Privatisation means fewer jobs and apprenticeships
After the rough landing for WA at the end of the mining boom, the state is just beginning to get back on track.
As we continue on the path to recovery, the state government should be doing everything it can do to create jobs and apprenticeships around the state.
Thankfully, the McGowan Government has made WA jobs its top priority since coming to power, passing its WA Jobs Act to put local content and local jobs first when awarding government contracts.
The last thing the state government should be doing is proposing policy that would see jobs and apprenticeships go.
Yet that is what those still planning to sell Western Power, Horizon Power and other energy utilities are doing.
The number one priority of a private company is to make a profit. So, it would make sense that the private company that buys or leases our energy utilities from the state government would increase prices to maximise revenue. It would also make sense that they would look to cut jobs and apprenticeships in their efforts to minimise costs and maximise profits.
This is the last thing we need in WA, as we try to rebuild the jobs lost after the end of the mining boom.
It is also the last thing we need in the energy sector, where maintenance plays such an important role in keeping our system in working order.
During Victoria's Black Saturday bushfires, poorly maintained privatised power lines caused five of the worst blazes. On that day, 173 people lost their lives.
In their efforts to make Western Power more attractive to a potential purchaser, Colin Barnett and Mike Nahan sacked almost 20 per cent of the Western Power workforce through job cuts and redundencies. On top of this, apprenticeships places went from consistently in the mid 50s year after year down to 0 in 2016.
We won’t fully understand the impact of the loss of hundreds of years of institutional knowledge and the failure to train the next generation of our energy workforce for years to come. Cutting one in five staff members has almost certainly put strain on Western Power’s ability to perform the proactive preventative maintenance necessary across such a broad geographic network.
With privatisation, the community always pays. Whether it is through higher prices, fewer jobs and apprenticeships or poorer quality services and maintenance.
And, with the privatisation of Western Power, it would be all pain and no gain. Even if every cent raised through the sale or lease was used to pay off the Barnett Government’s debt, the interest saved wouldn't offset the financial benefits Western Power would have delivered to the state government each year, if it was still in public ownership.
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.