Nature Reserve
Lake Urana Nature Reserve
Boginderra Hills Nature Reserve
Langtree Nature Reserve
Buddigower Nature Reserve
Ledknapper Nature Reserve
Cocopara Nature Reserve
Loughnan Nature Reserve
Coolbadggie Nature Reserve
Narrandera Nature Reserve
Goonawarra Nature Reserve
Nearie Lake Nature Reserve
Gubbata Nature Reserve
Nocoleche Nature Reserve
Ingalba Nature Reserve
Nombinnie Nature Reserve
Jerilderie Nature Reserve
Piliga Nature Reserve
Kajuligah Nature Reserve
Pucawan Nature Reserve
Kemendok Nature Reserve
Pulletop Nature Reserve
Round Hill Nature Reserve
Quanda Nature Reserve
Tarawi Nature Reserve
Yanga Nature Reserve
The Charcoal Tank Nature Reserve
Yathong Nature Reserve
State Conservation Areas
Mullion Range SCA
Mount Canobolas SCA
Hunter/ Mid North Coast
Barrington Tops SCA
New England Tablelands
Watsons Creek SCA
Mount Hyland SCA
Source: Kirstin Proft
Biodiversity Conservation Officer
National Parks Association of NSW
PO Box 337 | Newtown 2042 | New South Wales
T 02 9299 0000 |
W http://www.npansw.org.au | E [email protected]
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Greens member of the NSW Legislative Council, John Kaye, has previously stood up against privatisation of that state's electricity and we have published some speeches to that effect by him here at candobetter.net. Major newspapers carried quotes about his opposition and we publish here what he says on his website. I would like to take this opportunity to remind people that James Sinnamon, the owner of candobetter.net isa fierce opponent of privatisation and had intended to run as a candidate in the seat of Brisbane in the 2010 Federal Election on this issue. Unfortunately he was hospitalised for months after a terrible collision between his bicycle and a 4WD and so he never ran in an election where, ironically, he just might have won against the usual odds. We will write about this one day.
"The NSW Government's $5.3 billion electricity sell-off was a "mad dash for cash" carried out with "appalling" timing, says a former director of a state-owned energy company. Overall the deal netted the state government $5.3 billion, an amount heavily criticised for being poor value by the state opposition."
Editor: The above sentence comes from an article published in the Australian here: "Chaos hits $5.3bn NSW power sell-off as directors on two boards quit in protest " therefore we cannot publish it in total on candobetter.net.
It goes on to say that the NSW Greens are going to "introduce legislation in the next parliament to return the electricity industry to public ownership and stop future governments selling assets without the approval of both houses of parliament, Greens MP John Kaye announced on Saturday 5th Feb.
John Kaye presents a good example which the Victorian and Queensland Greens probably won't follow
Wish the Victorian Greens and the Queensland Greens would stand up on their hindlegs over privatisation as well.
We have previously carried a few speeches by John Kaye on this issue.
Here is what John Kaye has published on his website:
Welcome to the website of Greens NSW MP John Kaye
John Kaye is a Greens member of the NSW Legislative Council
Stop the Power Sell-Off
All power privatisations are bad for the economy, employment, household power bills and the environment.
This power sell-off is particularly bad: profits from the sale of electricity are being handed over to the private sector, but many of the financial risks remain with the public.
Reducing NSW's contribution to climate change will be much more difficult and expensive if the private sector has control of the generator outputs. The power industry creates 40% (60 million tonnes CO2 per year) of this state's greenhouse gas emissions.
Household power bills will increase as the gentraders seek to make more profit.
Jobs will be lost after the protection period expires. Call centre work will be sent overseas.
NSW is losing a valuable income stream worth much more than the $5.3 billion sale price. The assets that have been sold return $750 million a year which pays for teachers, nurses and hospitals. The structure of the sale (gentraders), uncertainty about the future of carbon prices and the brewing international economic storm have minimised the sale price.
Secret deals to subsidise coal prices for the gentraders mean that NSW taxpayers will be footing the bill for years to come.
The Keneally government has no mandate to sell the gentraders or the retailers. Privatisation was not mentioned during the last election.
Opinion polls show that the people of NSW oppose electricity privatisation. Parliament has an obligation to tell the government they should cancel the contracts and keep all of the power industry in public hands.
Some points about the transaction:
The resignation of the directors of the state-owned generators is a measure of how uneconomic the deal is for NSW.
Proroguing parliament and intimidating inquiry witnesses show that the Keneally government has much to hide.
The people of NSW have a right to know what Treasurer Roozendaal and the Keneally government have done to their power assets.
It's not too late to reverse the sell-off
The Keneally government has walked away from the mess they have created leaving NSW with a dysfunctional electricity industry.
The unsustainable mix of private gentraders at some power stations and public control at others can only be resolved by reversing the original sale.
The collapse of the second wave of sell-offs will make it easier to bring all of the state's coal-fired generators back under public control.
Send an email message to be sent to members of the NSW Legislative Council ('Upper House') to voice your opposition to the Treasurer's power sell-off and to call for the sale to be reversed.
Now is not the time for electricity retail fire sale
NSW Greens Media Release 19 September 2008
Pushing ahead with the sale of the state's electricity retailers during the greatest credit crisis since the 1929 stock market crash would be financial recklessness, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.
Dr Kaye said: "Businesses across the globe are offloading assets at bargain basement prices as the financial sector goes into global credit meltdown.
"Selling at the bottom of a market is the least prudent course of action, especially when the retailers are returning dividends to NSW taxpayers.
"NSW Treasurer Eric Roozendaal would do well to note that ‘buy high, sell low' is not a winning formula when it comes to asset management.
"At a time when securities markets globally are walking into a lift shaft and credit is drying up, privatising anything would be fiscally reckless.
"The very firms that have been investing in infrastructure assets and utilities including Macquarie Bank and Babcock and Brown are the ones that have been taking a hammering on the markets.
"NSW faces a choice.
"Ideologically driven privatisation would offload a valuable asset at fire sale prices and leave households increasingly exposed to the hostile power markets.
"The alternative is strategic management of the state's retail electricity sector to achieve sustainable prosperity," Dr Kaye said.
For more information: John Kaye 0407 195 455
Greens member of the NSW Parliament
phone: (02) 9230 2668
fax: (02) 9230 2586
mobile: 0407 195 455
john.kaye[AT]parliament nsw gov au www.johnkaye.org.au
Contents: #OFarrellPilloried">O'Farrell pilloried, #DebateIgnored">Parliamentary debate ignored, #EarlierMisreporting">Earlier misreporting: Iemma exhorted to ignore Labor conference, public will, #WhatCanBeDone">What can be done about this?.
Analysis of the reporting of electricity privatisation initiatives in New South Wales brings disturbing confirmation that the major Australian newsmedia does not accurately report essential facts on issues of vital concern to us. Indeed, it often acts as a conduit for propaganda against our best interest.
Throughout NSW's struggle against a push to privatise electricity, barely any of the newsmedia paid regard to the fact that the NSW Government had no mandate whatsoever to sell electricity assets. Facts acknowledged in hardly any of the reports included:
- In the face of relentless propaganda in favour of privatisation, opposition to privatisation stood at between 79% and 86% according to opinion polls.
- Morris Iemma had explicitly promised not to privatise prior to the March 2007 elections.
- In the 1999 state elections NSW electors voted against the Liberal/National Opposition which stood for full privatisation.
#OFarrellPilloried" id="OFarrellPilloried">O'Farrell pilloried
On 27 August, the day before the privatisation legislation was to be put before the NSW Upper House The Australian's Imre Saluzinsky shared with his readers his high expectations of NSW state parliamentary Liberal Party and leader of the state Opposition Barry O'Farrell in his article of 27 August "O'Farrell won't do a Debnam". There were, of course, those in the Liberal party opposed to privatisation, who were described by Saluzinsky, incredibly, as, at once, both "machiavellian" and "conspiracy buffs to the bitter end" who apparently had paranoid delusions that Labor would use the proceeds of the sale to pork-barrel their way back into office in 2011. Nevertheless, he predicted that O'Farrell and the Opposition would come good:
O'Farrell can either outsmart himself with such conspiratorial thinking, or demonstrate the Coalition is ready to govern. On previous form, he'll choose the latter path.
In response to this article, one reader responded:
Where does political morality lie in your equation, Imre? Both major parties ruled out power privatisation before the last election, and merely months later it becomes a 'must do'? Through their mismanagement Iemma and Costa need the money from the power sell-off for their political survival. Handing them the keys to the vault by aiding and abetting their political fraud will only prolong an inept Labor government. That is the reality facing the entire business community in NSW.
Saluzinsky did not answer.
When Barry O'Farrell failed to follow Saluzinsky's script, two days later Saluzinsky turned on him with a vengeance. On Friday 29 August in "O'Farrell's shame worse than Iemma's", He wrote:
The collapse of the latest reform push is a condemnation of the political class in NSW.
It shows the nation's largest state - over a third of the national economy - in the grip of reform paralysis. And it leaves the credibility of both Iemma and NSW Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell in tatters.
... O'Farrell shifted ground. He sought independent advice, which backed the sale strategy, then he ignored it, preferring to maintain a united front with the Nationals rather than securing the state's electricity supply.
The Australian's editorial "NSW Labor and Libs are unfit for power" appeared critical of both the Government and the Opposition, however the latter was the main recipient of its venom. It began:
NSW Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell has just done the unthinkable. By scuttling Labor Premier Morris Iemma's push to privatise the NSW electricity sector, he has raised the serious question of whether the Liberal and National parties can ever be fit to run the nation's largest state. After 13 years of do-nothing and scandal-soaked government from Labor, it is truly remarkable that the Coalition can't bring itself to support the one positive item on the Iemma agenda.
Here, the editorial writer is hardly being fair to the state Labor Government. Former Premier Bob Carr tried earnestly to foist electricity privatisation on the Labor Party in 1998 only to have it rejected by the Labor Party conference. In 2006 the Iemma Government attempted to lead the Federal and Victorian governments to privatise the Snowy Hydro scheme. Iemma could hardly be held to blame if the Howard Government, faced with a public outcry and the late Federal Independent MP Peter Andren's determined opposition, decided to pull out the rug from under privatisation. Clearly, in terms of The Australian's own world view, the Carr and Iemma governments had attempted to do other 'positive' things, which The Australian should have acknowledged.
This year, Iemma went one step further than Carr was prepared to go. He ignored the Labor Party conference vote. He also ignored public opinion and his own 2007 election commitment. What else, short of declaring martial law and jailing NSW upper house members opposed to privatisation, would the The Australian have had Iemma and Costa do?
The editorial goes on to ask, "And for what?"
Anyone placing their trust in the judgement and good will of the editorial writer would have gained the impression that O'Farrell had not provided any justification for his actions. In fact, he had supplied justification in a media release that day. Upper House leaders Michael Gallacher (Liberal Party) and Duncan Gay (National Party) both also provided reasoned and detailed arguments against the privatisation legislation in the Parliamentary debate before it was abruptly closed by an embarrassed Government.
Whilst the editorial was prepared to trust a Government it had itself labelled as 'inept', O'Farrell was not. In his media release, he wrote:
Furthermore, the Iemma Labor Government has an appalling record of dealing with the private sector ? it has failed the public in deals ranging from the Cross City Tunnel to the building of the new Bathurst Hospital.
Given their record of incompetence, Morris Iemma and Labor can?t be trusted to deliver a good result for taxpayers and consumers.
To many, these would seem reasonable concerns. In addition O'Farrell pointed out that there was uncertainty about the implications of the Federal Government's carbon trading scheme and that privatisation had not been put by Iemma to the NSW electors in 2007.
The editorial then moved on to stronger ground:
It is not even clear that Mr O'Farrell's obstruction passes the cynic's test.
Indeed, it had not. That test was being passed with flying colours by the editorial writer himself. The majority of the state Labor Party Parliamentary caucus, which had resolved to ram through the privatisation legislation in defiance of popular opinion, and the state Labor Party conference, has also performed exceedingly well in this regard.
In one small sense, the Opposition's stance may have been due to its instincts for self-preservation, if only because of the Murdoch press's own record of unprincipled opportunism. Had privatisation proceeded, it is hard to imagine that The Australian would not have quietly forgotten the Iemma Government's legendary incompetence and, instead, have begun to sing its praises once more.
The editorial writer then assailed the reader with facts and statistics that would have left him/her in no doubt that O'Farrell, or anyone else who may have wanted to hesitate for longer than five minutes before allowing privatisation to proceed, was stark raving mad.
[Because O'Farrell] "continues to ignore economics 101 ... the Australian would be unable to recommend a vote for a change of government in NSW."
This begs a number of obvious questions: If sound economic practice really required electricity privatisation, why couldn't the policy simply have been put to the electorate in March 2007? Why had it proven so hard to make the public, the trade unions and the NSW state Labor Party see this? Why had the public rejected privatisation in 1999 and remained adamantly opposed to it all along? Clearly neither The Australian nor Iemma deserved the public they had been stuck with.
Murdoch's Daily Telegraph editorialised on 31 August :
Mr O'Farrell ... also has a huge question mark hanging over his head after his performance last week.
Mr O'Farrell could not resist the lure of a cheap political victory to wound his opponent when NSW was crying out for some far-sighted leadership.
Presumably by 'NSW', the editorialist meant the small shrill chorus of bankers and investors.
O'Farrell and the NSW state Opposition received additional drubbings in reporting over the following days: "How the people of NSW were sold out" (SMH, 30 Aug) an opinion piece by Premier Morris Iemma. (A google search listed the story with a more provocative title: "How the power of one treacherous leader sold out the people of NSW". Clearly an editor somewhere thought better of that title), "O'Farrell backflip on power sell-off" (The Australian, 1 Sep)."Hopelessly devoted to self-interest" (Sun-Herald, 31 Aug), "O'Farrell's shame worse than Iemma's" by Imre Saluzinksy (The Australian, 29 Aug), "Luddite Liberals" (The Australian, Aug) by John Durie, "Barry O'Farrell misses a chance on electricity" (Sunday Telegraph, Aug. 08)
In Murdoch's Melbourne Herald Sun newspaper, one article, which seems to have since disappeared from the web, even referred to Barry O'Farrell as "O'Fool".
Against this torrent of condemnation O'Farrell was able to write an opinion piece on 1 September in defence of himself in the (Fairfax press) Sydney Morning Herald.
