Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis
Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis Adam Hourigan

Power jobs in jeopardy

THE battle over poles and wires has ignited with the release of the State Government's Audit Report recommending full electricity privatisation.

The Commission of Audit, released earlier this week, made 132 recommendations to improve public sector management and service delivery in NSW across a whole range of areas.

While Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis said not all of the recommendations will be adopted, the Electrical Trades Union stressed it will "vigorously fight" any proposal to privatise the service.

"The O'Farrell Government's Commission of Audit makes a number of recommendations, including further examining the prospect of full electricity privati- sation in NSW," ETU secretary Steve Butler said.

"Only last week the NSW En-ergy Minister admitted that the publicly owned electricity network delivers vital funding to the NSW Government to help fund other public services including police, hospitals and schools. This vital funding will be lost to a private company if the O'Farrell Government proceeds with electricity privatisation."

The local electrical network in the Clarence Valley is owned and serviced by Essential Energy and employs 221 people across four depots in Grafton, Casino, Woodburn and Maclean.

"Many pundits like to blame high electricity prices on our network infrastructure, however the fact remains that prices are set by way of regulation controlled by the NSW Government including reliability standards and government pricing regulations delivered by IPART," Mr Butler said.

"These government-set regu-lations guarantee a return on investment to the publicly owned electricity companies rather than the best deal for consumers.

"The thing about the electricity network is that there is only one set of poles and wires so there cannot be any competition - it is a natural monopoly."

Mr Gulaptis yesterday stuck to the line that the Premier "has repeatedly stated that the Government has no mandate to privatise poles and wires".

"As Member for Clarence, I fully support this position," Mr Gulaptis said.

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