OPINION POLL: People power wins essential fight

LOCAL Nationals MPs have hailed as an “historic victory” yesterday’s decision by state cabinet to reject a proposed sale of Essential Energy.

In a party room meeting yesterday morning, Nationals MPs resolved to oppose a push by Premier Mike Baird to take the privatisation of the state’s electricity poles and wires to next year’s election.

Hours later at a joint meeting with the Liberals, The Nats threatened to tear up the Coalition deal if Essential Energy was part of the privatisation package.

They also demanded regional electorates be given 30 per cent of the revenue from any sale of poles and wires.

The demands, which the Liberals agreed to, mean jobs and services in Essential Energy catchment areas will be protected and regional NSW will share in an estimated$6 billion in new funding.

After the meeting, Mr Baird and Nationals leader Andrew Stoner announced cabinet had endorsed a proposal to take to next year’s election the 99-year lease of 49 per cent of the NSW electricity network, predicted to raise $20 billion.

“We’ve managed to save Essential Energy and this is what I’ve been fighting for all along,” Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson said.

“This is an historic victory and will protect regionalservices and jobs.”

Nationals MPs have been under intense pressure to protect Essential Energy amid fears privatisation would push up power bills, cost jobs and decrease services.

Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall said the deal illustrated the muscle the Nationals had in the government.

“The Libs will think twice before proposing something like this again,” Mr Marshall said.

“It’s a huge win for country people; not only does Essential Energy remain in public hands but we get a share in billions of dollars of new revenue.”

But not everyone is so enamoured of the deal.

Tamworth councillor and National Party member Mark Rodda said Mr Anderson and Mr Marshall had “betrayed” their electorates.

“All this has done is set the ball in motion for a complete sell-off of all electricity assets in NSW,” Cr Rodda said.

“Following this decision, the loser will not only be electricity workers but you and I; we will all pay more for electricity, for services as well as in the future more NSW taxes. 

“When the government loses the dividend it currently receives from the electricity distributors, taxes will have to rise or service levels will drop. 

“In Tamworth there are 65 TransGrid staff and 175 Essential Energy staff; what of their future?”

Chairman of the Nationals New England Federal Electorate Council Russell Webb said Mr Anderson and Mr Marshall must now focus on getting a fair slice of the $6 billion funding pie for the region.

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