#DebateIgnored" id="DebateIgnored">Parliamentary debate ignored
Astonishingly, even the debate in Parliament which had been recalled at a cost of $500,000 to the NSW taxpayer was ignored by electricity privatisation reporting. Facts revealed in the debate, but unreported in the media, included:
- Prior to the March 2007 elections "the Iemma Government issued emphatic denials that any such sale would take place". On 20 February 2007 Michael Costa stated "There are no plans to sell our retail electricity businesses". (Upper House Opposition leader Gallacher's speech)
- On 9 May 2007 Premier Morris Iemma, when referring to the Owen Review, ruled out any "sale of electricity generation, transmission or distribution."(Gallacher)
- In a Sydney Morning Herald article dated 25 May 2007 Iemma was reported as stating in a letter to Unions NSW that "The privatisation of the State Government-owned energy companies is not on our agenda".(Gallacher)
- On 23 November 2006 Michael Costa stated "There is no energy crisis in New South Wales - In fact, New South Wales has surplus energy."(Gallacher)
- Treasurer Michael Costa, as Secretary of the NSW Labor Council, had in 1998 and 1999 moved motions in opposition to former Premier Bob Carr's privatisation legislation(Gallacher)
- For 13 years up until the 2007 elections Treasure Costa and his predecessor Egan had boasted that NSW had healthy budget surpluses due to their sound financial management. "Treasurer Michael Costa told New South Wales taxpayers before the last election that they had nothing to worry about." (Gay)
- The Owen Inquiry report, which is the Government's principle justification for privatisation, has never been debated in the NSW Upper House. (Kaye)
In this light, why had the media not turned on Iemma and Costa, if it was truly concerned with reporting the truth?
#EarlierMisreporting" id="EarlierMisreporting">Earlier misreporting: Iemma exhorted to ignore Labor conference, public will
Monday 5 May, 2008: The Australian's editorial "Rudd has a stake in NSW power sell-off", published after the NSW state conference voted 702 to 107 against privatisation, urges the NSW Parliamentary Labor Party to ignore the conference.
"Kevin Rudd has a lot riding on NSW Premier Morris Iemma's having the courage to defy Labor's state council and push ahead with the $10 billion privatisation of the state's electricity industry. To his credit, Mr Iemma says he is standing firm. ...
If electricity privatisation can be defeated because unions representing a few thousand electricity workers don't like it, how difficult would it be to stare down union interests to overhaul health and education?
The electricity debate is a classic example of the labour movement attempting to bully the government into making a decision that is not for the greater good. Mr Iemma must demonstrate that he is prepared to govern for all people and ignore the demands of state conference."
The editorial writer did not seem to have a problem with fact that 79%-86% of "all people" on whose behalf Iemma and Costa were supposedly governing, happened to agree with the "unions representing a few thousand electricity workers" and state conference.
7 May 2008: Murdoch's Sydney Daily Telegraph gloated at the Labor Parliamentary caucus's defiance of NSW public opinion in "Iemma's grin of victory over power industry sale":
"The rare record of an exceptional political victory came after Morris Iemma emerged from a post-conference meeting yesterday with the backing of his entire caucus for his plans to privatise the NSW power industry.
The Premier was so impressed by his coup - rendered by endorsements from even his rebel MPs as they filed out of the marathon meeting - that he celebrated by updating his Facebook site with the glowing new images.
'I'm very happy,' he said after giving a rare post-caucus briefing. 'There was nothing to vote on.'
An emboldened Mr Iemma then strode into Question Time and accused Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell of being 'dumb', 'stupid', 'gutless' and having his head 'up his backside'".
Wednesday, 7 May: In a report "Iemma's caucus triumph" by Imre Saluzinsky and Andrew Faulkner, it was noted that Premier Morris Iemma's approval rating had dropped to 28%. Nevertheless the article confidently predicted:
"However, he is likely to receive a bounce in the polls from his display of strength in recent days."
In other words, the NSW public, would respect the 'strength' of a Government that had blatantly defied its will on the question of privatisation more than it would respect those who were intent on forcing Iemma to respect that will. This bizarre prediction was not realised and was quietly forgotten.
#WhatCanBeDone" id="WhatCanBeDone">What can be done about this?
The material described and quoted above represents only a small fraction of many months of misreporting. Luckily the public weren't fooled this time. Luckily, a majority of their elected representatives also chose to represent their will in Parliament and to uphold basic principles of democracy and accountability, this time.
But it so easily could have turned out differently. More often than not such mass media misinformation campaigns have achieved their goals in the recent past.
It is in similar contexts that nearly all the other state governments in Australia have managed to privatise the people's electricity assets. It was in such a manner that Keating got away with privatising the Commonwealth Bank, despite a specific election promise not to. This is how all Australia's state-owned banks and insurance companies were privatised. This is how Howard got away with privatising Telstra. In the same way, Australia was dragged into the Iraq War, in spite of the most massive popular protests since the Vietnam War. This is how "Work Choices" was implemented and continues to dominate as law. That is how a slew of expensive, inappropriate and environmentally damaging infrastructure projects have been imposed against heated community objections in almost every part of this country. This is how successive governments have been able to impose high immigration levels on an uninformed and unwilling public. This is the way that local governments have been forcibly amalgamated in Queensland, NSW and Victoria.
It is time we challenged the right of newsmedia proprietors to act so blatantly against our interests.
If the newsmedia continue to serve the public so poorly, it must, itself, become the focus of popular protests, and progressive pro-democratic political parties must pledge to legislate to prevent the newsmedia from continuing to abuse their powers in this way.
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NSW Greens leader John Kaye defends Opposition leader Barry O'Farrell. O'Farrell and the NSW Opposition are now under concerted attack by the corporate sector and their newsmedia for having blocked Treasurer Costa's privatisation legislation in accord with the wishes of over 80% of the NSW public last Thursday.
See also: Iemma dodges his own $42 billion debt bomb (SMH, 1 Sep) by Barry O'Farrell, Mike Baird should make his move now - Online Opinion forum discussion about pro-privatisation state Liberal MP Mike Baird, now the darling of the corporate newsmedia.
What you can do: Join FaceBook site Support Clean Energy NOT Privatisation of NSW Electricity run by NSW Liberal MLA Peter Debnam. Peter Debnam's statement on privatisation can be found here and is also appended to this article.
O'Farrell pointing in right direction on sell-off while Baird losing plot
Media release: 31 August 2008
NSW Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell's decision to stop the privatisation of the electricity generators is sound public policy, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.
Dr Kaye said: "Even from the standpoint of the Coalition's economic philosophy, passing NSW Treasurer Michael Costa's power sell-off legislation would not have been in the public interest.
"While Mr O'Farrell is being attacked by his friends in the business lobby, his focus on managing electricity demand would result in lower household energy costs and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
"Unfortunately the Opposition's Energy and Finance Spokesperson Mike Baird appears to have fallen for the myth that this state needs more baseload generation capacity.
"Even though Mr Baird is now lining up behind the Opposition's official stance opposing the sell-off, he has clearly failed to understand that the Iemma government has been badly misleading the people of NSW.
"He should cast a critical eye over Treasurer Michael Costa's arguments.
"Whether it is to balance the state's books or to attract private capital into baseload power, whatever today's rationale for the sell-off is, it does not stack up.
"Mike Baird should also take a closer look at Mr Costa's declaration of war on the public sector.
"The power sell-off is only the opening gambit in a plan to devastate the delivery of public services and infrastructure in this state.
"Not only will this receive a deeply hostile reaction from the voters but it also makes no economic sense.
"Treasurer Costa is completely out of control and headed on a collision course with common sense.
"Mike Baird should do his duty as an Opposition spokesperson. He should join with the Greens, rebel Labor MPs, the union movement and the majority of his own party to block this potential disaster," Dr Kaye said.
For more information: John Kaye 0407 195 455
See also: Iemma dodges his own $42 billion debt bomb (SMH, 1 Sep) by Barry O'Farrell.
What you can do: Join FaceBook site Support Clean Energy NOT Privatisation of NSW Electricity run by NSW Liberal MLA Peter Debnam who resigned from the Liberal Front bench because at the time he considered that the stance by Opposition Leader against privatisation was not sufficiently strong. Peter Debnam's statement on privatisation can be found here and is also appended to this article.
#PeterDebnam" id="PeterDebnam">Appendix: Electricity privatisation statement by Peter Debnam MP - 12th may 2008
I have been opposed to Michael Costa’s Electricity Privatisation and despite lacking the numbers in Parliament to stop it, I’ve argued for the Coalition to take a strong stand against the privatisation and in favour of clean renewable energy. However, in my view, the conditional acceptance announced late last week by the Coalition effectively surrenders to Costa’s Privatisation.
Given my strong views, it is untenable for me to continue as the Shadow Minister for Energy and remain on the frontbench simply biting my tongue. As a result, on Friday I advised Barry O’Farrell that I will sit on the backbench when Parliament resumes this week and I understand Barry will today announce frontbench re-arrangements.
While stepping down from the frontbench, I will continue in Parliament until at least the 2011 state election and I will do everything I can over the next three years to aggressively hold this hopeless Government to account and get rid of them.
I will also work to expose the fraud of Costa’s Electricity Privatisation and, whether the Privatisation proceeds or not, I will promote the enormous opportunity for NSW to embrace and export the technology of Clean Renewable Energy – especially solar.
I describe the Privatisation as Costa’s because it is not a Labor Plan and the Premier is little more than an occasional mouthpiece for Michael Costa on this issue. Most of the grassroots Labor Party (not just the unions) oppose Costa’s Privatisation. They along with the community of New South Wales have been betrayed.
As I did, Morris Iemma went to last year’s state election, assuring the community that electricity would NOT be privatised. It was clear at that time there was no need for privatisation. It is only since the election, we have the seen the Premier and Treasurer’s increasingly hysterical claims that electricity must be privatised or the sky will fall in. The reality is that nothing has changed since the election other than the votes are in the ballot box for another term.
But less than a week AFTER the election, while I was still Opposition Leader, I was being lobbied by sections of the media to support Michael Costa’s electricity privatisation.
During the election campaign, I confirmed on several occasions that the NSW Coalition would NOT privatise electricity and noted there are more pressing issues other than ownership to be addressed - including the structure of the industry to attract private investment (not simply flog off current assets) and the need to transform the industry to clean renewable energy and to pursue energy efficiencies.
Indeed, we proposed significant changes in our 2007 Election Policy “For Future Generations – A Plan to protect the Environment and tackle Climate Change.” That policy included not only a 20% Renewable Energy Target by 2025, but also investment in solar water heaters for homes and schools and funds to support the development of Australia’s first large-scale solar generator in northern NSW. Those initiatives were well received.
I remain opposed to Costa’s fire-sale of assets which is simply to find more money for the Iemma Government to splash around in the next election campaign - with the added expense of handing over more than $100 million in fees to merchant banks participating in the Costa Privatisation.
Iemma's arrogance drives power retail workers to strike action
NSW Greens Media release: 29 August 2008
The United Services Union has called its members working in call centres of Energy Australia, Integral Energy and Country Energy off the job in protest against Premier Morris Iemma's 'plan B sell-off' announced late yesterday.
Greens NSW MP Dr Kaye said: "The Premier has treated electricity retail workers with complete contempt.
"Morris Iemma's sulking refusal to accept the will of the parliament has brought him into open warfare with the unions, his own party, and the people of NSW.
"Retail workers know their jobs are on the line. Private owners will ship call centre operations overseas as a cost-cutting exercise.
"The strike action also highlights the importance of maintaining public ownership of electricity retailers for the state's economy, household finances and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"Privatisation will undermine important opportunities for demand management that can control increases in electricity bills and reduce NSW's carbon footprint.
"NSW deserves a Treasurer and a Premier who put the needs of the community and the environment ahead of the greed of big business.
"The Greens support the electricity retail workers' strike action.
"It is in the state's interests to stop the sell-off," Dr Kaye said.
For more information: John Kaye 0407 195 455
Greens member of the NSW Parliament
phone: (02) 9230 2668
fax: (02) 9230 2586
mobile: 0407 195 455
email: john.kaye [AT] parliament nsw gov au
Contents: #PunishesHouseholds">Power retail sell-off plan punishes households and environment, #BackDoor">Costa, Iemma must resign over back-door sale move, #CowardlyRetreat">Costa's cowardly retreat from stunt gone wrong, #JohnKayeSpeech">speech by Dr John Kaye, #SylviaHaleSpeech">speech by Sylvia Hale.
#PunishesHouseholds" id="PunishesHouseholds">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
#BackDoor" id="BackDoor">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.#main-fn1">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
#CowardlyRetreat" id="CowardlyRetreat">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)
#JohnKayeSpeech" id="JohnKayeSpeech">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.
#SylviaHaleSpeech" id="SylviaHaleSpeech">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.
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.
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
#speech" id="speech">Upper House Liberal leader Michael Gallacher's speech against electricity privatisation
The following speech has been copied from the NSW Legislative Council Hansard of 27 August 2007.
The Hon. MICHAEL GALLACHER (Leader of the Opposition) [12.44 p.m.]: The Government has had 13 years to get the important issue of this State's future power generation right and, as members will shortly hear, it has got it wrong. The New South Wales Liberal-Nationals Coalition will not support the Iemma Government's Electricity Industry Restructuring (Response to Auditor-General Report) Bill and the associated cognate bill. The Liberal-Nationals Coalition does not take this decision likely. There are three key reasons for our dissatisfaction with this proposed electricity industry restructuring: the continued uncertainty surrounding the Commonwealth Government's emission trading scheme; the current state of capital markets is not conducive for the sale of such a valuable asset; and the Iemma Government's history of financial and infrastructure delivery mismanagement and incompetence. Underpinning all three reasons is the fundamental issue of trust. The community does not believe that the Government can be trusted to get this privatisation right. The community does not believe that the Iemma Government can be trusted to spend the proceeds of the sale in a transparent and honest manner. The community also does not believe that the Iemma Government can be trusted to put public interest ahead of the Labor Party's re-election plans.
The community's concerns are well founded. The 2007 State election did not deliver the Iemma Government a mandate to embark upon the sale of this State's electricity assets. In fact, the Iemma Government issued emphatic denials that any such sale would take place. The arrogant dismissal of concerns held by the Government's own members and its party, whilst contemptible, is not surprising. The Government's failure to put the question to the people of New South Wales demonstrates beyond any shadow of a doubt that this is a Government out of control, out of step and out of options. Mr Iemma betrayed the trust when he refused to reveal his true plan about the future of electricity prior to the 2007 State election. By opposing this legislation the New South Wales Liberal-Nationals Coalition will ensure that the people of the State are not betrayed.
The Treasurer's ever-shifting position on the privatisation of electricity portrays him as a political opportunist. As an executive member of the Labor Council he opposed the privatisation of electricity. On 12 February 1998 as Acting Secretary of the council he moved the following executive recommendation:
That …the Labor Council reaffirms its opposition to the Egan Electricity Privatisation Proposal.
At a Labor Council meeting on 21 October 1999, in his position as Secretary of that council, he moved the following executive recommendation:
That …the Labor Council continue its campaign against contracting out of Government employees' work and jobs.
