Electricity sell-off a sell-out of the people

Coffs Harbour member Andrew Fraser is against the proposed sale of the state’s electricity grid.
Coffs Harbour member Andrew Fraser is against the proposed sale of the state’s electricity grid. Craig Warhurst

MEMBER for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser says he's prepared to cross the floor over the Coalition's plans to privatise the state's electricity grid because he can't see the economic sense in a sell-off.

Warning that the move could cost the State Government at the next election, Mr Fraser says privatisation would see country consumers worse off and bring job cuts to energy suppliers. 

"Politically speaking there's no sense in the economics," Mr Fraser said.

"The electricity grid is valued at $30 billion and it's estimated the sale price could be $26 billion but the grid carries with it $18.6 billion in debt.

"With any sale the government would lose $3 billion in revenue each year, $1 billion from direct dividends and $2 billion in Federal government tax offsets.

"It would be a sale for no windfall gain whatsoever.

Mr Fraser says in the Coffs Harbour electorate there's widespread opposition to the privatisation plans.

"I'm hearing from people in the street that they don't support a sell-off so as the local member I'm adopting that stance," he said.

"Politically why would we take this to the election, at the 1999 election everyone said Bob Carr would lead a one-term government and the Libs policy was to privatise electricity and give $1000 back to the consumer and we got flogged at the polls.

"The people don't want to pay more under privatisation for an essential service."

Lobby group Stop the Sell Off, which staged a protest outside Mr Fraser's office last Thursday, was happy to hear of the local member's opposition to the plan.

"Every state that has allowed its electricity poles and wires to be privatised has seen prices rise, service standard drop, complaints soar, and quality local jobs lost," Stop the Sell Off campaign director Adam Kerslake said.

"If National Party MPs support even a partial privatisation of the NSW electricity network, they will be condemning regional NSW communities to that same fate."

Premier Mike Baird and Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner will gauge support for the proposal at party room meetings tomorrow.

It is anticipated the 49% privatisation could exclude Essential Energy and Transgrid which have large regional footprints.

The Nationals have even floated the suggestion of a referendum on the issue.  

Topics:  andrew fraser mike baird nsw government privatisation

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