Union warns of increased risk of bushfire if Western Power privatised

Saturday 13 Feb 2016

The union representing thousands of workers in Western Australia’s electricity system has warned that privatising Western Power would seriously undermine bushfire safety.

The Electrical Trades Union has rejected the sale of the utility as the solution to the State Government’s debt problems.

In response to the recent downgrading of WA’s credit rating, Premier Colin Barnett and Treasurer Mike Nahan confirmed the government was considering the privatisation of Western Power’s poles and wires.

ETU WA Branch Secretary Les McLaughlan said that selling valuable publicly owned assets like Western Power was not the solution to address the Barnett Government’s fiscal failures.

“Privatisation is not the solution for the government’s debt problems, and will only lead to higher prices and poorer quality services, as private companies try to squeeze every last dollar of profit for their shareholders,” he said.

“If poles and wires are sold to the private sector, they will only invest in the network when it is profitable for them to do so. 

“This could result in many parts of the network being left to decay, with disastrous consequences during bushfire season.”

Mr McLaughlan said the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires, which left 150 people dead, found that faulty privatised power lines were responsible for causing five of the most devastating blazes. 

“This tragic case study highlights the very real dangers of electricity privatisation to the community,” said Mr McLaughlan. 

“It has special relevance to communities in Perth’s hills and the south west of WA, which have experienced their own bushfire tragedies in recent times.

“With the growing threat of bushfire in WA, we can’t afford to take risks with the maintenance of our electricity network.

“Colin Barnett needs to learn from the failures of privatisation around Australia and around the world and leave WA’s electricity system in public ownership.”