We All Lose Under Colin Barnett’s Privatisation of Western Power

Wednesday 30 Nov 2016

After months of indecision and mixed messages, the Barnett Government has announced plans to privatise Western Power.

Treasurer Mike Nahan outlined plans to float 51 per cent of the company on the ASX, targeting “mum and dad investors” and a private fund.

After paying off $8 billion of the state’s debt, $3 billion from the sale would be made available for the Next Generation Account, which would prioritise spending on schools, TAFE and transport infrastructure.

It’s obvious the Government perceives these areas as a weakness and this announcement points towards the rollout of small and large projects in the lead up to the State Election.

Premier Colin Barnett made a big show this morning about all the supposed benefits privatising Western Power would bring to the state. But he’s going to need to do a better job to convince the mums and dads of Western Australia to buy shares in a company they already own.

The Government wants to sell a public asset owned by all of us to fund pork-barreling in Liberal and National marginal seats. They’re clearly spooked by the polls heading into March next year and need to fill the coffers to spend big in their most vulnerable areas.

Mr Barnett was adamant there would be no increase in the price of electricity as a result of the sale. But he’s sold the same story with the sale of Alinta Gas when he was Energy Minister, promising that it would be owned by mums and dads and prices wouldn’t go up.

Alinta quickly found itself in corporate hands and prices have been going up ever since. He clearly thinks the mums and dads of WA have a short memory.

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

He seems to think this will create new jobs for our economy, but there’s no mention of the jobs that will be cut in the pursuit of profit. They’ve already slashed apprenticeship numbers to make Western Power more attractive to potential buyers. They’ve been quick to talk down the possibility of forced redundancies. We all know that’s a promise they can’t keep once it’s in private hands.

The Premier also neglects to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars Western Power generates each year that goes back into funding our police, nurses and teachers. He’s selling off billions in future earnings for the state to fund the government election war chest today.

No doubt we’ll soon see a flashy ad campaign trying to sell us that privatising Western Power is good for everyone. But the people of Western Australia are smarter than he gives them credit for. They know it makes no sense to buy what they already own and they know when Colin Barnett sells state assets, everyone loses.