New Queensland premier and Labor hero Annastacia Palaszczuk has urged Tweed voters to reject the Baird government’s controversial plan to sell off the state’s electricity assets, saying the move would backfire on the coalition as it did in Queensland.
Labor believes public disquiet over electricity privatisation and, on the north coast, coal seam gas (CSG), gives it a good chance of wresting the seats of Tweed, Ballina and Lismore off National Party MPs. It is pushing the message locally that ‘a vote for Labor is a vote for to keep the electricity network in public hands’.
Ms Palaszczuk was warmly greeted by the party faithful at the Banora Point community centre on Friday as she joined NSW opposition leader Luke Foley and north coast Labor candidates to launch the ALP’s north coast policy, of which a massive $211 million commitment for upgrading The Tweed Hospital was the centrepiece.
The Qld premier and Mr Foley gave rousing speeches, saying Labor could win the north coast seats held by the Nationals despite the uphill battle against large margins in most of them.
Ms Palaszczuk said the ‘obsession’ with electricity privatisation by the coalition showed the coalition was not listening to communities.
She said both the Campbell Newman government in Queensland and the Baird coalition in NSW persisted with the contentious plan despite their unpopularity.
’We saw what happens when a government thinks it can arrogantly impose on voters a decision people don’t like and simply don’t want,’ she said.
‘When will the Liberals and Nationals listen to the voice of the people, when will they acknowledge the clear and simple fact that people do not want their electricity network sold,’ Ms Palaszczuk said to loud applause.
Both the premier and Mr Foley stressed that NSW, and north coast voters in particular, could repeat the Queensland election result and reject privatisation.
Ms Palasczuk said the Baird and Newman governments had ‘so many things in common: their ideological agendas, their profits-before-people mentality, their cuts to schools and hospitals, their neglect of TAFE and, of course, their close alignment to Tony Abbott,’ she said.
But the ‘most striking’ similarity was ‘their obsessions with privatisation’.
Ms Palaszczuk told the crowded room and candidates to ‘ignore those who say you cannot win because I’m here to tell you it can be done’.
She said she was told before the Queensland election that with Labor’s 11 seats in an 89-seat parliament it would be impossible to win the election, but she was ‘living proof the pessimists got it wrong, and we got it right’.
‘With the right issues, the right plans and lots of hard work, the Liberals and Nationals can be beaten in NSW and right here on north coast,’ she said before introducing Mr Foley.
The NSW opposiiton leader said Mr Baird wanted to sell off and partially lease the poles and wires to raise $20 billion for roads, rail and other infrastructure’.
‘We‘ll keep our electricity network in public hands. We’ll use the profits the electricity network makes to fund improved services on the North Coast and above all, to invest in our hospitals and schools,’ Mr Foley said.
‘And Labor will permanently ban coal seam gas activity on the North Coast – from the Queensland border to the Clarence Valley, across all seven local government areas of the Northern Rivers.
‘When you have a government obsessed with privatising electricity in order to promise second and third crossings of Sydney Harbour, it’s time for a new approach here on the North Coast.
‘When you have local hospitals in dire need of upgrades and Mike Baird and Tony Abbott taking $18 billion out of our state’s health system…It’s time for a new approach here on the north coast.
‘And when you have double digit unemployment here and young people locked out of TAFE, it’s time for a new approach here on the north coast.’ he said.
Mr Foley said that in South Australia following privatisation, $420 a year from every customer went directly into the pocket of the private billionaire owner.
‘Will infrastructure be better? Of course it won’t,’ he said.
‘There will be more cuts to schools, hospitals and TAFE and the Coalition can’t explain how they will fill the black hole when billions of dollars of electricity profits are lost to the state.
‘And what if the coalition fails to sell the electricity network, or fails to get the price they claim they will get?’
Mr Foley also committed Labor to protecting the Kingscliff beachfront reserve Lot 490 ‘forever’ by bringing it into the public reserve estate as a regional park, declared under the provisions of the National Parks and Wildlife Act.
Locals have for years been campaigning to preserve and protect the open-space recreation area from development .
He also announced that a Labor government would move to secure World Heritage Listing for more of the northern rainforests.
‘Labor intends that 460,000 hectares in NSW, spreading along the escarpment from the
Queensland border to the Hunter should be immediately nominated as additions to the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia’s World Heritage Area,’ Mr Foley said.
‘Our proposals for additions to the World Heritage Area include icons such as the Washpool, Dorrigo and Barrington Tops National Parks.
Your power bill is not real
Meanwhile, a new Youtube video doing the rounds is a stark reminder of how privatisation of electricity assets works against consumers, and how much of your power bill is eaten up by administrative charges etc.