As well as opposing electricity privatisation the Treasurer has also spoken of the need to put social concerns above market fundamentalism. In his inaugural speech to this House in September 2001 he spoke of what he imagined as a better world:
While it is true that I respect the power of the market mechanism, I reject market fundamentalism, which places all market outcomes above social concerns … Societies structured on markets that do not deliver social outcomes supported by the majority of the community are doomed to failure.
Perhaps the Treasurer should have considered his own advice before bringing this legislation to the Parliament. In addition to those sentiments in his inaugural speech, he said:
Barrie Unsworth advised me that this inaugural speech was an important speech because it provides a public benchmark to judge one's contribution to public life. I hope that at the end of my time in this House I will be judged as having contributed to prosperity, opportunity and fairness.
As I said earlier, the Treasurer is a recent public convert to the "privatisation at all costs" agenda. As late as before the last State election—in this House on 23 November 2006—the Treasurer said:
There is no energy crisis in New South Wales … In fact, New South Wales has surplus energy.
A month out from the State election, on 20 February 2007, he was reported in the Australian Financial Review as saying:
There are no plans to sell our retail electricity businesses.
Yet here we are in an extraordinary sitting of this Parliament, having been recalled at great expense to the taxpayer, to pass legislation to privatise the electricity assets.
That I stand shoulder to shoulder with my Coalition colleagues, the Nationals, and accuse the Government of betrayal is not political rhetoric. The Government's Ministers pledged that they would not sell our State's power in any restructure, but not 12 months later, in a backflip, they and announced that they would. That is a betrayal. The Treasurer does not have a monopoly on opportunism when it comes to electricity privatisation. In the other place on 9 May 2007 the Premier said, when referring to the Owen review:
The Government goes into this review with an open mind, and only two things will be ruled out. The first is nuclear power. As I have stated previously, there will be no consideration whatsoever of nuclear energy for New South Wales. Second, there will be no sale of electricity generation, transmission or distribution. On all other matters I am yet to be convinced and will await Professor Owen's expert advice.
The Premier even has been accused of lying to Unions NSW. In a Sydney Morning Herald article dated 25 May 2007 he was reported as stating in a letter to Unions NSW:
The privatisation of the State Government-owned energy companies is not on our agenda. In fact, the NSW Government's commitment to this sector is stronger than ever … with record investment in new and upgraded electricity infrastructure.
I reiterate: This represents a betrayal of trust. It is a lack of trust that underpins the Coalition's opposition to these bills. While such significant uncertainty surrounds the creation of the proposed emissions trading scheme, New South Wales's taxpayers cannot be confident they are receiving full value for their assets. My colleague the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this House, the Hon. Duncan Gay, will further outline our concerns regarding the Federal Government's emissions trading scheme.
The great disappointment in all of this is that rather than engage in a constructive conversation with the Rudd Government, Michael Costa has wasted time threatening Labor rank and file and berating the Opposition. When the bills are rejected by this House, responsibility will fall squarely at the feet of the Treasurer. From the outset he misled the community, isolated his colleagues and politicised the process. The Treasurer has failed to show leadership. Leadership is about engaging the community in open dialogue, leadership is about asking the hard questions, and leadership is about inspiration and bringing people along on a journey toward a desired outcome. At no point has the Government engaged the New South Wales public in anything resembling leadership consultation. Conversely, it has betrayed and engaged in spin, and in this House it will pay a hefty price for its hubris.
The proposal to privatise electricity does not meet the public interest test. In so many ways Australia's capital market conditions are not conducive to a positive outcome for the people of New South Wales. Since the release of the Owen report in 2007, Australian stock markets have fallen significantly. The Australian All Ordinaries fell almost 20 per cent, and the Australian utilities sector index fell almost 30 per cent. The impact of falling markets is clearly evident in the Hon. Michael Costa's consistent downward revision of the value of the assets. In December 2007 the Treasurer described a $15 billion price tag as conservative. In June 2008, he estimated the price at "around $10 billion". If a public company mysteriously lost $5 billion off the value of an asset in the space of six months, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission would declare an immediate audit. I point out that $5 billion is equivalent to the cost of 5,000 hospital beds or 130 new schools.
Importantly, the negative impact of capital markets will not be limited to initial public offerings; it will also affect trade sales. Market multiples will be used as a part of any basic valuation for a trade sale. Furthermore the global credit crunch makes it more difficult for companies to secure debt funding. My colleague in the other place the member for Manly estimates that the cost of underwriting $10 billion in current market conditions is $400 million more than at the same time last year.
The Iemma Government has spent the last week trying to make the future of its electricity plans all about the Opposition. The Treasurer has made numerous claims about why the Opposition should support the legislation—claims that simply do not stand up to scrutiny—and says that the Owen report found that $15 billion needs to be spent on electricity infrastructure. However, he is yet to explain why spending on electricity assets has been so neglected and why allegedly we need to come up with $15 billion by 2013. We reiterate that even as late as before the 2007 State election on 23 November 2006 the Treasurer stated in this House, "There is no energy crisis in New South Wales … In fact, New South Wales has surplus energy."
Responsible government is about planning for the future and anticipating the need for the replacement and ongoing maintenance of assets, particularly major assets such as power stations, hospitals, schools and police stations. The Treasurer claims that the details of the Commonwealth's emissions trading scheme will be clear by the end of the year, but what he does not point out is that, just as the New South Wales Government does not control its upper House, the Rudd Labor Government does not have control of the Senate. There is no way the Treasurer can be assured that legislation for the emissions trading scheme will be in place by the end of the year or that that legislation, even if it is amended or passed, will operate as intended.
The Treasurer also believes that financial market conditions, now or indeed at the end of the year, will be conducive to the sale of our State's electricity assets. Nobody, not even the Treasurer, knows what the market conditions will be at the end of the year. What we know now is that since the release of the Owen report in September 2007, the Australian stock market has fallen significantly. As I have said, the Australian All Ordinaries fell by almost 20 per cent and the Australian utilities sector index fell by almost 30 per cent. International rating agency, Fitch Ratings, stated:
The final valuation of NSW's coal-fired generation assets will be affected by the details of (the) carbon pollution reduction scheme (CPRS) due to be introduced in 2010. Uncertainty over how the CPRS will affect the electricity generator's cashflows and of the present state of credit markets are likely to affect the value of proceeds.
It should never ever be forgotten that the only reason the Government faces defeat is that it has failed to secure the votes of its own caucus members. This predicament is entirely of the Government's own making. The Coalition's approach to electricity privatisation was never about ticking boxes or meeting deadlines. It has always been about what is in the best interests of the New South Wales community. Our approach to this legislation has not been about the father-knows-best politics of the Australian Labor Party. From the outset, it has been about doing what the people expect of us.
My colleagues in the other place each represent more than 40,000 voters in their respective electorates. The Leaders of the New South Wales Liberals-Nationals involved each and every one of those 40,00 voters in formulating the Coalition's final position. The Hon. Michael Costa and his leader cannot say the same. The Auditor-General's Report and the Rural Community Impact Statement have played an important role in our decision. We also considered a range of factors, including external economic conditions and the current state of flux in the energy sector. The process has involved wide consultation with groups ranging from business interests to energy sector employees and of course the general community.
Ultimately the Coalition decided that the Government cannot be trusted with the privatisation of electricity. Let me echo the words of the State's Leader of the Opposition, Barry O'Farrell, who confirmed this morning that the New South Wales Liberals-Nationals will have an energy policy to put to the people of New South Wales before the next election. Our policy will include the principle of private sector involvement where it meets the public interest. It will consider the broadest range of methods that deliver to the public the best outcomes in electricity. What our electricity policy will not be is the singular agenda of an individual member of Parliament who is intent on rushing through a fire sale of the State's most valuable asset.
Much has been said in the press concerning the effect that this decision will have on the Coalition's relationship with the business community. Irrespective of what some business groups might think about the role of private enterprise in electricity generation, most members of the business community would agree that the Government cannot be trusted with even the most basic economic endeavours, let alone something as substantial as electricity privatisation.
Ultimately, the key stakeholders in the proposed sale of the State's electricity assets do not sit in New South Wales boardrooms; they sit in lounge rooms. They open a power bill every three months. They will watch as market forces, both external and internal, affect the retail price of power generation. Some of them will be renters, some will pay mortgages, some will have children, and some will live on a pension.
While the Iemma Government decides how to divide the spoils of its sale across marginal constituencies, these people will decide what to cut from the family budget as the cost of living in New South Wales continues to increase. It should never be forgotten that if this legislation fails today it will be because the Labor Party has split. Two parties with conflicting agendas now run the New South Wales Government. I am proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with my Coalition colleagues The Nationals in condemnation of these bills and the manner in which they have been introduced. Today we oppose legislation that puts Morris Iemma and Michael Costa's interests and quick-fix financial gains above the interests of the people of New South Wales. The Opposition opposes this legislation.
#EditorsComment">Editor's comment on speech #speech">above
Although I am elsewhere highly critical of many other Liberal Party politicians, I found this speech by NSW Upper House Opposition Leader Michael Gallacher to be brilliantly incisive and informative. Thanks to Sheila Newman for having drawn my attention to it. Site visitors should also take the opportunity to read Treasurer Michael Costa's speech in support of the Electricity Privatisation bill in order to form their own judgement. It can be found on the Parliamentary web site. We intend to publish it here when time permits.
Readers should also contrast the damning case against Treasurer Costa and his Government presented here with the craven pro-NSW-Government coverage of electricity privatisation by virtually all the mainstream press, including that given by the supposedly independent ABC.
Why is it that newspapers, such as Rupert Murdoch's Australian which postures incessantly about its struggle to supposedly defend Your Right to Know so rarely report to the Australian public important basic facts about issues - like that of electricity privatisation - which can be readily found in the Parliamentary Hansards of almost every sitting day of the year?
The NSW's State Opposition's stance against privatisation is, unfortunately, not absolute. Ironically though, the NSW public and NSW unionists owe Michael Gallacher, Peter Debnam, Barry O'Farrell, Andrew Stoner and the whole NSW state opposition an enormous debt of gratitude. This is because the state opposition informed the NSW public of the truth about privatisation and the Labor Government record. The opposition then put its words into action. Of course, credit also rightly belongs to the Greens, the minor party and independent members, and those Labor members who defied the unprincipled stance of the Labor Caucus majority to vote against privatisation. Also credit is due to the trade unionists and community grass roots activists who campaigned so hard against privatisation. - James Sinnamon
#speech2" id="speech2">Uppper House Nationals Leader Duncan Gay's speech against electricity privatisation
The Hon. DUNCAN GAY (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) [1.16 p.m.]: Today we have witnessed the contrast between two leaders: one leader who divided the party and another leader who brought two parties together. Never before have we seen greater contrast in this State. We have a political party that wants to hide in the back rooms of this State and not take decisions to the people. Its members do not want to walk up the front path to the front door of a house, knock on that door and say to the constituents in that house, "This is what we want to do." That party has defied the people's house of New South Wales and has not gone into the Legislative Assembly where the elected members of this Parliament represent the electorates of New South Wales.
We have seen vicarious cowardice on the part of the Premier and his tyrant Treasurer, who is probably already out there with the failed Babcock and Brown hunting for a job. Never before in this Parliament have we seen a greater contrast between those who are willing to listen to the people of New South Wales and act in the community's interest and a group who refuses to do so. That particular group unwisely spent taxpayers' money to recall the Parliament to debate a flawed scheme. The Parliament was offered one option, a flawed option that does not add up with the trading schemes yet to go before the Australian senate.
The balance of power in the Senate will be held by a small group of Independents, including the newly elected South Australia Senator, Nick Xenophon, the Family First party and the Greens. Who knows what cost that will put on power generation in New South Wales? The Treasurer, in a rare bout of honesty in this House, indicated that cost could be as much as $3 billion. No-one knows what that cost will be out of Canberra. No-one knows what the competing cost will be out of the current fire sale at Babcock and Brown, as it divulges similar interests into the markets in this country.
The Government promised to fix the roads, it promised to lower hospital waiting lists and it promised to provide extra police, but it has not delivered on one of those promises. Not one Government promise has been fulfilled. The electricity legislation that was introduced today is dead in the water, because the Government did not consult with the people of New South Wales and it gave a flawed plan. The Government has reaped its own revenge. The Government has lost, and it deserved to lose. The contrast is stark—we will go to the people with a proper plan. [Time expired.]
See also: Open letter to NSW state Opposition members urging a vote against electricity privatisation of 28 Aug 08, Open letter to NSW Labor parliamentary caucus members to urging a vote against electricity privatisation of 27 Aug 08
Media release from Barry O'Farrell NSW State Leader of the Opposition
Thursday 28 August 2008
The NSW Liberal/Nationals will vote against the Iemma Labor Government’s proposed sale of the State electricity assets.
Morris Iemma’s proposed sell-off fails the public interest test.
Governments only get one opportunity to sell a public asset and, if they decide to sell, it’s essential that taxpayers get the best possible price. That’s not possible given the current uncertainty in the energy sector.
There is currently a lack of clarity and details about the Federal Government’s emissions trading scheme and the prevailing market conditions are not favourable.
Furthermore, the Iemma Labor Government has an appalling record of dealing with the private sector – it has failed the public in deals ranging from the Cross City Tunnel to the building of the new Bathurst Hospital.
Given their record of incompetence, Morris Iemma and Labor can’t be trusted to deliver a good result for taxpayers and consumers.
Mr Iemma’s campaign to sell-off power assets, despite promising in last year’s election not to do so, confirms the public can’t trust anything he says on power issues.
Until the Federal emissions trading scheme is operational, and specific compensation for carbon liabilities is in place, the value of State-owned electricity assets will be discounted and taxpayers will not get an adequate return from any sale.
Morris Iemma and Michael Costa have failed to get any legislative guarantees from the Rudd Government about emission trading and compensation issues.
Capital market uncertainty is further contributing to the Iemma Government’s lowering of expectations on sale price.
A decision to sell in the face of this uncertainty would be economically irresponsible.
The NSW Liberal/Nationals are determined to do what’s right for the people of NSW. We are determined to act in the community interest.
We reaffirm our support for continued private sector involvement in the energy sector when it is in the best interests of the community.
Unlike Labor at the last election, the NSW Liberal/Nationals will put our energy policy to the people before the next election.
The policy will take into account the economic conditions and the changing nature of the energy industry
Barry O'Farrell MP
NSW Liberal Leader
Shadow Minister for Western Sydney
Member for Ku-ring-gai
T: 02 9230 2270
F: 02 9221 8208
Comment: This media release doesn't unequivocally oppose privatisation, which is unfortunate, but, as it points out by announcing their intention to vote against privatisation in the NSW Legislative Council and the Legislative Assembly, Barry O'Farrell and the Liberal and National Party Opposition upheld the fundamental principles of democracy and accountability that most members of the NSW Labor Government were not prepared to. For having done so, BArry O'Farrell and the Opposition incurred the ferocious wrath of many in the NSW business community of a privatisation newsmedia in the ensuing weeks. These hysterical and unconscionable attacks paid almost no regard to the case put by O'Farrell in this media release, nor to case against Costa's privatisation legislation in the Legislative Council put by Greens and Opposition members. - JS, 12 Sep 08
Firstly, this is to congratulate you for having held the line on behalf of the NSW public against the demands of NSW Treasurer Michael Costa and Premier Morris Iemma and voted against their privatisation legislation. As you well know privatisation was rejected by the NSW public in the 1999 elections and the Liberal and National Party Opposition to their credit undertook to respect that verdict.
