On electricity privatisation

On electricity privatisation

Moved: Liam Mitchell (Blue Mountains).

The Socialist Alliance Conference notes that the Rees Labor government in NSW has continued along the path of privatising the electricity sector in that state, even after the previous leadership was forced out due to mass opposition to the original plan.

Former premier Morris Iemma and treasurer Michael Costa had proposed a complete selloff, which was defeated by opposition from the union movement and local communities and involved activists from a wide range of political groups in its organising. While 85% of the people opposed the plan, Costa and Iemma sought to push it through parliament without concessions and using an absence of democratic control of Labor policy by the party.

The pressure from the community and the unions was so great that several Labor MPs in both houses would have crossed the floor and ensured its defeat.

The conference notes that the plan put forward by Rees is nothing less than an attempt to privatise the whole sector, despite it being dressed up as only partial privatisation. In this regard, it is not a concession to the movement that arose in opposition to the original plan. Rather it is an attempt to bring in the original plan, with only a few small modifications, without having to be taken to a parliamentary vote.

The conference notes that recent comments by the Secretary of the Treasury have exposed the selloff of wholesale distribution rights as being aimed to give private corporations direct control in the operation of public utilities — control of everything from wholesale prices to energy sources to industrial relations.

This conference agrees that the privatisation of electricity will do three things:

  1. It will turn over a profitable publicly owned utility to be run for private profit. This will impact on consumers and particularly poorer people as companies seek to maximise their profits.
  2. It will impact directly on wages and working conditions in the electricity sector, particularly as wholesalers are able to become generators and establish greenfield sites.
  3. It will reduce the ability of the people to be able to control what sort of energy source is used to generate electricity, to reduce and even eliminate the use of coal and to move towards renewable energy in time to ward off further environmental damage.

Accordingly, the conference decides to prioritise the campaign against the selloff of the electricity sector by the Rees Labor government, building a campaign that involves unions, environment groups, political parties and groups and the local communities.

That this campaign must take up issues of public control and ownership versus private profit; workers’ rights; and the phasing out of coal and moving towards an electricity system based on renewable energy