Electricity Sale Needs Scrutiny

The sale of the state's electricity assets is a missed opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and must be subject to an open and transparent inquiry. In 2008 when the Government pursued electricity privatisation, we were told the sale could generate $15 billion for the State, but the sale finalised on 14 December generated only $5.3 billion. Assets were sold to existing retailers Origin and TruEnergy also raising concerns about competition. At the time I asked then Premier Iemma to rule out industry compensation for the financial impacts of emissions trading and called on the Auditor-General to address global warming in his assessment of the proposal. The urgent need to restructure the electricity industry to cut greenhouse gas emissions has been ignored. The sale should have been used as an opportunity to exclude new and expanded coal power and to transition the industry to lower and renewable energy sources. On 15 December, a Legislative Council standing committee announced that it would conduct an inquiry into the sale, including the circumstances that led to the resignation of directors from Eraring Energy and Delta Electricity; shortly before the sale was completed. It would also look at the sale's impact the sale on current and future electricity prices, competition in the electricity market, the value obtained for NSW taxpayers; and other related matters. On 22 December, the 54th Parliament was prorogued, officially ending all Parliament business until after the 26 March election - leaving 13 of my questions, due for response in January, unanswered. The NSW Parliament website had previously suggested that Parliament was expected to be prorogued in late February, encouraging many people to speculate that the Premier requested early prorogation to prevent an open and transparent inquiry into the sale from going ahead. When Parliament is in session, committees can compel witnesses to appear at hearings and witnesses are protected from being sued for what they say by Parliamentary privilege. On 23 December, the Committee Chair announced the inquiry would go ahead with hearings scheduled on Monday and Tuesday this week. While The Premier and Treasurer attended hearings on Monday, Tuesday's hearings were cancelled because the former Eraring Energy and Delta Electricity directors refused to appear.

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