Selling the ‘poles and wires’ NSW electricity network to fund a second rail crossing of Sydney Harbour would be morally bankrupt, essentially forcing higher prices and poorer service standards on millions of people in rural and regional parts of the state to fund infrastructure they would never use, according to the Electrical Trades Union.
Revelations today that Transport for NSW is working on the concept plan for a second Sydney Harbour rail crossing — a tunnel from Chatswood to the CBD that would cost up to $15 billion — and suggestions that it would need to be funded through the sale of the state’s publicly owned electricity poles and wires, should ring alarm bells for regional communities.
The ETU said the revelations were made more concerning by Premier Barry O'Farrell’s continued refusal to categorically rule out any privatisation plan’s beyond the 2015 election.
ETU NSW secretary Steve Butler said Mr O’Farrell should follow the lead of his Queensland counterpart Campbell Newman, who this week formally ruled out any sale of his own electricity distribution companies.
“In Queensland, the Liberal National Party has seen that an essential service like electricity is best kept in public hands, but in NSW we continue to see the idea of privatisation promoted from some elements within government as a magic source of infrastructure funding,” Mr Butler said.
“Any sale of the electricity poles and wires would be bad for the community, leading to higher prices, reduced service delivery and massive job losses across regional NSW as new owners sought to maximise profits, but a sale to fund infrastructure projects that only benefit people in the Sydney CBD would be outrageous.
“Suggesting that millions of people across NSW should see a vital, publicly-owned essential service sold off, all so a single piece of infrastructure that will benefit only a few can be built, is morally bankrupt.”
Mr Butler said the sale also made no economic sense, with the electricity network currently delivering huge profits to the people of NSW that already go towards funding infrastructure and community services.
“Last month the NSW Auditor General revealed the NSW publicly owned electricity network businesses had delivered their largest dividends in history to the people of New South Wales,” he said.
“Total government income from the past twelve months from Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, Essential Energy and TransGrid will exceed $2.7 billion, every cent of which flows into the government coffers to help fund public services such as our hospitals, schools and roads.
“It’s time the O’Farrell Government followed the lead of their Queensland colleagues, accepted the benefits of retaining these assets in public ownership, and formally ruled out any sale — especially a sale designed to fund inequitable infrastructure like a second harbour rail crossing.”