Baird's electricity privatisation swindles the Hunter

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The Baird Liberal Government has been caught out leaving Newcastle without a guaranteed dollar of funding under its radical plans for the privatisation of the State's electricity poles and wires – with all the metropolitan proceeds already earmarked for Sydney. 

The Government claims it will generate $20 billion from the sale. However, it has today been revealed that the Newcastle city and suburbs do not fall within the $6 billion regional fund the Government has promised to establish if they are re-elected and fully privatise the electricity network. (See p.9 of the Government’s Rebuilding NSW discussion paper attached).

This means Newcastle and its surrounding suburbs will be left fighting it out for a share of the claimed metropolitan proceeds – despite the fact that Premier Mike Baird has already promised all of this pool – and more – to Sydney. His commitments include:

  • North Shore Harbour Crossing – estimated cost $10-15 billion;

  • Northern Beaches Tunnel – estimated cost $1.9 billion; and

  • WestConnex extensions – estimated cost $1.5 billion.

    Despite depleting the electricity proceeds on these three projects alone, this has not stopped the Liberals from foreshadowing using the proceeds to fund even more projects in Sydney – everything from an F6 extension to a new rail link from Bankstown to the Hills District via Parramatta, a $2 billion "hospitals and schools building fund" and a $500 million "sports and cultural fund”.

    Today, Opposition Leader John Robertson accused the Premier of blatantly selling out Newcastle and Charlestown – saying people should use their votes this Saturday to send a message to the NSW Liberals about being taken for granted and treated with complete contempt.

    Mr Robertson noted that the people of Newcastle would be paying higher electricity prices under a privatised monopoly network – while receiving no proceeds from the sale. By contrast, keeping the network in public hands generates an annual dividend stream to the State Budget that was last year worth $1.7 billion.

    "Electricity privatisation won't work for the Hunter – and Saturday is a chance for people to vote Labor and send a message to Mike Baird that they don't want him stealing more money from this region," Mr Robertson said.

"Based on his promises so far, Mike Baird has already used up the $20 billion he has estimated from the sale before he even gets to Newcastle.

"Unless you are from the North Shore or the Northern Beaches of Sydney, there is nothing in Mike Baird's electricity privatisation for you – except higher bills, job losses and less money to spend on local schools, hospitals and transport.

"The pain of the Liberals' electricity privatisation will be felt across the Hunter in terms of higher power bills – but the proceeds will be concentrated immediately north of Sydney Harbour."

Shadow Minister for Energy Adam Searle noted that Premier Baird has not been seen in the Hunter since August 19 – the day he apologised for letting people down and promised to go "door-to-door" to regain trust.

"The Liberals are treating Newcastle with contempt and it shows where their priorities are. The Premier hasn't been seen in the Hunter in more than two months. He’s down in Sydney where he's throwing all the money to shore up marginal seats,” Mr Searle said.

Labor Candidate for Charlestown Jodie Harrison said: "Mike Baird's privatisation sums don't add up. With so much money allocated to WestConnex, the Harbour Crossing and the Northern Beaches Tunnel, it is insulting that our region will once again be left begging for crumbs.”

Labor Candidate for Newcastle Tim Crakanthorp said: "Privatising electricity will deprive the State Budget of $1.7 billion a year in dividends from the asset. This is money that helps fund Hunter hospitals, schools and transport.

"Privatising electricity is a bad deal because it means a permanent hole in the budget bottom line. "The Hunter will be lumped with all the burdens from the sale and none of the benefits."

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