Western Power sell-off nothing short of 'pork barrelling'

Wednesday 30 Nov 2016

The Barnett Government’s announcement to sell-off 51 per cent of Western Power is a flawed move that amounts to little more than “pork-barreling”.

The Australian Services Union and Electrical Trades Union slammed today’s announcement, saying the government was attempting to hoodwink the community and sell them a utility they already owned.

Under the plan, the government will sell 51 per cent of Western Power to pay off $8 billion of the state’s debt, with a portion to be set aside for mum and dad investors and another reserved for Australian sharemarket float.

The Next Generation Account would be created with $3 billion from the sale proceeds of Western Power to fund investment in schools and TAFE facilities, transport infrastructure and improving the reliability of electricity supplies in country areas.

Australian Services Union Branch Secretary Wayne Wood said the Liberal-National Government was effectively trying to sell WA taxpayers the same valuable asset they already owned.

“Colin Barnett and Brendon Grylls want West Australian mums and dads to buy shares in a company they already own,” Mr Wood said.

“They want to sell a public asset owned by everybody to fund pork-barreling in Liberal and National marginal seats.

“Colin Barnett floated Alinta when he was Energy Minister, saying it would be owned by mums and dads.  Alinta shares quickly ended up in corporate hands and gas prices have gone up ever since.

“Barnett has chosen a float, because he thinks this will help him spin privatisation as a positive thing.  The reality is privatisation will still result in higher prices, fewer jobs and cuts to maintenance budgets, as the majority private owners push for bigger profits.

“Privatising Western Power means jobs and apprentices will be cut in the pursuit of profit.  But, it also means less funding for police, nurses and teachers because the State Government will lose half of the profits Western Power generates each year.”

Mr Wood said the partial sale of Western Power was the government’s way of trying to make the sale of a key West Australian utility more palatable to the WA community.

“Selling our assets is flawed economic management,” he said.

“At the end of the day, it will still mean higher prices and less reliable services because private companies are only interested in one thing – profit.

Mr Wood said the government’s promise of extra jobs was nothing more than “rhetoric”.

“It’s hard to believe that the sale of Western Power is going to create jobs, and we wont be hoodwinked by this government. The reality is that if Western Power is sold, jobs will either be cut or go offshore because labor is cheaper,” he said.

“This isn’t a plan for jobs, when the fact is that any new jobs created by projects funded from the sale, will only be for a limited time before workers are back on the scrapheap.”

Mr Wood vowed to relentlessly ramp up the Use the Power campaign against the privatisation of Western Power, saying it would become a major issue for the March State election.

Use Your Power has campaigned heavily since 2014, raising awareness that the privatisation of

Western Power would result in bigger power bills, fewer jobs and apprenticeships and cuts to preventative maintenance. This would mean longer waits to fix faults and an increased risk of bushfire.