Since then nothing has changed. Opinion poll after opinion poll has shown nothing but overwhelming rejection of privatisation by the NSW electors. If, after all this time, and after all the taxpayer-funded propaganda thrust down their throats, 86% the NSW public remain, according to one opinion poll, opposed to privatisation and 79% remain opposed according to another opinion, when is it ever likely that privatisation will win the support of the NSW public?
Clearly it will not, because the case for privatisation simply does not exist.
Privatisation leads to ownership and control of a basic service, necessary for every member of a modern society to enjoy a dignified life, out of the hands of the people into the hands of, at best, a small minority of those people. Even worse, control can, and often does, end up in the hands of foreign companies. Should Chinese investors ever achieve a controlling stake, control could even end up in the hands of a foreign and potentially hostile government.
Privatisation doesn't work simply because the interests of the broader public and the interests of private owners are not one and the same, contrary to what is often implied by privatisation proponents. This has been demonstrated again and again by other privatisations including bank privatisations and the privatisation of Telstra. The claimed efficiencies of privatisation are, in reality, nothing more than the shifting of costs previously borne by the utilities, when they were government owned, onto the broader public and onto the environment. These include the provision of training and employment opportunities and the subsidy of necessary services, often to poorer members of the community, where the free market business model will prevent the delivery of these services.
Measures to make utilities more 'efficient' are just as much available to publicly owned utilities as they are to privately owned utilities. However, publicly owned utilities which are, through our democratic institutions, subject to the control of their owners, who, with their taxes and the payment of bills, paid for these utilities in the first place, rightly don't normally adopt these measures. As the experience of Telstra, which is shedding and off-shoring jobs, and eliminating on-the-job training as fast as it is able, private corporations are under no such constraints.
In fact, privatisation introduces massive inefficiencies that do not exist for publicly owned utilities. One clear example, as Telstra has shown, is the extraordinary amount of time and effort it takes on the part of our legislators to force the privately owned corporations to serve the public interest. If Telstra had not been corporatised and then privatised, it would have long ago provided every Australian with access to fibre-optic broadband access. This is what it had planned to do before the turn of the century in the 1970's when it was a world leader in telecommunications and not constrained to justify measures, which were so obviously in the public interest, in terms of a free-market business model.
As a consequence, a large proportion of the Australian public do not have access to fibre-optic broadband, and the cost of providing broadband to our schools that satisfy the privatised Telstra's bottom line now stands in the way of NSW schools being able to take advantage of the Federal Government's program to give every school student a laptop computer. One need not think hard to imagine how having NSW's electricity assets in private hands would add a further hurdle to this program by increasing to costs to schools of provision of the necessary electricity.
Once electricity is in private hands, future NSW governments will inevitably face additional hurdles to the provision of electricity services that would not exist if current arrangements were to be preserved. Inevitably, the privatised corporations will withhold the building of substations or the provision or repair of connections in areas deemed to be less profitable. Governments will be faced with the choice of subsidising the private owners, providing the service itself, or allowing the customers to do without.
Please don't allow this to happen. Please use your vote in Parliament today as the NSW public are earnestly asking you to do and vote against the privatisation bill.
on behalf of Citizens Against Selling Telstra
The following letter was e-emailed to all members of the State Parliamentary Labor Caucus with e-mail addresses listed here. Any responses, together with how they voted on the privatisation legislation, will be include on this page.
This week Premier Morris Iemma and Treasurer Michael Costa will ask you to vote for a bill for the sale of NSW's publicly owned electricity generating and retail assets.
These assets represent 21% of NSW's infrastructure assets, earn $692.3 million annually and variously contribute $1.3 billion to NSW's state budget. Their sale would cause a significant reduction in NSW's overall worth, its financial security and, notwithstanding claims to the contrary, its energy security as control of NSW's power generation is transferred from the people of NSW to to the boardrooms of foreign multinational corporations, or even to the governments of foreign superpowers such as China.
These assets rightly belong, not to Morris Iemma or Michael Costa, not to the NSW Parliamentary Labor Caucus, but to the people of NSW who have paid for these valuable assets through their taxes and electricity bill over many past decades. You are being asked by Premier Iemma and Treasurer Costa and to use the vote that the NSW public has entrusted you with to allow this sale to proceed even though that same NSW public has repeatedly and emphatically made it known to you that it opposes this sale.
As you cannot be unaware, a recent opinion poll puts opposition to the sale at 86%, whilst another puts opposition at 79%. On the last occasion privatisation was put to the public, at the 1999 state elections, it was repudiated overwhelmingly.
Morris Iemma and Michael Costa would have us believe that, by defying the popular will, they are demonstrating true strength of character, in order to enact policies that they know to be in the best interests of the NSW public. This theme has been parroted repeatedly by their cheer squad amongst corporate newsmedia.
Perhaps others would argue that strength of character would be better demonstrated if, instead, they were prepared stand up, on behalf of the NSW people to the powerful vested interests who are demanding the sell-off to suit their own selfish short-term interests.
So, where is the evidence that privatisation is in the best interests of the NSW public? Contrary to Morris Iemma's claim of the Auditor-General's report (PDF 354K) was a 'ringing endorsement' of his position, no actual finding either for or against privatisation was presented.
In a letter to the Australian Financial Review of 27 August, Morris Iemma claimed that "the proposals have been exhaustively scrutinised" by the Unsworth committee. If this is so, I think many NSW citizens would be most interested to know where.
Barrie Unsworth's report (PDF 58K) made a sweeping claim that all the 12 criteria for the sale had been satisfied, or, at least will be satisfied if recommendations appended to the report were to be agreed to. However it failed to substantiate this in regard to any one of those criteria.
In contrast, the dissenting minority report (PDF 649K) showed with detailed evidence that the criteria had not been met. Here are some of the grave concerns raised in that report:
- That Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that the amount spent on electricity in Victoria and South Australia where electricity assets have been privatised is greater than that spent in NSW.(page 4)
- That the accountability through the ballot box, parliamentary processes and enforceable public sector behaviour codes, by which the public can currently hold electricity suppliers to due account for their actions, will be lost. (page 15)
- That as a result of privatisation in other states, training opportunities, including apprenticeship training, have been lost (pages 11-12)
- The shedding of jobs that inevitably follows privatisation. Many employees, particularly retail employees, have not been given employment guarantees, Others have been given guarantees but only for up to 5 years. Almost certainly many of these jobs will contracted out or off-shored. After privatisation in Victoria, "jobs were lost and house prices dropped dramatically (in the Latrobe Valley). The impact of this was that families who needed to leave the region to look for new employment simply couldn’t afford to." (page 10)
- That those on lower incomes will be disproportionately affected by privatisation. (page 10)
- The likelihood, as the experience of previous privatisations has shown, that private investors will not invest in base-load electricity generation and that it will be necessary for the Government to do so in order to prevent blackouts. (page 7)
Morris Iemma asks in he letter to the Australian Financial Review that you "objectively consider the hard evidence" for privatisation. So where is the "hard evidence"?
As has been shown in the minority report and in many other documents, the "case" for privatisation is illogical and self-contradictory.
Morris Iemma claimed that the sale "will save the Government $15 billion in the cost of a new generator needed by 2014."
On the one hand the NSW Treasury is to obtain a windfall to spend on other government services and to reduce debt and on the other hand, money that the Government cannot now find to provide for the necessary upgrade of NSW's electricity infrastructure will somehow materialise out of thin air. Evidently, Iemma and Costa would have us believe that, on top of providing the funds necessary to purchase the assets, investors will, out of the goodness of their hearts provide additional billions for the upgrade.
And I thought it was opponents of privatisation who are supposed to be the ones who believe that there is such a thing as a free lunch!
However, the public are clearly not that stupid. They understand perfectly well, even if Morris Iemma and Michael Costa appear incapable of understanding, that they will pay, and pay very dearly for any short term financial gain obtained by the NSW Treasury for the sale of those assets, and they will pay more should the new private owners choose to invest additional money.
That is why the NSW public remain so resolutely opposed to the sale.
There is absolutely no need for the sale. All the money to upgrade NSW's electricity infrastructure could be obtained far more easily by simply borrowing the funds outright. As former Auditor-General Tony Harris pointed out:
A large additional investment in NSW’s generation and distribution sectors is pressing. But even with recent interest rate increases, needed investments can earn sufficient gross profit to service borrowings. And such borrowings, made outside of the general government sector, would not affect the government’s budget. Still less would they imperil the state’s AAA status.
Please ask yourself: If Treasurer Costa and Premier Iemma are sincere in their stated intention to secure NSW's electricity supply, then why have they ruled out any "Plan B" should their legislation be rejected by the NSW Parliament? Why have they apparently allowed an irrational ideological prejudice prevent them from borrowing the necessary funds?
Please ask yourself: What is the point of parliamentary democracy if policies repeatedly rejected by the electorate during the course of elections, and in repeated opinion polls, are nevertheless passed by the Parliament?
Please ask yourself: Why should any self-respecting member of the Labor Party continue to make the effort with their donations, and with their time, to get elected to office representatives who then turn around and ignore their earnest wishes against privatisation as was emphatically stated by the 702 to 107 vote at the state Labor conference? Why should any such parliamentary representative presume the right to continue to hold office in defiance of the wishes of both ordinary rank-and-file party members and of the broader community?
I ask you not to turn your back on the rank-and-file of your party, on the trade union movement and on the broader community. I ask you to, instead stand with the NSW community and to stand up against the bullying of Michael
Costa and, behind him, the corporate newsmedia and the wealthy financiers, and vote to keep New South Wales' publicly owned electricity assets in public hands.
on behalf of Citizens Against Selling Telstra
See also: NSW electricity privatisation can be stopped!, Electricity Privatisation bill a test of whether the people or carpet-baggers rule NSW, Costa threatens MPs over electricity, Rallying against power privatisation, Democratic rights must be respected says State Independent candidate.
Politicians under scrutiny on power sell-off vote
NSW Greens Media release: 27 August 2008
After twelve months of debate, tomorrow's decision on Treasurer Michael Costa's electricity privation legislation will be the ultimate test of who really runs NSW, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.
Dr Kaye said: "Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell has been wedged between the business lobby and the National Party.
"Labor MPs have been subjected to intense bullying by Treasurer Costa, while their party members and organisation remain resolutely opposed to the sell-off.
"The Greens urge all MPs to vote for the people and the environment of NSW.
"The intense propaganda efforts by both the Iemma government and the corporate world's front organisation, the Alliance for NSW Future, have failed to sway public opinion.
"If the legislation is defeated, the parliament will have demonstrated that it represents the people of NSW and it acted in their long term interests.
"If Michael Costa gets his way, then it will be a victory for the carpet baggers.
"The voters will be watching closely.
"The absence of a mandate and the transparent weaknesses in the government's arguments for an urgent sale should convince Mr O'Farrell and the Opposition parties to join with the Greens and Labor MPs to block the sell-off.
"Michael Costa has not only placed the economy at risk and pushed his party to the brink of a damaging division.
"He has compromised democracy by pushing ahead without the support of the people of this state.
"Tomorrow's vote will be a test of who calls the shots in NSW," Dr Kaye said.
For more information: John Kaye 0407 195 455
The recently released NSW Auditor-General's report supposedly gives the green light to the NSW Government's electricity privatisation legislation. NSW Premier, Morris Iemma, has seized on this and has announced that he may recall the NSW Parliament as early as next week in order to rush through the privatisation legislation.
The actual words from the report (pdf, 354K), which NSW Premier Morris Iemma claimed as a "stunning endorsement" of his government's plans were "... nothing has come to my attention that causes me to believe that the Government's strategy for the transfer of assets to the private sector ... is not appropriate for maximising financial value for taxpayers."
These read like weasel words, intended to satisfy the political needs of the Iemma Government whilst maintaining a facade that the Auditor General has fulfilled his responsibilities to hold the Government accountable to the NSW public.
A condition imposed by the Auditor-General, which superficially appears to pose a hurdle to privatisation, is that a confidential reserve price for each electricity generation asset to be sold be arrived at. If, for any one asset, the bids fail to exceed that asset's secret reserve price, that asset's sale is to be scrapped. One "of the factors used to determine the reserve price for each transaction" is to be the asset's 'Retention Value'. The report doesn't specify what other factors are to be used in determining the reserve price.
The A-G's report describes the 'retention value'.
The Strategy Document outlines the intended approach to be adopted to estimate the value of the businesses under continued Government ownership. This approach values the projected future dividends from the businesses and projected corporate taxes paid by the businesses which are ultimately received by the State under the Tax Equivalent Regime. The projections should reflect the expected performance of the businesses under continued Government ownership taking into account any impact of Government ownership on the businesses’ growth strategy, capital structure and performance. The projected future dividends and tax payments should be discounted at an appropriate cost of equity reflecting the risks associated with the projected cash flows.
From the point of view of accountability and the public interest, there are a number of problems:
- The 'retention values' were unspecified.
- What is to stop the NSW Treasurer from applying 'factors' other than an asset's 'retention value' in order to reduce the reserve price?
- The process requires, on the one hand, concealing from the NSW public the calculated retention values, whilst, on the other hand, relying on those managing the sell-off to keep that knowledge from the intending purchasers.
- The 'retention value' is defined only in the narrowest financial terms. For example, it appears to accept shifting of costs, previously borne by publicly owned corporations, onto the public as a legitimate means to favorably assess comparative performance of the privately owned utility. One example of cost-shifting typically employed by privatised corporation is the reduction in on-the-job training of its staff.
In other ways, the report helps expedite privatisation. It states:
... it is in the interests of investor confidence and bearing in mind the long lead times for developers to physically obtain generation equipment, that any uncertainty relating to the proposed restructure should be removed as soon as possible.
The report also takes issue with the five year employment guarantee to current NSW electricity employees:
Based on information provided by Treasury, the planned measures for the proposed employee protections are generally consistent with other privatisations and Government restructures, except for the employment guarantees. A five year employment guarantee for certain Generator employees exceeds such guarantees in previous privatisations and restructures, which were for three years or less.
From the A-G's objection to the five year employment guarantee which he implies is excessive, we can see that he unquestioningly accepts the prevailing economic orthodoxy which is that the greater propensity of private owners to shed jobs is a factor in favour of private ownership.
