PRESSURE is building on the state government to hit the off-switch on a proposal to sell the electricity network’s poles and wires, with local Nationals MPs standing united against a sale.
It follows polling this week in four key Nationals seats, including Tamworth, that revealed overwhelming opposition to privatisation.
Coalition members will hold a special party room meeting on Tuesday to discuss the issue, amid reports their own leader – Andrew Stoner – and Premier Mike Baird will put up a spirited pitch to sell off 49 per cent of the state’s $30 billion poles-and-wires network.
Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall said he remained deeply opposed to any sale, fearing it could spark job losses, higher electricity bills and poorer service for customers.
“I don’t know what the proposal is, but my stance is the same one I took to the by-election last May – it is an essential utility and should be kept in public hands,” Mr Marshall said.
“I’m a country MP and my mandate is to stand up for country people and I can’t see how it (a sale) would benefit my electorate.
“I will always be wary of the long-term implications of short-term cash like this.”
Mr Marshall said while he “wasn’t too fussed” about what happened in the major cities, he supported keeping Essential Energy, which manages the country poles and wires in NSW, publicly owned.
More than 150 workers are directly employed in poles and wires in the Northern Tablelands and more than 230 in Tamworth. Unions claim up to 80 per cent of those jobs could be lost if a privatisation is rammed through. Meanwhile, pro-privatisation advocates argue the short-term cash injection from a sale would help the state address its crippling infrastructure needs.
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson said he remained against the sale of Essential Energy if it had a negative effect on the electorate.
“I’m opposed to the sale of poles and wires if it affects jobs, services or electricity prices,” he said.
“The government has its view and will put it forward, but my view has remained the same.”
Asked if he thought a sale would impact on the region, he said he would seek more information before deciding.
Mr Baird has said the government will not sell the poles and wires without an election mandate.
o Take the poll: Do you think poles and wires should be privatised? www.northerndailyleader.com.au