Barnett exposed on Western Power by Nathan, Nat and Shaun

Friday 19 Aug 2016

Earlier this week, Colin Barnett appeared on Nova’s breakfast program and got an unexpectedly tough grilling from Nathan, Nat and Shaun.

In fact, the questioning was tougher than he generally gets from some journalists who fancy themselves as experts on energy matters.

Mr Barnett must have thought we weren’t listening, because he was a little loose with the truth on air.  For example, he said that all the utilities around Australia have been privatised and he said that most of WA’s state debt is held by Western Power. Both of these are untrue.  On the last point, Western Power holds $8 billion of the $40 billion in debt Mr Barnett has accrued on his watch.

The Nova crew noted that Western Power was cutting jobs in preparation for privatisation, that these job cuts would continue after privatisation and that power bills would likely go up.  In response, the Premier sounded pretty uncomfortable.

We can understand Mr Barnett not wanting to talk about increases to power bills.  Since he became Premier, the average WA power bill has increased by 85 per cent – that’s almost double.

Mr Barnett can’t seriously believe that electricity prices wont go up further when Western Power goes from being a publicly owned monopoly to a privately owned monopoly.

The only circumstances that a potential purchaser would fork out the $15 billion Mr Barnett is banking on for Western Power is if they get to charge whatever they want for electricity – that is, if the State Government no longer regulates electricity prices.

But, this week, GetUp released research that showed that electricity consumers were being gouged in states where prices had been deregulated.  In South Australia, for example, consumers were being charged a mark up of $650 each year, about twice what customers were paying for the actual generation of the electricity.

Why?  Because private companies have to make a profit.

These findings follow on from recent comments from Rod Sims, the Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

“When you meet people in the street and they say I don’t want privatisation because it boosts prices, and you dismiss them, no, no, they’re right.  Recent examples suggest they’re right.”

Rod Sims, Tuesday 26th July 2016

This is the things about privatisation.  The community always pays, one way or another.  Sure, Mr Barnett may get billions of dollars to build new projects from the privatisation of Western Power, but we’ll be paying for his priorities through higher electricity prices for generations to come.

It was good of Nathan, Nat and Shaun to point this out to the Premier.