Synergy to be privatised by stealth

Thursday 19 Mar 2015

Allowing private companies to sell electricity to retail customers would represent privatisation by stealth, according to unions representing thousands of workers in the energy sector.

Media reports today indicate the State Government is going to allow private companies to compete with Synergy in the selling of electricity, effectively transferring public sector jobs to the private sector. 

The Australian Services Union (ASU) and Electrical Trades Union (ETU) joined forces in 2014 to campaign against the privatisation of WA’s electricity network.  ASU WA Branch Secretary Wayne Wood said it looked like the Barnett Government was about to start its privatisation program.

“We have been saying for months that the State Government intends to privatise Western Australia’s electricity network in an effort to pay down the massive debt it has accrued since coming to office,” Mr Wood said.

“Having seen what happened to former Queensland Premier Campbell Newman when he proposed to privatise Queensland’s electricity network, it is not a surprise to us that the Barnett Government is pursuing privatisation through other means. 

“Allowing private companies to retail electricity will see quality jobs lost in Synergy, as private companies take market share.  These call center, administrative and technical jobs will effectively be transferred to places like India, as the new private retailers seek to maximise profits.

“With the mining boom winding down, you would think the last thing the Barnett Government should be doing is pursuing changes that see quality jobs lost to Western Australia.”

ETU WA Branch Secretary Les McLaughlan said it was a myth that privatisation resulted in lower power prices.

“An examination of the 2013 Residential Electricity Price Trends final report, which was commissioned by the Australian Energy Market Commission, shows that the price of electricity in WA is the lowest of all Australian states,” he said.

“The report also reveals that, the greater the level of private ownership within a state system, the higher the price of electricity.

“In the partially privatised systems of Queensland and New South Wales, the average charge was 25.8 cents and 25.7 cents per kilowatt-hour, respectively.  In the almost fully privatised systems of Victoria and South Australia, the average charge was 27.1 cents and 29.6 cents per kilowatt-hour, respectively.

“The Barnett Government says that the current charge for electricity in WA is 30 per cent lower than the level it would need to be to cover the cost of producing and distributing electricity. 

“As the Barnett Government progressively privatises out electricity system, you can expect power prices to go up by at least another 30 per cent, and probably more, as private companies seek to make a profit.”