Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 6 May 2014
Parliamentary Record 12
Debates for 12th Assembly 2012 - 2016; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 12th Assembly 2012 - 2016
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES Tuesday 6 May 2014 4053 be sold. Why would a private company want to take on board a business which is heavily subsidised by the Northern Territory government? The current IES model is that most customers pay for services through a prepayment method on power meters. Prepaid power cards are used on most public housing tenants meters. With revenue of around $40m in previous years, an expected $40m this financial year and a cost of $77m, why would this be attractive to a buyer? It is my job as the only bush minister in the CLP government to oversee the future of remote communities. Looking at proposed reforms from a strategic perspective, it removes red tape and better positions Power and Water to be competitive. It does not change how essential services are delivered in the bush, and will lead to a reduction in power prices. It is on this basis I support these bills. Mr VOWLES (Johnston): Madam Speaker, I oppose this bill which is being rushed through the House without a skerrick of evidence from the government to show it is necessary, prudent or beneficial to Territorians. I will concentrate my speech on two aspects of the legislation. Firstly, this bill has not had appropriate economic rigour applied to it. Secondly, this is nothing more than an ideological move by the CLP to prepare parts of Power and Water for sale. The Public Accounts Committee belled the cat last week on how irresponsible this legislation is. Senior bureaucrats of NewCo and Treasury asked the obvious question as to whether the costbenefit analysis has been done on the plan to split Power and Water. We all waited for the obvious reply, but it never came. The answer should have been, Yes, a costbenefit analysis should be done on such a major shake-up of our most important utility, but senior bureaucrat after senior bureaucrat confirmed our worst fears. The answer was no. A cost-benefit analysis has not been done, by NewCo, Treasury or Power and Water. We have a ludicrous situation where our biggest and most vulnerable utility is being split up on a hunch it might be beneficial. This government has no idea whether or not it will be beneficial because the most basic body of work, a cost-benefit analysis, has not been done. Our members on the Public Accounts Committee could not believe their ears. How could it be possible that such an oversight occurred? I will venture some suggestions. Is it because this decision is being driven by CLP ideology, rather than sound economic judgement? Is it because this plan is being driven by the manic CLP desire to prepare the most profitable parts of Power and Water for sale? Is it because this government fears the answer a decent costbenefit analysis might provide, that this whole exercise will cost tens of millions of dollars and benefit no one? We know who will benefit. It will benefit whichever large corporation gets its hands on the most valuable and profitable parts of Power and Water. Territorians will be left with the unprofitable parts. There will be another cost; when parts of Power and Water are sold to the highest bidder, average Territorians will suffer. It is not me saying this; I quote the distinguished Professor of Economics of the University of Queensland, John Quiggin. He has undertaken the most comprehensive study of the history of power privatisation in Australia. Professor Quiggin said: These policies have failed spectacularly. Prices have risen sharply particularly for households. Investment has been haphazard and investment failures have led to avoidable blackouts. Consumers have been barraged with competing offers from retailers, but have found all to be inferior to the reliable low-cost supply they formerly enjoyed. Let me repeat, prices rise sharply and the outcome will be inferior to what we have today. We should be learning from failures in other Australian jurisdictions, not repeating them. The Treasurer and Chief Minister will tell Territorians they have no plans to sell the profitable parts of Power and Water. Pull the other one, Treasurer, it plays jingle bells. Proposed section 53 of the legislation shows how it will happen; the mere splitting of the Power and Water Corporation does not need proposed section 53 of this bill. If the Treasurer wants us to believe there is no privatisation agenda, he has a chance today to amend the legislation and remove proposed section 53, which I call the privatisation clause. Here is your chance, Treasurer. If there is no privatisation agenda, will you move to amend the legislation to get rid of the privatisation clause? There is only silence. Of course you will not, because the plan is to split Power and Water into bite size chunks and flog the best bits to the big end of town. However, proposed section 53 is more than a privatisation clause, it is the Treasurers play thing. It allows privatisation at the stroke of the Treasurers pen without coming back into this Chamber with fresh legislation. That is right, if you get the numbers to ram this legislation through, big Dave Tollner can
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