Nationals set to betray bush on Western Power fire sale

Tuesday 01 Mar 2016

In media comments yesterday, National Party leader Terry Redman has signaled that he is preparing to betray regional communities by supporting the Barnett Government’s moves to privatise Western Power.

Unions representing thousands of workers in Western Australia’s electricity system have warned that privatising Western Power would seriously compromise bushfire safety in regional WA communities.

The Australian Services Union (ASU) and Electrical Trades Union (ETU) joined forces in 2014 to campaign against the privatisation of WA’s electricity network. The two unions believe that privatisation will lead to higher prices, poorer quality services, increased bushfire risk and fewer jobs and apprenticeships.

ETU WA Branch Secretary Les McLaughlan said that it was critical that key utilities such as Western Power remained in public ownership to ensure a reliable and affordable service to regional communities.

“Privatisation is not the solution for the government’s debt problems, and would lead to higher prices and poorer quality services for communities in the bush, as private companies try to squeeze every last dollar of profit for their shareholders,” he said.

“If poles and wires are sold to the private sector, they will only invest in the network when it is profitable for them to do so.

“This could result in many parts of the network being left to decay, with disastrous consequences during bushfire season.”

Mr McLaughlan said the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires, which left 150 people dead, found that faulty privatised power lines were responsible for causing five of the most devastating blazes.

“This tragic case study highlights the very real dangers of electricity privatisation to the community,” said Mr McLaughlan.

“This case has special relevance to regional communities in WA, in particular those in the State’s south-west which have experienced their own bushfire tragedies in recent times.

ASU WA Secretary Wayne Wood said Mr Redman’s comments were just another part of the “softening up” process and that selling Western Power was not in the best interest of regional communities.

“Mr Redman now seems to be singing from the same song sheet as Premier Barnett and Treasurer Nahan, with the Nationals clearly gearing up to sell out communities in the bush,” he said.

“With the growing threat of bushfire in WA, we can’t afford to take risks with the maintenance of our electricity network.

“The Nationals WA need to stand up for what’s in the best interest of the WA’s regional communities and leave WA’s electricity system in public ownership.”