In the lead up to the 2017 State Election, the Barnett Government indicated it would abandon the state’s long held responsibility to provide reliable and safe electricity to Western Australian households and businesses. They planned to privatise Horizon Power’s Pilbara poles and wires, as well as privatise Western Power.
The Barnett and Nahan vision would have seen the government hand over the poles and wires to the private sector across Western Australia. Prices would have gone up, jobs and apprenticeships cut, and preventative maintenance a distant memory, as new private operators sought to maximise profits.
The last Government closed power stations to prepare Synergy for sale, irrespective of the impact on the community. Removing spare generation capacity seriously threatens the reliability of electricity supplies during emergencies, such as the Varanus gas explosion, and extreme weather events, when electricity demand goes through the roof.
If Barnett and Nahan had been successful in their quest to privatise WA’s electricity system, the cost to the community would have been severe, one way or another.
That’s why we saw an unprecedented campaign from the WA community to make their voices heard and stop privatisation. In town halls and at rallies, in neighbourhoods and in the streets, in local communities and online, the people of WA made it clear that they didn’t want privatisation. So much so that our campaign made privatisation the number one issue at the state election.
And when the Liberals and Nationals went to the election promising to sell Western Power, the people of WA delivered a record defeat for the Barnett Government.
But despite Western Australians overwhelmingly rejecting privatisation at the election, some senior executives in Western Power and Synergy continue to prepare our publicly owned electricity system for privatisation. They continue to cut staff, slash costs and boost profits, making the electricity system more attractive for sale if the Liberals and Nationals to return to government in 2021.
By cutting frontline staff, senior management is putting service quality, as well as the safety and reliability of our electricity system, at risk. This might be good for the bottom line, but imagine the impact on households and businesses if our electricity system starts to fail.
We know the stakes for WA, because we’ve faced this before. The cost to our community and our state would be catastrophic.
Workers will pay, as jobs and apprenticeships are cut in the pursuit of profit.
Households and businesses will pay, when the lights go off during emergencies and extreme weather events, because the electricity system doesn’t have enough reserve capacity.
Communities across the state will pay, as staffing levels are cut, preventative maintenance budgets are slashed, and investment in the networks only occurs when it is profitable to do so. Think blackouts at best, and catastrophic bushfires at worst.
And power prices will continue to rise. The WA Government has increased power prices above the level of inflation for eight years in a row. Any talk of privatisation reducing costs has been exposed. Does anyone seriously think prices would come down, if Western Power goes from being a publicly owned monopoly to a privately owned monopoly?
When you stand back and look at the bigger picture in energy, it is clear nobody will win from the radical path being pursued by Liberals and Nationals.
Western Australia’s success in recent years has been underpinned by the State Government’s provision of a safe, reliable and well-priced electricity supply. Now is not the time to expose WA to the failed experiment of privatisation.
The new State Government was elected on its commitment to keep WA’s electricity system in public hands. Unfortunately, some people in Western Power and Synergy didn’t get the memo.
Let’s continue to work together to stop privatisation from wreaking havoc in WA. Let’s use our power to keep WA’s publicly owned electricity system in public hands.”