Power sale to turn up fire risk: unions


This campaign poster was on a truck parked on North Lake Road last week.
This campaign poster was on a truck parked on North Lake Road last week.

INCREASED bushfire risks and higher prices will result from the sale of Western Power, unions representing workers in the sector say.

WA Treasurer Mike Nahan flagged the sale of assets after handing down the State Budget on May 12.

Dr Nahan, in his third budget, said the Government needed to sell assets such as Western Power, Horizon Power and the TAB to try to reduce debt and fund capital works.

“A final decision to sell these assets has not yet been made and will not be made until after the 2017 election,” he said.

“Any proposal to sell any of these assets will only be made following confirmation that the outcome is in the best interests of both WA taxpayers and electricity consumers.”

Last week the Australian Services Union (ASU) and Electrical Trades Union (ETU) kicked off a statewide campaign to highlight what they say are issues that will come if the state follows through with its plan.

ASU WA assistant branch secretary Jill Hugo said privatising Western Power would increase the risk of bushfires in Perth.

“Once electricity networks are placed in the hands of private companies, the number one factor that guides decision-making around maintenance and investment in new infrastructure is profit,” he said.

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

ETU WA branch secretary Les McLaughlan said privatisation, including a long-term lease, would come at great cost to the community.

“Consumers end up paying higher prices, as private owners look at maximising revenue,” he said.

“Workers end up paying the price, as private owners cut jobs and apprenticeships to maximise profits.”

Dr Nahan described the claims as “nothing more than union propaganda”.

“In other states where poles and wires have been privatised, the safety and reliability of the electricity network has been at least as good, if not better, than publicly owned poles and wires, and electricity network prices are lower,” he said.

Cockburn MLA Fran Logan said he was against the sale.

“This is desperation by the Barnett government who are now selling of our state’s assets in order to pay for their shocking debt and deficit,” he said.