Whatever can be said of the report, it fails to clearly demonstrate, as the NSW public who paid for the report are entitled to know, whether or not privatisation is in their best interests. It admits that its parameters are confined to dollar projections in the narrowest sense, and does not consider factors beyond this - notably democracy.
The fate of NSW's electricity assets, paid for over recent decades by the NSW public with taxes and through electricity bills, should not rest on such an obviously limited and deficient report.
The NSW public, the rightful owners of the electricity assets, have consistently and emphatically shown their opposition to the sale. In the 1999 elections where they resoundingly voted against the NSW Liberal/National opposition which stood on a platform of full privatisation. The latest poll showed 79% opposition to the sale. An earlier poll showed 85% opposition. The NSW state Labor Party Conference, wholly consistent with the feelings of the broader community, voted 702 to 107 against privatisation, but was subsequently ignored by the NSW state Labor Parliamentary Caucus.
The plans to privatise were never put to the NSW public during the 2007 elections. As it is impossible to believe that privatisation had only occurred to Iemma and Costa since the election, it would appear that they deliberately concealed their intentions, knowing that they would have been rejected.
If democracy in this country is to have any practical substance whatsoever, then the NSW government has no mandate to proceed with the sale.
Given that the Iemma Government may well have the numbers on the floor, how is it possible for the NSW public to prevent this brazen theft from proceeding?
The public have already made it clear they don't support privatisation of electricity
As the Vietnam Moratorium and many other popular protest movements have demonstrated, Parliament does not always get its way when it is so far removed from the will of the public.
The most effective way to block privatisation would be for the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), members of which stand to lose the most should it proceed, to carry out their threat of industrial action. In all likelihood the ETU would not even need to carry out its threat. If it were simply made clear to the Iemma that, unless privatisation is abandoned outright, or the legislation put to the NSW public either through a referendum or at the next election, it will proceed with industrial action, it is hard to conceive of how this could not enjoy the overwhelming support of the NSW public and and it is hard to concieve of how Iemma, faced with such an ultimatum could see any alternative but to agree.
Whether or not the ETU decides to pursue this course, all parliamentary representatives must be held to account for their actions. As hardly any who have voted in Parliament for privatisation, least of all the Labor representatives, are acting in accord with the will of their constituencies then their constituencies have every right to have them replaced by others who will. In the case of the NSW Labor Party, whose will has also been ignored, simply supporting those few Labor members who have voted against privatisation is hardly sufficient. They should not hesitate to disendorse each and every member who have voted for privatisation, starting from Morris Iemma and Michael Costa. Given the generally appalling record of the Iemma Government and its abysmally low popularity, this would seem, in any case, to be the only realistic chance that Labor would have of retaining government in NSW in 2011.
If the public don't endorse the sale it can be revoked later on
However, the most important measure that should be adopted by those now fighting privatisation is to clearly warn those intending to buy NSW's electricity assets that they have no right to do so and be resolved to both remove from office all those who are pushing privatisation and to renationalise those assets.
All those who intend to buy NSW's electricity assets in open defiance of the will of the NSW public must be told in no uncertain terms that once a government, which is representative of the NSW public, comes to power, that they, and not the NSW public, will be made to bear the cost. Whatever costs, which were were illegitimately imposed on the NSW public in the course of privatisation and whatever further costs are necessary to renationalise those assets should be discounted in full from the money paid for the repurchase of these assets.
If this were stated clearly now, then they won't be able to say that they weren't warned.
NSW Greens Media Release: 26 July 2008
It's time for NSW Premier Morris Iemma to admit that the Rudd government's emissions trading scheme combined with widespread community opposition has fatally damaged his plans to privatise the state's electricity industry, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.
Commenting on a story on page 8 of today's Australian ('Iemma admits to sell-off doubt'), Dr Kaye said: "Morris Iemma is causing havoc in NSW's power industry in a futile attempt to position it for a sell-off that is increasingly unlikely to receive parliamentary approval.
"Pushing administrative staff out of state-owned retailer Integral Energy into generator Eraring could prove to be an expensive and disruptive political stunt.
"Given yesterday's report that 25 percent of the nation's coal-fired power generators will be forced out of business by the Commonwealth government's emissions trading scheme, NSW Coalition leader Barry O'Farrell will have little choice but to oppose the sell-off legislation when it come to parliament in late September.
"The news will have caused the sale value of NSW's three generator companies to have plummeted.
"Neither government nor Opposition can pretend that there is any financial benefit in the privatisation.
"Meanwhile, voters are increasingly focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and controlling rising household electricity bills.
"On both counts, the sell-off is bad deal.
"The political window of opportunity for the privatisation is slamming shut.
"The Premier should listen to his backbenchers, put his Treasurer Michael Costa on a tighter leash and abandon the power sell-off," Dr Kaye said.
For more information: John Kaye 0407 195 455
See also: ABC gives free kick to Iemma, NSW electricity privatisation of 21 Jul 08.
When Barrie Unsworth complained on Sydney's local ABC radio of the New South Wales Labor Party's efforts to ensure that state Labor parliamentarians vote against the privatisation of NSW's electricity assets - a policy already rejected resoundingly by the electorate in 1999 and currently opposed by 79% of the NSW public - his interviewer Toni Matthews expresssed her total agreement with the former NSW Premier: "Why - It seems obvious to me - Why isn't it obvious to these younger members that you're talking about that they're creating mayhem within the party?"
On 15 July, Sydney's local Radio Station gave a free kick to the NSW government's efforts to hand privatise the electricity assets of NSW when fomer NSW Premier Barry Unsworth was interviewed on the Morning Show by a wholly sympathetic and uncritical Toni Matthews This was subsequently reported in other media including the West Australian and ABC's online news service. In the interview Barrie Unsworth spelt out his plans to again enlist Labor 'elder statesmen' to including former Prime Minister Paul Keating, former Labor Premier Bob Carr and former Labor Council heads Michael Easson and John MacBean, to wear down the resistance of the NSW Labor Party to the privatisation of NSW's electricity assets. The online ABC report was misleadingly entitled "Keating, Carr asked to heal NSW Labor".
The ABC reported:
Mr Unsworth has lashed out at NSW Labor state secretary Karl Bitar for actively campaigning against Mr Iemma and his power privatisation plans, which the former premier supports.
However, if Mr. Unsworth had been a little more consistent, he would have also 'lashed out' at the entire NSW Labor Party, which, at its conference voted 702 to 107 against privatisation and he would have 'lashed out' at the NSW union movement.
If Mr Unsworth had been consistent, he would have, above all, 'lashed out' at the NSW public, who have failed to budge from their emphatic opposition to privatisation. On 29 June it was reported that an opinion poll found 79% opposed to privatisation, even when the Government's rationale for privatisation was put to them#main-fn1">1. This poll is consistent with an earlier poll sponsored by the NSW union movement which found that 85% of the NSW public opposed privatisation.
It would therefore seem odd for Mr. Unsworth to have felt only resentful towards only a few Labor Party and trade union officials. Why Toni Matthews failed to point out these widely understood facts is unclear.
It is striking that Toni Matthews made no effort to challenge the seemingly very weak case put by Mr Unsworth for privatisation:
... I think it's an argument that has gone beyond its time because everywhere else in Australia electricity is conducted on the basis of a national market and there are some people - you would virtually call them Luddites in this state who can't comprehend that or don't want to accept that times change. I was saying to someone yesterday: Where's the state dock yard? Where's the state abattoirs? Where's the state brick works? I mean those sort of things come from another era and, quite frankly, governments should get on with the jobs that they're entrusted to do and get out of activity which is no longer relevant.
So, it would seem that 79% of the NSW public are 'Luddites' because, unlike Barrie Unsworth, they do believe that the provision of electricity, if not, perhaps, bricks, abattoirs and dockyards, are core government business.
In much of the interview Unsworth vented his indignation at the efforts made, within the NSW Labor Party, to remove the abysmally unpopular Premier Morris Iemma as leader of the NSW Parliamentary Labor Party. He told ABC 702 Sydney Local Radio:
"All this talk about forcing the Premier to leave office and searching for some other candidate is not in the best interest of the Labor Party,"
"I'm just appalled that there are people in trade union leadership and also now in party leadership positions who are seeking to achieve that end."
Toni Matthews, not for the first time and not for the last time in the interview, expressed her total agreement with the former Premier when she responded, "Why - It seems obvious to me - Why isn't it obvious to these younger members that you're talking about that they're creating mayhem within the party?"
Barrie Unsworth was particularly indignant at the attempts by the NSW Labor Party to ensure that Labor parliamentarians support, on the floor of Parliament, Labor's opposition to privatisation. He complained, "I have been able to confirm that parliamentary members in marginal seats have been brought to head office and in effect told that their preselections would be at risk if they didn't support the directives of head office".
"This is a democracy," Unsworth continued, "The people of NSW elected the Government, not people down in Sussex Street."
The full transcript interview lasting 8 minutes is included #transcript">below. It is an illustration of how poorly the people of Australia continue to be served by its newsmedia, even the supposedly independent and 'left wing' ABC.
Unsworth's inititative, should it succeed in getting the NSW Labor Party to acquiesce before Iemma and Costa, will no more 'heal' the NSW Labor Party than did acceptance of the privatisation program of the Hawke and Keating governments 'heal' the national Labor Party back in the 1990's.
The privatisation of Qantas and the Commonwealth Banks, also carried out against Labor's own platform and also without any mandate from the electorate, only helped pave the way for 11 dark years of even worse misrule by the Howard Government. The privatisation of the remaining Government-owned half of the Commonwealth Bank followed Paul Keating's election victory in 1993. It was privatised despite a specific promise made by Keating not to. This only served to help demoralise Labor's own ranks and handed a perfect propaganda weapon to the Howard opposition, which had cynically voted in Parliament to support the breaking of Keating's 1993 election pledge#main-fn2">2. From then, amongst the repertoire of responses to any objection to the Coalition's own plans to privatise Telstra, was to remind the electorate that the preceding Labor government had "privatised everything that moved."
It became impossible, during subsequent federal elections campaigns, to convince many rural residents, hard hit by the Commonwealth Bank privatisation and Labor's overall neglect of rural Australia, that Labor was sincere in its stated opposition to Telstra privatisation, which, in any case, it has retrospectively endorsed.
In the inteview Unsworth accused the younger Labor Party officials of failing to understand history: "I mean if they had looked back over history, they would realise that disunity is death."
In fact it is Unsworth, himself, who seems unable to grasp the lessons of Labor's history. Whilst 'unity' under the pro-big-business leadership of Hawke and Keating, did not save Labor supporters and the broader Austrlian public from the catastrophe of the Howard years, open defiance of the NSW Labor Party of Premier Carr's earlier attempt to privatise electricity did not cost it office. In 1999, when Labor stood against a Liberal/National opposition pledged to fully privatise electricity, it won resoundingly, in spite of being led by Bob Carr. This is clear evidence that the NSW public can be discerning enough not to automatically turn away the Labor Party simply because of an episodic display 'disunity'.
NSW Labor's best chance to both hold on to office and to actually do something whilst in office, other than serve the interests of the corporate sector and property developers, would be for the ranks of the Labor to disendorse all of their parliamentiary supposed 'representatives', who have turned their backs not only on them, but also on the NSW public and basic principles of democracy, starting with Iemma and Costa
#main-fn1" id="main-fn1">1. #main-fn1-txt">↑ John Kaye calls on Iemma to dump sell-off as NSW public repudiate privatisation of 29 Jun 08 by John Kaye
#main-fn2" id="main-fn2">2. #main-fn2-txt">↑ To their credit, the NSW state Liberal/National Party Opposition has acted in a far more principled and decent fashion than did the Federal Liberal/National Opposition in the 1990's, not to mention the NSW state 'Labor' caucus. Paradoxically, it is thanks to the them, far more than to the Labor caucus, only a small handful of which were prepared to support Labor's own policy on the floor of the NSW Parliament, that the attempt to flog off NSW's electricty assets has been defeated thus far. This is in spite of such a stance threatening to strain their relationship with the NSW corporate sector as The Australian newspaper ominously warned in June. Had the Liberals and Nationals not inisted upon the privatisation legislation be referred to the NSW Auditor General, the legislation would almost certainly now be law.
See also: Unsworth report is a dead duck of 11 Mar 08 by Ed Lewis, John Kaye calls on Iemma to dump sell-off as NSW public repudiate privatisation of 29 Jun 08 by John Kaye, No Mandate, No Sale - Demand Costa and Iemma debate electricity sale in Parliament of 14 May 08 by John Kaye
#transcript" id="transcript">Appendix: Full transcript of Interview of Former NSW Premier Barrie Unsworth by Toni Matthews
BU:We've got an unprecedented situation at the moment where the leadership of Centre Unity (the predominant right wing faction in the NSW Labor Party) is undermining the Government of the state of NSW in the Premiership of Morris Iemma. Now, that's just untenable. I attended the party conference in May and the scenes that occured there I have never seen in my more than 50 years' membership of the party.
TM: Well, what do you mean? What kind of scenes are you talking about?
BU: Moving censures on the Premier and the party secretary giving leadership to the Centre Unity faction by actively campaigning and speaking against Premier Iemma. Now, Premier Iemma won the New South Wales elections last year, brought the Labor Party back into Office, continued the Labor Government that was commenced by Bob Carr back in mid-nineties and he should be rewarded for that - not attacked by the party administration as occurred at the conference.
TM: Well, it does seem a little unusual ...
BU: ... and as has occurred since then.
TM: ... mmm, and seems very destabilising.
BU: Well, I have been able to confirm that Parliamentary members in marginal seats have been brought to head office and, in effect, told that their preselections would be at risk if they didn't support support the directives of head office. Now, this is a democracy. The people of New South Wales elected the Government, not people down in Sussex Street (the head office of the NSW branch of the Labor Party). Now, I have been one of those apparatchiks. I know how the system works, and what I say is the elder statesmen of the Party should come together, have a look at what's happened to the party in this last 30 years - look at where it is at the moment - controlled by a group of younger, and in my view, inexperienced members, and look at the real issue. The real issue is keeping Labor in Government. The real issue is supporting a premier who won an election a little over twelve months ago, and will be in office for almost another three years, and all this talk about forcing the Premier to leave office and and searching for another candidate is not in the best interests of the Labor Party and I am just apalled that there are people in trade union leadership and also now in party leadership positions who are seeking to achieve that end.
TM: Forgive me, Mr Unsworth. Why - It seems obvious to me - Why isn't it obvious to these younger members that you're talking about that they're creating mayhem within the party?
