The NSW opposition has slammed the state government’s plan to sell a portion of the electricity grid to fund a slew of new infrastructure projects, mostly in Sydney.
The government has said that the sale would be limited to electricity distributors in metropolitan centres and that a percentage of the income would be spent in the regions.
But the opposition believes it is part of a greater ideological commitment to the privatisation of the public sector in NSW, particularly in the area of health care.
The government yesterday unveiled its Infrastructure Update, which shadow health minister Walt Secord says ‘contains three poorly coded references that the Liberals and Nationals were committed to “pursue partnerships with the not-for-profit and private sector”; “pursue more efficient and effective health services”; and “reduce operating costs”.’
He pointed to these as evidence of the government’s ‘hidden plan to privatise hospitals and health services’.
Mr Secord, who has previously criticised plans to outsource surgery at the new Byron Central Hospital to the private sector, says this is ‘code for privatisation and slashing jobs in health’.
‘The Baird Government has an ideological obsession with the private sector providing of health and hospital services and the Americanisation of our health system,’ Mr Secord said.
‘The health system should be for patients and not shareholders,’ he added.
‘We do not want a repeat of the failed 1992 Port Macquarie private hospital fiasco negotiated by the previous Liberal-National Government where the state government had to step in and buy the facility to ensure proper health care in 2005.
‘Under the Port Macquarie model, NSW taxpayers ended up paying for the hospital three times over. It cost $52 million to build, but ended up costing taxpayers $144 million,’ Mr Secord said.
‘The Liberals and Nationals are privatising elective day surgery at Byron Central Hospital and refusing to detail their Maitland-Lower Hunter Hospital plans.
‘Mike Baird is on the record saying that private sector involvement was a way to “transform and improve health care” and said his vision of privatisation for the state’s hospitals extended “anywhere from cleaning to public-private partnership to design, build, operate and maintain the new Northern Beaches Hospital”,’ Mr Secord said.
Meanwhile opposition Leader John Robertson said that the only guarantee from Mr Baird’s plans to privatise the electricity network was ‘higher power bills and a lack of money to fund our hospitals and schools’.
‘This plan is nothing more than more glossy brochures for projects that will likely never be delivered,’ Mr Robertson said.
‘The only thing we do know is that if Mike Baird gets away with privatising our electricity network families across the state will pay higher power bills and the state will lose money that is needs to fund our hospitals and schools,’ he added.
‘There’s only one reason companies buy public assets, and that’s to make money.
‘Privatising electricity will mean higher power bills for families and businesses,’ Mr Robertson said.