Electricity Network Assets (Authorised Transactions) Bill 2015 and the Electricity Retained Interest
My opposition to the sell off of the NSW electricity network.
I oppose the Electricity Network Assets (Authorised Transactions) Bill 2015 and the cognate Electricity Retained Interest Corporations Bill 2015. I do so on behalf of the community in Maitland, which elected me to represent its views in this place. During the election campaign I promised my community that I would fight for Maitland to put it first. The former member for Maitland was a nice person, and she is still a nice person. She resigned before the election after losing her ministry and ultimately any voice she may have had in the Baird Liberal Government. When she launched her campaign to win a seat in the Fifty-fifth Parliament, she promised that Maitland would have a new hospital and that the existing hospital would not be closed. She also promised a 24/7 police presence at Beresford, which serves my communities of Woodberry and Thornton. She promised not to close the East Maitland district courthouse. The candidate who stood against me at the last election spoke proudly of the Baird Liberal Government's $80 million worth of promises for the electorate. I think it is timely in this debate, when the Government is saying, "Trust us, this is the only way regional communities can get infrastructure", that we examine the Government's record on the acquittal of that nearly $80 million. From the $20 million committed to the new Lower Hunter hospital, the Government has produced only a $6 million sign at Metford. The Government committed $45 million for the railway roundabout on the New England Highway. The project is incomplete and behind schedule. The Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight will not answer questions on whether it will be flood proofed. There was $2 million committed for the Maitland Town Hall upgrade, which is only just starting. There was $7 million committed to upgrade sportsground No. 1. This upgrade has not been completed. Indeed, the only grant that was fully acquitted from the $80 million promised was the $5 million loan for upgrading the Maitland levee project. Of course that was just a loan, so the Government will get that money back anyway. My community has $70 million worth of reasons, therefore, not to trust this Government to deliver any benefits as a result of the privatisation of the electricity businesses. The Premier has been broadly spruiking the benefits of privatisation to my community. But of the $42 million promised at the latest election, only $7 million is slated to come from the privatisation of the electricity businesses. Is losing the electricity infrastructure of our community really worth it? On the other hand, Labor promised $40 million for a new high school in Maitland; $25 million for a new primary school in Aberglasslyn or Rutherford; $25 million, matching the commitment from the Government, to start work on the new Lower Hunter hospital—the funny part is that we actually would have started work on it—and $7 million to extend dual lanes on the New England Highway at Rutherford, which the Government has promised from this privatisation. Labor also promised $1 million to $1.5 million to establish a Hunter domestic violence court; $100,000 to fix the lights at Marcellin Park; $51,000 for the Maitland and Tenambit BMX clubs; $12,500 in grants for students to go to Gallipoli for the Anzac centenary; and $10,000 for a tourism sign for Morpeth. All up, Labor's promises came to about $98 million, which is more than double what this Government promised. And guess what? Labor's plan did not rely on the sale of the electricity network—the people of New South Wales would have retained ownership of their electricity network. The important thing we should remember when we come to this place is that we have an obligation to be true to the people who put us here. Yesterday the Government tried to rewrite history on its disappointing results at the last State election. The member for Port Stephens is to be congratulated on correcting the record and showing the number of swings of more than 20 per cent against Government members in country areas. Labor actually increased the number of country seats it holds in this place by 200 per cent. That is a pretty good result for Country Labor. Labor candidates had a significant impact in Government-held electorates. Months before the election, The Nationals Deputy Leader, Adrian Piccoli, said:
I know in my electorate people have made it very clear they don't want their local electricity poles and wires to be sold, and I agree with them.
The member for Clarence, Chris Gulaptis, looked to his stars for guidance on privatisation. ABC News quoted him as saying:
I read Sagittarius today and it started off "somewhere in your world is something wrong being presented as something right", Mr Gulaptis said.
So his stars were telling him to oppose the privatisation of poles and wires. The news article quoted him as saying:
There's no good in selling the poles and wires as far as I am concerned. We will lose jobs through the privatisation process. Of that I am sure.
The people of country New South Wales have a right to expect that The Nationals will stand up for country communities. Of course that did not happen. The Nationals did a deal with the Liberal Party. The Deputy Premier, the member for Dubbo, said back in June 2014:
We are currently opposed is The Nationals position and as I've said when asked this question … I'm not going to vote for anything that is a bad deal, I'm not going to vote for anything that is as a bad deal for my electorate.
Obviously The Nationals have done a deal for some of their electorates, but they have not quite done them all. I have been informed today by a colleague that the electricity company supplying Lithgow and Kandos is Endeavour Energy and 50.4 per cent of it is up for sale. Ausgrid supplies electricity in Orange, and 50.4 per cent of it is up for sale. So The Nationals cannot claim to have done a deal to protect workers in country areas or that country jobs and services are not at risk. The Government is selling off more than a 50 per cent stake. The Premier has the right to introduce these bills. But swings of 20 per cent or more against The Nationals members should make those members rethink their support for this legislation. It should definitely make their local communities rethink their support for The Nationals at the next election. Hopefully The Nationals members will be booted out. I do not need advice from some random guy from Guyra who has not been voted in on his own merits by anyone in the State. He swans around my electorate at the public's expense. There opposite sits the member for Upper Hunter. Why is he not the Minister for the Hunter? Is he not good enough? The member for Upper Hunter has missed out this time. I do not need some random guy from Guyra to come in and swan around the Hunter and the Central Coast at the public's expense. He is not answerable to anyone, either in this place or the other place. He cannot be asked a question in the upper House. I do not need him to tell me how to vote on electricity privatisation. I have listened to my community. They have said a resounding "No" to privatisation, and that is how I will be voting.