BU: They haven't had the experience. I mean I have been reading some of their profiles on the weekend. They've been in the Labor Party for less than ten years and some of them are holding senior positions. I mean if they had looked back over history, they would realise that disunity is death, and if you destabilise the party you will be out of office and it's a lot harder to get back into office than it is to get out of office and I should know. Oppositions - they don't win elections. Governments lose them and having lost an election in '88, I can see the same situation occurring again in 2011 unless the party settles down, so it needs people who have had the experience, who were at the formation of Centre Unity such as those that I have nominated and I have nominated and spoken to John McBean who was party President and Michael Costa, who was secretary of the Labor Council, and both John and I were secretaries of the Labor Council. I know Paul Keating, because of the letter he wrote to the papers after the conference, is of a like mind and I have spoken to Bob Carr about the situation and I think that we've got to come together and give some direction.
I've spoken to delegates who were at the conference who were most uncomfortable with the direction they were given by the leadership of the Centre Unity at that conference. Some of them walked out and didn't vote and others voted, because they were under pressure, within their delegations and the leadership they were given was abysmal.
TM: It's twenty to nine on Mornings on 702. I am talking with former New South Wales Premier Barrie Unsworth about the current disquiet within the state ALP. Mr Unsworth, is this factional warfare playing into the hands of the Opposition?
BU: Obviously, it is! Obviously, it is! I made the point to the Premier, I think his popularity is at 28% - something like that, and I was editorialised once as "Mr twenty six percent", but I was able to claw back to 62%.
TM: That's just the media, isn't it?
BU: Well, I think ...
BU:I think the media conducts the polling, and I've been in radio. I know a little bit about polling. Popularity comes and goes and it depends upon how you're treated by teh communication mediums and I think Premier Iemma has - he's got some very good policies. He's put in to action quite a number of them in the interests of the community in key areas such as health and transport and public security and this whole argument is just about electricity and I think it's an argument that has gone beyond its time because everywhere else in Australia electricity is conducted on the basis of a national market and there are some people - you would virtually call them Luddites in this state who can't comprehend that or don't want to accepet that times change. I was saying to someone yesterday: Where's the state dock yard? Where's the state abbottoirs? Where's the state brickworks? I mean those sort of things come from another era and, quite frankly, governments should get on with the jobs that they're entrusted to do and get out of activity which is no longer relevant.
TM: I gather that you have spoken to the Premier recently. How is he feeling about all this? He must be disappointed.
BU: I think that Premier Iemma shows great resilience and his public persona, I think, is tremedous because he's prepared to get on with the job and - sort of - brush off these frustrations, but i think we have got to send a message to the people who are white-anting the party that it's just not acceptable. It's not not just in the interest of the party, but all of the - you know - the millions of people in New South Wales that support the Labor Party that put them in office last year and expect them to do a job in the intersts of the people of this state.
TM: Mr. Unsworth, what would you say to those people who say, "Look, you've been around the block. You've had your time. It's now for the younger people, coming up through the ranks. If they make mistakes, so be it. Let them make mistakes. Let them learn.
BU: Well, you can't learn on the job. I mean, they should become a little more proficient. A lot of people that are in these positions today have never really worked. The system has changed. You have got a lot of staffers that get into these positions who have never had a job in industry. I mean, I - I am an electrician. I have worked as an electrician. I have come up through the ranks, and many of the people - and all of my contemporaries had that experience. You've got young inexperienced people now in positions of authority, and it's not just a question about "We've had our time". We've got the experience. We've got the runs on the board. We've been through all of these situations, the splits in the Labor Party, and we don't like it. And what we want to see is a bit of a steady-up. What it's all about is the egos of one or two individuals in the trade union movment and the ambitions of others in the party machine, who, themselves, want to see that they exercise parliamentary representative office.
TM: So, Mr Unsworth, if this factional issue isn't addressed before the next election, it's certainly going to have an effect on the results.
BU: Oh, huh. The next election's not for another three years. It'll be addressed well before then and I think it will have to be addressed again in the immediate future, because the Government has got to get on with the job, not be distracted by all this self-indulgent behaviour of a handful of people.
Greens Media Release : 16 July 2008
In a last ditch attempt to rescue NSW Treasurer Michael Costa's electricity privatisation push, the Rudd government has ignored Professor Ross Garnaut's opposition to compensating power stations for the costs of emissions trading, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.
Dr Kaye said: "The handiwork of Michael Costa is writ large in the federal government's Green Paper.
"He has been able to keep the door open for revenue from carbon trading to be used to compensate the owners of the large generators.
"This was essential if his proposed sell-off was to have any chance of surviving the huge costs of purchasing emissions certificates for the state's power stations.
"Ross Garnaut explicitly rejected compensation, explaining that other forms of structural adjustment funding would deliver more jobs and wealth creation.
"He anticipated and explicitly rejected the Green Paper's concern that power stations would lose value, citing the case of government policies that have depreciated investments in producing asbestos and tobacco
"Treasurer Costa knows he cannot sell the state's electricity generators without someone else paying for at least part of the billions of dollars of emissions certificates needed to support the 58 million tonnes of CO2 they emit each year.
"Together with his climate sceptic allies in Canberra and the fossil fuel lobby around Australia, Michael Costa has been able to push the Rudd government into taking compensation away from households and giving it to generators.
"This battle is not over yet. Saner heads in Canberra will no doubt be appalled by this outcome and will be working hard to keep the compensation amounts to a minimum.
"Treasurer Costa still faces an uphill battle to push through his sell-off," Dr Kaye said.
For more information: John Kaye 0407 195 455
Update: Kelly denies Govt considering Snowy Hydro sell-off from ABC Online News 11 Jul 08 (see #update">below)
The Canberra Times has reported that the Rudd Labor Government is now planning to acquire the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority in order to privatise it. This is in spite of fierce public opposition which forced the previous Howard Government to abandon its own privatisation plans and Rudd's own pledge before the 2007 elections to keep it in public hands.
The Rudd Government maintains that it is "opposed to outright privatisation as such''. Instead, it plans to lease the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Corporation to private industry. However, as NSW anti-privatisation campaigner Greens MP John Kaye pointed out in a #JohnKaye">media release of 10 July, "There is no practical difference between Kevin Rudd's long term lease and John Howard's sell-off. Both would see control of the water in the scheme pass out of public hands to large multinational corporations."
John Kaye has warned that if NSW Treasurer Michael Costa succeeds in the privatisation of NSW's electricity assets, in the face of the strong opposition of 79% of the NSW public, that the Rudd Government may well feel encouraged to proceed with the sell-off of the Snowy Hydro.
According to the Canberra Times, the, by now, wholly familiar rationale for privatisation has been offered, that is, that it has to be privatised in order for the $800 million in investment said to be necessary can be raised by the private sector. No reason as to why the money couldn't, instead, simply be raised directly by the government either from general revenue or through loans was offered.
An impetus to privatisation also come unexpectedly in last week's Climate Change Review Draft Report. The report made the claim that ownership of the Snowy scheme by three governments NSW, Victoria and the Commonwealth could restrict future development and competitiveness in the national electricity market.
However, local community opponents to privatisation pointed out that Garnaut had paid no regard to the fact that the Snowy Hydro was a regulator of water. As former chief engineer with Snowy Hydro, Max Talbot, had written in a letter to the Prime Minister earlier this year after hearing that privatisation was being considered, Snowy Hydro was ''worthless as a business'' without its water licence.
''The licence is weighted towards the use of water for electricity production and trading rather than optimisation of the use of the water as an invaluable resource for irrigation, communities and the environment.
''It does not adequately regulate Snowy Hydro and contains compensation clauses that would result in the payment of hundreds of millions of dollars by governments to private owners should the licence need to be amended during its 75-year term.'
So if privatisation, in the guise of a long term lease were to proceed, the Australian community may be faced the unpalatable choice of forgoing vitally needed water or paying prohibitively for an breach of contract to the private operators of the Snowy Hydro.
Alpine Riverkeepers spokeswoman Acacia Rose was also critical of the Garnaut report's comments on privatising Snowy Hydro.
''The Snowy scheme is vital for water security and must be re-positioned for water storage and management despite the recommendations of Garnaut that focus primarily on energy generation,'' she said.
With diminishing rainfall for south-eastern Australia there will be less water available for energy generation.''
The fact that Ross Garnaut has so inappropriately used his authority to promote privatisation when privatisation has had such a disastrous track record and when it has been so emphatically opposed by the public, may be cause to question his preference for market forces, even if operating within the constraints of his carbon credits trading scheme, as the solution to global warming.
The ABC reported on 11 July that Federal Member for Eden-Monaro Mike Kelly has put an end to speculation that federal Labor has done a backflip on its opposition to privatise Snowy Hydro.
In response to the abovementioned Canberra Times article Mr Kelly said that his Government has not changed its opposition and he stands by his election pledge to keep the corporation in public hands.
He claimed that the Canberra Times report was misleading.
Comment: The report didn't account for the inconsistency between the Federal Government's support for the privatisation of NSW's electricity and its professed opposition to the sale of the Snowy Hydro.
#JohnKaye" id="JohnKaye">Appendix: Media Release for John Kaye, NSW Greens MLA
NSW power sell-off would renew Snowy Hydro privatisation push
10 July 08
The Iemma government's attempt to sell the state's electricity industry has become a test case for privatising the nation's largest hydro-electric and irrigation scheme, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.
Commenting on a story on page 1 of today's Canberra Times (''Snowy power may go private'
), Dr Kaye said: "Federal member for Eden-Monaro Mike Kelly has let the cat out of the bag.
"The Rudd government is carefully watching NSW Treasurer Michael Costa's push to sell off the state's retailers and generators.
"According to Mr Kelly, if Treasurer Costa is successful, the Commonwealth government will implement their secret plan to take over the Snowy and lease it out.
"It looks like a reincarnation of John Howard's privatisation plans that came to a sticky end in 2006 after massive public opposition.
"There is no practical difference between Kevin Rudd's long term lease and John Howard's sell-off. Both would see control of the water in the scheme pass out of public hands to large multinational corporations.
"The ante on the NSW sell-off has just been upped. The Iemma government's proposed sell-off is an environmental, social and economic disaster. It just got worse.
"The issue is no longer confined to the state's coal-fired power stations and retailers. It now includes Snowy.
"The state member for Eden-Monaro, Steve Whan, needs to get onto the phone to his federal colleague and reiterate the arguments he used in 2006 to oppose the sell off.
"No doubt Mr Whan will now be regretting his support of the Unsworth Inquiry recommendations to sell off the state's power industry.
"He will not be happy to see he has unwittingly become part of a renewed push to privatise Snowy.
"Mr Whan knows that this will be even more detested in his electorate than the already deeply unpopular power sell off," Dr Kaye said.
For more information: John Kaye 0407 195 455
Media Release: 7 July 2008
NSW Treasurer Michael Costa's misleading attack on climate change reviewer Professor Ross Garnaut's emissions trading proposal is a last-ditch attempt to rescue the Iemma government's electricity privatisation push, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.
Commenting on an opinion piece by the Mr Costa in today's Australian ("Garnaut Report a first step that falls short"), Dr Kaye said: "The Treasurer is working hard to undermine Professor Garnaut's argument for not compensating the electricity generators for the costs of the proposed emissions trading scheme.
"Michael Costa is threatening the nation with blackouts and economic chaos if the generators are not given at least 30 percent of their permits for free.
"The only blackout will be the Treasurer's career if the loss of power station profitability undermines his attempted privatisation.
"Professor Garnaut has nailed yet another nail in the coffin of the Iemma government's power sell-off. Investors would not want to buy power stations that have to fork out billions of dollars each year for permits.
"Mr Costa wants the people of NSW to have no faith in the ability of the national electricity market to maintain capacity to meet demand.
"The Treasurer's tirade ignores the effects of rising wholesale electricity prices on encouraging other lower carbon sources to be developed and operate.
"It is ironic to watch a leading neo-liberal economic ideologue like Michael Costa argue that markets do not work.
"In desperation, the Treasurer also argues that the power stations have property right to pollute the atmosphere.
"Australian society has never accepted the right of corporations to do harm just because they have done so in the past. As Professor Garnaut pointed out, this nation reduced the profitability of tobacco companies and asbestos mines without compensation.
"It is time for Premier Iemma to reign in his Treasurer before he does yet more damage to the government's credibility," Dr Kaye said.
For more information: John Kaye 0407 195 455
Greens member of the NSW Parliament
phone: (02) 9230 2668
fax: (02) 9230 2586
mobile: 0407 195 455
john.kaye[AT]parliament nsw gov au www.johnkaye.org.au
Costa has failed to sell privatisation to NSW voters: time to dump it
Greens Media Release: 29 June 2008
The Taverner Research poll released today shows that NSW voters have not been fooled by the Iemma government's power sell-off rhetoric, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.
Commenting on a story on pages 8 and 9 of today's Sun-Herald ('Jittery Labor MPs get ready to dump Iemma') Dr Kaye said: "A massive 79% of the poll sample rejected the government's rationale for electricity privatisation#main-fn1">1.
"Despite an intensive effort by Premier Morris Iemma and his Treasurer Michael Costa a tiny 14% believe them. Only 7% were undecided.
"The people of NSW are too smart to fall for the government's snow job.
"No amount of spin can hide the economic reality of the electricity industry. Selling off the retailers and the generators will leave the state's coffers with less value than it receives from annual dividends and tax payments.
"The Taverner Research Poll confirms the findings of two other polls taken earlier this year. Public opinion is not moving in favour of the sell-off.
"Premier Iemma and Treasurer Costa should give up. The voters have proven themselves to be too smart and the sell-off should be dumped," Dr Kaye said.
For more information: John Kaye 0407 195 455
The weekend poll found 79 per cent oppose power privatisation, even when reminded that the Government's rationale is to invest more in public infrastructure.
NSW Greens Media Release: 3 June 2008
Original media release from greens.org.au/media/releases
NSW Treasurer Michael Costa's budget to be delivered this afternoon proves that the electricity industry sell-off is unnecessary and bad for the economy, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.
Commenting on the pre-release announcement of a $58 billion spend on infrastructure, Dr Kaye said: "The Iemma government's budget is based on the sensible idea that borrowing for infrastructure is a healthy investment in the state's future.
"It is time for the same logic to be applied to the electricity industry
"Treasurer Costa has belatedly joined the big borrowers brigade, recognising that the state needs to invest in transport, health and education to secure the economic future of NSW.
"Exactly the same argument can be applied to the state's energy system.
"Borrowing for investment in new clean energy supply capacity would not only help the state cope with increasing pressure on greenhouse gas emissions.
"It would also earn a healthy return, which would pay off the debt.
"There would be no effect on the state's credit rating.
"If Treasurer Costa could see beyond his ideological commitment to privatisation, he would understand that maintaining public ownership of the electricity industry would help ease the debt burden.
"The generators and retailers currently put $1.1 billion to the state's budget each year.
"That's a very healthy return on assets that are probably worth less than $7 billion on the open market," Dr Kaye said.
For more information: John Kaye 0407 195 455
No Mandate, No Privatisation Bill
Original document here on John Kaye's web site.
Support the bill to force the government to get parliamentary approval for its privatisation scheme!
