Will Barnett privatise a power station in this week’s budget?

Saturday 09 May 2015

On Thursday, we will find out if the Barnett Government plans to privatise one of our publicly owned power stations in this year’s budget.

Mr Barnett has publicly ruled out privatising Western Australia’s publicly owned poles and wires during this term of government, but it was reported this week that he was leaving his options open on the question of power stations.

The Liberals are clearly heading down the privatisation path.

The Barnett Government recently announced that private companies would soon be able to retail electricity to householders.  This “full retail contestability” is likely to see Synergy lose market share, the possible closure of power stations and the certain loss of quality public sector jobs and apprenticeships.

The Barnett Government also recently laid the groundwork for the privatisation of poles and wires by a third term Liberal Government, by announcing they would transfer the regulation of electricity distribution to an eastern states regulator, with experience in managing privatised systems.  And, despite promising to keep rises in the price of electricity to inflation levels during the last election campaign, Mr Barnett has allowed his pro-privatisation Treasurer, Mike Nahan, to push them up at well over inflation levels, in a move that could be interpreted as fattening up our electricity system for sale.

When Tony Abbott handed over a cheque for $499 million to Mr Barnett in Perth this week to assist Mr Barnett with his budget problems, it was widely reported that the cost of this assistance was “microeconomic reform”.  On Thursday, we will find out if this means further privatisation.