Government dismisses contradiction claims

CLAIMS the derailing of the Government's electricity asset-sale jeapordises the Lismore Base Hospital redevelopment are contradicted by official Parliamentary records, Lismore MP Thomas George has said.

NSW Health Minister Reba Meagher last week said 'every health project on our major capital plan' would have to be 'reviewed and reprioritised' because of the decision, singling out the stage-three upgrade of Lismore Base Hospital as one project that may be under threat.

But Mr George has provided The Northern Star with copies of Hansard showing Treasurer Michael Costa clearly said that no infrastructure projects where dependent upon the sale.

On June 24 Mr Costa told Parliament: “No items in the infrastructure strategy are dependent upon the Government's electricity plans.”

In his Budget speech on June 3, Mr Costa also said: “Estimates of the proceeds of electricity sector transactions have not been included in the Budget.”

Mr George accused the Government of using bullying tactics and blackmail.

“People in country and regional areas deserve better,” Mr George said. “Threats are being made against all portfolios when they clearly stated that none of the Budget (measures) were dependent upon privatisation.”

Mr George said the contradiction was brought up in Parliament by Liberal leader Barry O'Farrell, but was dismissed by the Government.

The Government now plans to sell electricity retailers Energy Australia, Integral Energy and Country Energy, but not the power generators. The plan would have to be approved by the Labor Cabinet, but not by Parliament.

Treasurer Michael Costa said NSW would be between $8 billion and $20 billion worse off without the sale of the generators, and has threatened to resign if Cabinet does not approve the new plan.

Thomas George would be happy to see him go.

“He's asking people to trust him,” the MP said. “How can he be trusted? This is the same man who told North Coast residents that their (Casino to Murwillumbah) train was safe, and then three months later he pulled it out.”

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