NSW Greens MP John Kaye has introduced a bill to NSW Parliament which would guarantee that the NSW Government could not privatise electricity without the approval of Parliament.
The Greens first put forward the Energy Services Corporations Ownership (Parliamentary Powers) Bill 2008 (pdf file - the No Mandate No Privatisation Bill) in February 2008 after the NSW Government announced that it had legal advice that it didnot need the Parliament's permission to privatise the state's billion dollar electricity industry.
The government does not have a mandate for its privatisation scheme.
No mention of it was made in the lead up to the last state election in 2007, and the move directly contravenes existing Labor Party policy. At the NSW ALP Conference rank and file members of the ALP confirmed this - with members voting against the sale by a massive margin of 7 to 1.
Support the No Mandate No Privatisation Bill and stop the government bypassing parliament and selling off billions of dollars of public assets.
About the Bill
The Greens No Mandate No Privatisation Bill was successfully introduced into Parliament, with the support of the Opposition and minor parties, in February 2008. However, a vote on the Bill was put on hold after the Treasurer Michael Costa announced that some form of legislation would come before Parliament about the sale.
At the time this seemed a significant concession from the government, as it was the first time that the government had agreed that the Parliament would have a vote on the privatisation plan. This concession encouraged some of the members of the NSW upper house to avoid voting on the Greens Bill at that time.
However, in giving this assurance the Treasurer did not give any details of how or when a vote might happen. It is not know, for example, whether the government will wait to introduce legislation until it is already a long way down the track of privatisation. The government has already committed millions of dollars towards the sale, in consultant fees and an expensive advertising campaign.
Click here for full news from 26 February and the passage of the Bill so far.
The Greens will be pushing ahead with the No Mandate No Privatisation Bill in May 2008. To view a copy of the Bill click HERE.
- 4 May 2008: The Premier announced that he plans to push ahead with privatisation, regardless of the wishes of the community and his own party. His announcement came one day after the state ALP conference voted overwhelmingly against the government's privatisation plan.
- For other latest news see the Privatisation News page of (Jphn Kaye's) website.
How you can help:
You can show your support for the Greens bill by:
- Calling the Liberal Party shadow treasury spokesperson, Greg Pearce, on 9230 2428
- Calling Rev Gordon Moyes of the Christian Democrats, on 9230 3340
- Calling Robert Brown of the Shooters Party, on 9230 3059
- Emailing all Coalition, Christian Democrat and Shooters Party members of the NSW Upper House:
john.ajaka [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au robert.brown [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au david.clarke [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au rick.colless [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au catherine.cusack [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au marie.ficarra [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au michael.gallacher [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au jenny.gardiner [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au duncan.gay [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au don.harwin [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au trevor.khan [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au charlie.lynn [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au Matthew.Mason-Cox [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au gordon.moyes [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au F.Nile [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au Robyn.Parker [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au melinda.pavey [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au greg.pearce [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au roy.smith [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au?bcc=justin.whelan [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au
Subject: No Mandate, No Privatisation
Dear Member of the NSW Legislative Council,
I write to ask you to support the Energy Services Corporation Ownership (Parliamentary Powers) Bill 2008 that Greens MP John Kaye will be moving in Parliament very soon.
The government is proceeding without a mandate. Morris Iemma ruled out privatisation before the last election. Now he is claiming he does not even need legislation to make it happen. It seems the people's elected representatives are going to be ignored, along with the 86 per cent of the public who oppose this bad idea.
I understand this bill does NOT seek to establish a general prohibition on privatisation of the energy services corporations. It does require the government to obtain the concurrence of both houses of parliament to proceed with its plan. It is designed to stop Michael Costa's arrogance and abuse of executive power, by forcing him to obtain the approval of parliament.
This is a simple step you can take to ensure that parliament, as a representative of the people of NSW, has a say in what happens to the electricity industry in this state.
[insert name and address]
- Emailing all Labor members of the NSW Upper House:
tony.catanzariti [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au office [AT] smos.nsw.gov.au greg.donnelly [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au amanda.fazio [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au kayee.griffin [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au office [AT] hatzistergos.minister.nsw.gov.au sharon.armstrong [AT] lands.nsw.gov.au macdonald.office [AT] macdonald.minister.nsw.gov.au edward.obeid [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au peter.primrose [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au Christine.Robertson [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au enquiries.roads [AT] roozendaal.minister.nsw.gov.au Penny.Sharpe [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au henry.tsang [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au mick.veitch [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au lynda.voltz [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au helen.westwood [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au ian.west [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au?bcc=justin.whelan [AT] parliament.nsw.gov.au
Subject: No Mandate, No Privatisation
Dear Member of the NSW Legislative Council,
I write to ask you to support the Energy Services Corporation Ownership (Parliamentary Powers) Bill 2008 that Greens MP John Kaye will be moving in Parliament very soon.
The government is proceeding without a mandate. Morris Iemma ruled out privatisation before the last election. Now he is claiming he does not even need legislation to make it happen. It seems the people's elected representatives are going to be ignored, along with the 86 per cent of the public who oppose this bad idea.
AI understand this bill does NOT seek to establish a general prohibition on privatisation of the energy services corporations. It does require the government to obtain the concurrence of both houses of parliament to proceed with its plan. It is designed to stop Michael Costa's arrogance and abuse of executive power, by forcing him to obtain the approval of parliament.
This is a simple step you can take to ensure that parliament, as a representative of the people of NSW, has a say in what happens to the electricity industry in this state.Yours sincerely,
[insert name and address]
NOTE: If you send the emails, be sure to insert your name and address at the bottom.
by Ian MacDougall, 10 May 08
The ostensible argument for power privatisation is that NSW needs the money for schools, hospitals and other expenditure. The reality is that sale of capital is touted as the way to finance ongoing expenditure, analogous to the classic case of the farmer who sells off a bit of the farm each year to keep the family clothed and food on the table.
The Labor Party ranks according to Michael Egan
by Ed Lewis, 9 May 08
The public discussion over electricity privatisation in NSW is increasingly becoming a traditional union bash in the media. Today, Michael Egan, another former Labor Party official and politician, steps forward to read a lecture to the party’s ranks about a properly respectful attitude towards politicians.
#more-512">Read the rest of this entry on Ozleft »
by Ed Lewis, 8 May 08
Another banker weighs in on the Iemma-Costa side of the NSW electricity privatisation battle today, although it’s obvious Babcock and Brown’s Stephen Loosley is a bit better informed about the present state of the Labor Party than either Paul Keating or Bob Carr.
#more-511" class="more-link">Read the rest of this entry on Ozleft »
NSW energy fight: defend public assets! by Graham Matthews, Green Left Weekly, 10 May 08
The plan for the privatisation of electricity in NSW is like the mythical creature the hydra, which had multiple heads. It had to be “killed” many times before it would actually die — and every time it was “killed” it could bite back apparently unharmed
Iemma vs Labor by Tim Dunlop, 5 May 08
Isn’t it the case that the people of NSW are against privatisation; the Labor Party’s platform is against privatisation; and the Premier went to the last election promising not to privatise the state’s electricity? So that by now saying he will privatise electricity, isn’t the Premier defying the will of the people, ignoring his own party’s platform (and conference), and breaking an election commitment?
It’s all very well to get a in a tizz about “unions running the state” and other clichés from the conservative playbook, but in this case, by what right can Mr Iemma justify his disregard of public opinion, his party platform, and his own election commitments?
Not privatising, just giving control to private companies to run as they see fit for a century by Tim Dunlop, 30 Apr 08
Iemma redefines NSW electricity by Tim Dunlop, 11 Dec 07
The power of persuasion by John Quiggin, 19 Jun 08
Iemma’s power failure by John Quiggin, 21 Dec 07
NSW Electricity privatisation - a quick look, John Quiggin 12 Dec 07
Privatisation, 80s style, John Quiggin 11 Dec 07
NSW power play stirs up a-giant of global warming by John Garnaut, The Age, 12 May 08
SOONER or later, some anti-privatisation activist will start doing background checks on China Huaneng Group, which is at the front of the queue to bid for $15 billion in NSW power assets. They'll see that Sydney might soon be powered by the world's biggest corporate contributor to global warming.
How power vote pushed a 25-year friendship to the brink, SMH, 11 May 08
Michael Costa's bully-boy tactics may have hurt Labor but not the Premier or his privatisation plans, reports Andrew Clennell.
Good cop, bad cop or a true blue, SMH, 10 May 08
Michael Costa's bully-boy tactics may have hurt Labor but not the Premier or his privatisation plans, reports Andrew Clennell.
Premier's power play, SMH, 19 Apr 08
Iemma deserved better than naked obstructionism by Paul Keating in SMH 30 Apr 08
Paul Keating, who counducted his own fire sale of Commonwealth Government assets, and broke his 1993 election pledge not to fully privatise the half-privatised Commonwealth bank lends his moral support to Iemma, and Michael Costa, whom he describes as "as honest a pair of souls as NSW politics has had".
Keating backs NSW electricity sell-off, SMH, 6 May 08
Keating supports privatisation move, ABC News, 7 May 08
Iemma will prevail on power: Carr, AAP in SMH of 4 May 08
Includes utterances by Wayne Swan and Malcolm Turnbull. Turnbull's take, before Iemma was lionised by the media for subsequently defying the decision of the Labor Party, not to mention the NSW public:
"Morris Iemma seems to have lost the confidence of much of his party room and the vast majority of the Labor Party, he is a broken premier, and the tragedy for NSW is he is in power until 2011, well at least the government is."
Rudd has a stake in NSW power sell-off, The Australian editorial of 5 May 08
This contains such gems as:
“If electricity privatisation can be defeated because unions representing a few thousand electricity workers don't like it, how difficult would it be to stare down union interests to overhaul health and education?” Thus the editorial ignores the wishes of two thirds of the NSW public opinion who now oppose privatisation and who in 1999 emphatically repudiated the Liberal Party when it stood for elctions on a platform of electricity privatisation.
“NSW is still paying a heavy financial price for Mr Carr's submission to trade union power.” (In fact, as Professor John Quiggin has shown on 27 Dec 07, the defeat of Carr’s privatisation bid “ in 1997 saved the NSW public between $5 and $10 billion.”)
“Mr Iemma must demonstrate that he is prepared to govern for all people and ignore the demands of state conference. ”
Bad sell but I'm pushing ahead: Iemma in the Melbourne Age of 5 May 08
Hunter MPs threaten power sell-off revolt in Newcastle Herald of 5 May 08
Costa losing the plot: ALP powerbroker in the Australian of 5 May 08
Costa's obscene outburst at unions SMH, 30 Apr 08
Iemma facing party revolt over power sell-off, ABC Online News, 5 May 08
We could lose next election, Rudd warns, SMH 5 May 08
New South Wales Must Proceed With Power Sale, Energy Users Say, Bloombergs, 5 May 085 May 08
Australian corporate energy users urge Iemma to defy NSW public and Labor Party conference decision.
Business Chamber supports power sale, SMH, 4 Apr 08
Iemma, unions still split on sell-off, The Australian, 12 May 08
Imre Salusinszky, who had triumphally gloated how the fight over privatisation was all over on the day of the capitulation of ‘opponents’ of privatisation at the NSW parliamentary Labor caucus meeting of 6 May, now writes, “Unions and the NSW Labor Government are no closer to a deal on electricity privatisation, more than a week after Premier Morris Iemma announced he was pressing ahead with the power sale despite a massive rebuff from the party's state conference.“
Power brokers, Matthew Warren, The Australian, 9 May 08
Lots of straw men set up and demolished, for example:
“Given such a display of finger-pointing, yelling and fist shaking, you'd think privatising the electricity market was a giant leap of faith in government policy; a bold step into the unknown.
“It is neither. One-third of the 45,000MW of Australia's electricity generation capacity comes from privately owned power suppliers. Victorian and South Australian generators and retailers were privatised a decade ago. ...”
In fact the consequnces of privatisation are all too well known, with the sorry outcomes of the privatisations of the Commonwealth Bank, Telstra, State Banks and Insurance companies. Only recently the New Zealand government renationalised its railways and ferries, because it had found that these services had been run down by their private opoerators, which is precisely the opposite of the claims being made of what privatisationof electricity will achieve.
“Typically, former prime minister Paul Keating didn't hold back earlier this week, publishing a demolition of Unions NSW's anti-privatisation position that was aired so robustly last weekend.” (Iemma deserved better than naked obstructionism - see above)
Of Course, there is no mention of NSW Green MLA John Kaye's media release in response Keating confused on power sell-off factsof 6 May 08 which exposes a number of factual errors in Keating's supposed 'robust' 'demolition'.
China eyes $15b NSW power play, John Garnaut, SMH, 9 May 08
CHINA'S largest power company has its eyes on Morris Iemma's $15 billion sell-off, as part of an ambitious strategy to buy Australian power, coal and even uranium assets.
Regulating the power shift: the state capital, and electricity privatisation in Autralia (pdf) by D. Cahill and S Beder.
Abstract: This article examines the process of electricity privatisation in Australia in order to identify the dynamics of neo-liberalism in practice. It is argued that neo-liberalism is best understood as a particular mode of regulation in which the state legislates to secure freedoms for capital. In the case of electricity privatisation the main beneficiaries have been corporations rather than consumers and this has been facilitated by a whole host of new state regulations.
Publicly owned electricity retailers: an environmental economic analysis, April 2008 (pdf, 29K) by Professor Frank Stilwell.
Electricity privatisation: The right decision for NSW, NSW business Chamber, 10 Dec 07
Developments in national energy reform, 24 Apr 08
Document by Freehills “one of Australia's major corporate and commercial legal firms“
Shows how privatisation of NSW and indeed all publicly owned utilities was promoted by the Council of Australian Governments (i.e. the Howard Government and eight state ’Labor’ governments) meeting of April 2007
ERIG found that government ownership (especially in electricity) acted as a barrier to entry and an impediment to competition. To improve contestability and efficiency in Australian energy markets, ERIG recommended disaggregation and full privatisation of government-owned energy assets throughout Australia. This should take place as soon as feasible, given the practicalities of the privatisation process. The recent sale of the Queensland Government’s retail energy assets was seen as a good example for other states.
ERIG (the Energy Reform Implementation Group, established by COAG in 2006) acknowledged that privatisation may be politically sensitive(our emphasis) but emphasised that privatisation of even one element of the contestable energy chain would help to increase efficiency. ERIG proposed a number of lesser options, including the disaggregation of government-owned electricity assets and providing ‘clear signals’ to private investors (the approach adopted by the Western Australian Government was commended).
The NSW rural newpsaper the Northern Daily Leader of 9 May 08 reported in its article NSW Government appears impervious to public opinion local state Independent member for seat of Tamworth Peter Draper's observation that the NSW Government appeared totally impervious to public opinion on the privatisation of electricity assets.
Peter Draper told The Leader that even if everyone in the State took to the streets in a peaceful protest against the plan it appeared as if it would still go ahead.
