Joe Francis declines opportunity to defend Western Power fire sale

Monday 29 Aug 2016

The community will be given the chance to ask questions about the Barnett Government’s planned privatisation of Western Power at a town hall meeting in the state electorate of Jandakot tomorrow (28 August).

Unions representing thousands of workers in WA’s electricity system are hosting the meeting, which has been called to provide information and bust some of the myths surrounding privatisation.

The meeting will include a panel discussion involving local politicians and candidates, as well as Western Power employees and workers from interstate who have first-hand experience of the effects of privatisation.

WA Labor Energy Spokesperson Bill Johnston MLA will address the meeting, however local Liberal MLA Joe Francis has declined an invitation to be part of the panel of guest speakers.

The joint Australian Services Union (ASU) and Electrical Trades Union (ETU) “Use Your Power” campaign has been campaigning heavily against the privatisation of WA’s electricity network since 2014.

The campaign has raised awareness that the privatisation of Western Power would result in bigger power bills, fewer jobs and apprenticeships and cuts to preventative maintenance.

Guest speaker at tomorrow’s Town Hall Meeting will be Brendan Byrne, an electrical linesman from Victoria who has worked in the electricity transmission/distribution sector for 39 years.

Mr Byrne said that privatisation of the Victorian electricity network had resulted in significant price increases and massive cuts to staff numbers, as well as a huge reduction in spending on maintenance and infrastructure.

“Privatisation of the Victorian electricity network has been all pain and no gain for the Victorian community,” he said.

“Ever since the network was privatised we’ve seen prices go up, along with cuts to maintenance and jobs which has led to longer wait times to fix faults, and an increased risk of bushfire.”

Mr Byrne will also talk about the role privatisation played in Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires, in which 143 people lost their lives.

ASU WA Branch Secretary Wayne Wood said the campaign was calling on Mr Francis to outline to the Jandakot community why his government is planning to sell Western Power.

“Since Colin Barnett and the Liberals won government, our power bills have gone up by 85 per cent. If this valuable publicly owned asset is privatised, our bills will go up even more in the pursuit of profits for shareholders.” he said.

“We’ve even had the Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Rod Simms, recently acknowledge that privatisation of the power sector in the eastern states had boosted prices.

“Given we know what will happen if we privatise our electricity network, we’re disappointed Mr Francis declined the opportunity to explain to his electorate why the Barnett Government is planning to sell off Western Power.”