Community campaigners opposing the NSW Government’s proposal to privatise electricity have focused their energies on Sydney’s eastern suburbs this week.
Stop the Sell Off, a campaign run by the Electrical Trades Union (ETU) organised a rally outside the office of Liberal Member for Coogee Bruce Notley-Smith on Friday, September 26.
The campaign was organised when Mr Notley-Smith announced his support for the Government’s electricity privatisation plan. The campaigners are opposed to the privatisation bill on the basis that eastern suburbs residents, who would be directly affected by the privatisation, had not been consulted on the issue.
The Government’s proposal would transition the NSW electricity network from its current status as a public commodity to a privately-owned enterprise.
A potential loss of public funds as well as the possible hike in electricity prices are at the heart of the community’s concern.
“We are standing up for the community who are overwhelmingly opposed to the privatisation of the NSW electricity network including Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, Essential Energy and TransGrid,” said Matt Buttigieg, spokesperson for Stop the Sell Off.
“The NSW electricity network is the state’s most valuable asset, returning more than $1.7 billion in cash to the NSW government every single year – money which is used to fund other services like hospitals, schools and transport.”
“Once this money is lost it has to come from somewhere else, most likely higher taxes or cuts to services.”
When the group campaigned outside Mr Notley-Smith’s office at 10am on Friday, September 26, they were invited inside for a meeting.
Mr Buttigieg told City Hub he was impressed Mr Notley-Smith agreed to meet with them.
Following the meeting, Mr Notley-Smith expressed concern that the ETU is running a “scare campaign”.
“Mr Notley-Smith is concerned that the ETU is running a scare campaign and not discussing the facts of the policy,” a spokesperson said.
“$20 billion could be raised if there was a 49% lease of the electricity network business, releasing vital funds for schools, hospitals and public transport infrastructure.”
“A number of economist’s reports on this issue have shown that electricity prices will fall if part of the network is leased out to the private sector.”
Mr Buttigieg, however, levelled a similar criticism regarding a misunderstanding of facts at local politicians.
“As we’ve been talking to various Liberal National local members, it is clear they are not aware of the facts,” he said.
Minister for Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts echoed Mr Notley-Smith’s assertion that the privatisation plan would decrease electricity prices in NSW.
“The transaction to lease 49 per cent of the electricity network businesses will unlock $20 billion in infrastructure funding, with $6 billion to be invested in regional NSW,” the Minister said.
“People just have to look at Victoria and South Australia and compare – network prices have been more than 100 per cent higher for NSW’s publicly owned system than in the privately-owned Victorian or South Australian networks.”
Mr Buttigieg disputed this.
“It doesn’t matter which way the government tries to spin it, electricity privatisation is a dud deal for the people of NSW,” he said.
“The only way the people of Coogee can stop electricity privatisation is don’t vote Liberal at the next state election.”