Mr Draper hoped people would write to NSW Premier Morris Iemma to let him know how they feel.
"It appears the Liberal Party are going to back the sale and even if Labor backbenchers cross the floor there is nowhere to cross the floor to," he said.
"The Labor Party is pushing it through as quickly as they possibly can."
Mr Draper said it appeared neither party believed the public needed to own any community utilities or assets and just wanted to sell them off.
"They forget they don't own them, the public does," he said.
The story also quoted two apologists for privatisation within the Labor camp, Tamworth-based Member of the Legislative Council Christine Robertson and former ALP state candidate Denise McHugh:
…Christine Robertson said "… so long as country
NSW is a consideration for equity in pricing and
distribution now and in the future, I don't think there
will be a problem." …
Perhaps, rural mobile phone users unable to have their landline telephone connections maintained or who have recently been forced to ditch their CDMA mobile handsets and fork out hundreds more for their Next-G mobile handsets, that is if they even have coverage, as a result of the privatisation of Telstra, may not feel quite so reassured.
Denise McHugh said she had not been present at discussions but that everybody wanted a good result for country NSW and the people of NSW.
"It's difficult because there are valid arguments on both sides," she said.
We would be most curious to learn from Denise McHugh what the 'valid' arguments in favour of privatisation are.
See also: Why Privatisation is wrong
As the NSW Labor government, in defiance of the wishes of the NSW public without any electoral mandate, and cheered on by the corporate newsmedia, presses ahead with its plans to privatise NSW's electricity assets, the New Zealand Government is moving in the other direction and has renationalised its rail network. It is notable that New Zealand's experience of privatisation since 1993 is precisely the opposite of the claims made of what privatisation will achieve here in Australia. According to NZ Finance Minister Michael Cullen, as reported in the ABC, “The selling off our public rail system in the early 1990s and the running down of the asset afterwards has been a painful lesson for New Zealand“
The ABC News of 5 May 2008 reported:
The New Zealand Government has announced it is buying back the nation's rail and ferry services, 15 years after they were privatised.
Under the deal, Australia's biggest freight company Toll Holdings will be paid $500 million.
New Zealand Rail was sold in 1993 by the then National Government, and then Toll Holdings bought it and split the business.
Under the deal, Toll gets to keep its freight forwarding operations, but the New Zealand Government will have complete control of the rail network.
The railways were re-nationalised in order to encourage companies to use rail to transport freight rather than road, as a response to climate change and the spiraling cost of petroleum. The New Zealand government was driven to re-nationalise the railways after a long-running dispute with Toll Holdings over who would bear the costs of upgrading the rail network.
Seemingly, in response to the evident popularity of the Labour Governments' move, the opposition National Party announced that it would not sell off any state-owned enterprise in its first term of office if elected this year. The apparent consensus now against privatisation instead of for privatisation drew a critical response from the New Zealand Business Roundtable in a media release of 8 May. The media release also took aim at other moves towards renationalisation and government intervention in the NZ economy:
… the buy-back of Air New Zealand … the establishment of Kiwibank, the renationalisation of ACC, and the Auckland Regional Council’s reversal of the part-privatisation of Ports of Auckland.;
The case in favour of privatisation largely rested upon the familiar ‘everyone is doing it’ argument:
A few years ago the World Bank observed that “Privatisation is now so widespread that it is hard to find countries not using the approach: North Korea, Cuba and perhaps Myanmar make up the shrunken universe of the resistant.”
They neglected to mention popularly elected Latin American governments in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia, who are now in the process of undoing the theft of publicly-owned assets enacted either under the guns of by murderous military dictatorships, or, in the case of Bolivia, by the betrayal of popular trust by supposedly ‘democratic’ left-of-centre governments (see "The Shock Doctrine", (2007 by Naomi Klein)).
Naturally, they couldn‘t resist contrasting New Zealand ‘unfavourably‘ with Australia where both sides of politics, Labor and Liberal, at both the state and federal level still enthusiastically embrace privatisation:
Currently the New South Wales government is battling with trade unions to privatise its electricity generators. Victoria (under the Liberal government of Jeff Kennett) did so in the mid-1990s, ...
The government of West Australia is looking at private ownership of its water utility and the Queensland government is selling airports and entering into public private partnerships to build schools.
Australia has private prisons and many infrastructure PPPs (Public Private Partnerships).
The media release cited other supposed success stories of privatisation: Germany, The Netherlands, Ireland, and quoted politicians from the UK, where, in spite of Labour having been in government since 1997, privatisation is still the orthodoxy.
The media release cited a A Business Roundtable study which estimated that failure to privatise could cause NZ to miss out on a 1% increase to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Even if this could be substantiated, the GDP, which counts all economic activity, including, for example, repairs necessitated by natural or man-made disasters as positives, is hardly a reliable measure of true prosperity. Indeed, it would be not be hard to envisage how the financial paper-shuffling and the additional complexity necessitated by government regulation of privately owned utilities could be construed by the Business Roundtable as adding to NZ's prosperity.
The media release cited the results of a push poll recently conducted by proponents of privatisation in NSW:
A recent survey found that two out of three NSW residents don’t care whether the state government or business runs the electricity industry.
The media release made no mention of another poll conducted on behalf the Union movement of NSW found that 85% of the NSW public opposed privatisation. Those results are consistent with every other poll conducted on privatisation in Australia in recent years which, without exception, showed overwhelming public opposition to privatisation even in the face of relentless pro-privatisation propaganda by business leaders, the government and by the corporate newsmedia. When the NSW Liberal opposition put a platform for the full privatisation of electricity to the NSW public in the elections of 1999 it was roundly defeated.
Media release by NSW Greens MLA, John Kaye Tuesday 06 May 2008
Former Prime Minister Paul Keating's attempt at defending the privatisation of NSW's electricity industry is based on a number of incorrect and misleading assertions, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.
Keating confused on power sell-off facts.
Dr Kaye said: "Labor MPs should not be intimidated by Mr Keating's self-confidence or his use of colourful epithets.
"He has displayed a remarkable level of ignorance of the NSW power sector.
"Writing in today's Sydney Morning Herald, Mr Keating asserts that value of the power stations was $35 billion in 1997 when former Premier Carr and his Treasurer Michael Egan tried to privatise them.
"In fact this was the estimated income from the sale of the entire industry, including the wires and poles of the distributors and the transmission system.
"Comparing this to the alleged $15 billion price tag for the current proposal which does not include any of the transmission or distribution hardware is deeply misleading.
"Mr Keating has conveniently ignored the billions of dollars in the low and high voltage network that then Premier Carr wanted to sell off and was included in the $35 billion price tag.
"He has wiped out the value of 12,440 km of high voltage transmission lines owned by Transgrid.
"He has written down to zero the $10.9 billion assets of the state's electricity distributors, including 2.2 million power poles and the 169 thousand substations.
"The former Prime Minister also alleges that much of NSW electricity is provided by private generation in other states.
"Again he is woefully ignorant of reality. The total import was just over 10% of the state's needs in the last financial year.
Stop Press: According to The Australian's Matthew Warren in Power Brokers of 9 May:
Typically, former prime minister Paul Keating didn't hold back earlier this week, publishing a demolition of Unions NSW's anti-privatisation position that was aired so robustly last weekend.Read of Paul Keating's 'robust' 'demolition' of
the anti-privatisation caseby
The arrogant contempt in which democracy is held by many of Australia's political and business leaders and much of the newsmedia could not have been made more clear by the determination of the New South Wales Government of Morris Iemma to proceed with its plans to sell off publicly owned electricity assets. This is being done against undertakings made to the union movement immediately prior to the 2007 state elections#main-fn1">1 and in the face of uproar from the NSW public two thirds of whom oppose privatisation#main-fn2">2.
Last Saturday, 4 May, the conference of the NSW Labor Party reaffirmed its opposition to privatisation with a resounding 702 votes to 107. Just like Iemma's previously aborted plan to flog off the NSW government's stake in the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric scheme, privatisation of electricity has never been put to the people of NSW in an election. Indeed, only in 1999, the Labor Party won a resounding election victory against the Coalition which promised to fully privatise electricity. Ironically, then Labor Premier Bob Carr had previously tried to privatise electricity as Iemma is doing now, but had backed down following the repudiation of the policy by the 1997 NSW Labor Party state conference and subsequently by the NSW trade union movement.#main-fn3">3. Carr and the Labor Party campaigned on a platform precisely against the policy that Carr had previously tried to impose on the Labor Party and won. Following its defeat the NSW Liberal Party accepted the repudiation of privatisation by the NSW electorate and dropped this policy #main-fn4">4.
On the day following the conference, in brazen defiance of that conference's decision, Iemma announced that he intended to push on with privatisation, regardless#main-fn5">5.
Labor backbenchers opposed to the sale have vowed to vote in support of the conference decision of what decision is reached int NSW Labor Caucus meeting scheduled for Tuesday 6 May. In April, the NSW Labor Party president Bernie Riordan confirmed protection for any Labor MP who crossed the floor to uphold party policy. He said they would not be expelled or lose their endorsement#main-fn6">6.
However, the NSW Labor Party needs to go much further than protecting state MPs who chose to uphold the conference decision. Any state MP who votes, whether in Labor caucus or on the floor of Parliament, for privatisation, starting with Iemma and Costa, should be expelled immediately from the party and disendorsed and new candidates, willing to abide by decisions of the Labor Party conference, be endorsed in their places. If the Labor Party fails to do this, then democracy will be a dead letter in their organisation.
If they act with determination to clean out the Labor Party, there may be still hope that NSW electors could be persuaded to give their vote to a renovated state Labor party, answerable to ordinary members rather than powerful business lobbies, at the next state elections. Indeed, given the extremely poor standing of Iemma in the polls, and given the barely concealed indifference to the electoral fate of the Labor Party by the likes of Costa, who clearly is looking to a future career in the finance sector, such a measure would appear to be essential, in any case, if NSW Labor is to stand any hope of electoral survival.
However, the NSW Labor Party machine cannot be depended upon to do this unless rank and file Labor Party members, unionists and minor parties and community activists opposed to the sale must continue with their energetic campaign against privatisation.
#RoguesGallery" id="RoguesGallery">Appendix 1: A rogues' gallery of backers of NSW electricity privatisation
- Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
- Federal Treasurer Wayne Swan
- Labor state Premiers
- Jeff Kennett, former Liberal Premier of Victoria
- Former NSW Labor Premiers Bob Carr, Barrie Unsworth and Neville Wran
- Paul Keating, former Labor Prime Minister
- the NSW Business Chamber.
- Rupert Murdoch's Australian Newspaper
- The Federal Parliamentary Liberal Party
- Energy Users Association of Australia
#main-fn1" id="main-fn1">1. Watkins denies govt broke power promise, SMH 30 Apr 08; Not privatising, just giving control to private companies to run as they see fit for a century by Tim Dunlop, 30 Apr 08; Iemma told unions he would not privatise power sector, Daily Telegraph, 30 Apr 08#main-txt1">[back]
#main-fn3" id="main-fn3">3. Premier's power play, SMH 19 Apr 08 www.smh.com.au/text/articles/2008/04/19/1208025491879.html#main-txt3">[back]
#main-fn4" id="main-fn4">4. Citation needed. The Liberal Party, has not unexpectedly, become ambivalent on this question. However, if it does remain true to its past words, privatisation can be blocked in the NSW upper house with the support of minor parties and independents.#main-txt4">[back]
See also: NSW electricity links
Originally published on NSW Green MLA John Kaye's web site Saturday 26 April 2008
Community members held a no sell-off protest meeting outside key NSW Labor power broker and MP for Maroubra Michael Daley's office this morning. Speakers at the rally included Greens NSW MP John Kaye and Luke Whittington, union organiser and convenor of Eastern Sydney Your Rights At Work.
Dr Kaye said: "Premier Morris Iemma and his Treasurer Michael Costa have led their government to the brink if disaster.
"They have broken faith with the union movement, the membership of their own party and the community.
"They have no mandate to sell off the industry.
"They are facing massive defeat at the ALP state conference next weekend.
"If the Premier does push ahead in defiance of his own party's governing body, it is unlikely he will be able to get privatisation legislation through the NSW Upper House.
"It is time for the Iemma government to abandon their sell off scheme and stop the massive waste on money on consultants and bankers.
"Michael Daley is a keen supporter of Premier Iemma's privatisation proposal. He was one of the three government representatives on the Unsworth Committee that gave the go ahead.
"Mr Daley needs to know that his constituents are firmly opposed to the sell-off. If the Premier gets his way, household electricity bills will skyrocket, jobs will be lost and it will be much more difficult to control the state's greenhouse gas emissions," Dr Kaye said.
For more information: John Kaye 0407 195 455
See also Party faithful boo Iemma in SMH of 3 May.
This was posted to a discussion #comment-207324">Time to give the b-team a turn, concerning the NSW Labor Government's bid to sell the publicly-owned electricity generators against the opposition of the union movement, the Labor Party and the NSW public. As further information comes to hand about the claims by The Australian Newspaper, they will be posted to this page.
Can anyone comment on claims made the story Private power 'cheaper' in the Australian of Friday 29 February:
JUDGING by the Victorian experience, households and businesses in NSW can expect lower prices following electricity privatisation, together with more choice for consumers and fewer supply interruptions.
Greg Wilson, chairman of Victoria's Essential Services Commission, said similar fears expressed by opponents of the Kennett government's state power sell-off in the 1990s had proved baseless.
"When you look back to the debate, and the view that this would lead to increases in profits and prices and under-investment, the facts themselves in our performance reporting show the opposite," Mr Wilson said.
Based on a standard annual electricity consumption of 4000 kilowatt hours peak and 2500kWh off-peak, the commission found customers could save $79-$150 through market offers, depending on the standing tariff, which ranged from $926 to $956 across the five retail areas.
"Those detractors of the process in NSW who try to claim that the performances deteriorated in Victoria are actually completely wrong," (said Brad Page, chief executive officer of the peak industry body, the Energy Supply Association).
They do admit the record of privatisation in SA was "less clear-cut". (I thought it was a total fiasco), but manage to conjure up a favourable spin to put on the whole experience:
In South Australia, power interruptions have been stable, with the exception of the heatwave summer in 2005-06. South Australia received a net total of $4.9 billion for the breakup and sale of power, coal and gas assets between 1999 and 2001, compared with the $22.5 billion reaped by Victoria.
All these these claims appear to superficially lend plausibility to the case for privatisation in a very narrrow limited sense, but one can be practically certain that we are being given far less than the complete picture.
Tha Australian's Editorial of the same day, perversely named Power to the people seized upon this study to push it's usual pro-privatisation message. Naturally to the Murdoch editorial writers, the wishes of two- thirds of the NSW public whom it claims to have been duped by "a union-funded scare campaign" counts for nothing.