Territory Stories

Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 6 May 2014



Debates Day 1 - Tuesday 6 May 2014

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Parliamentary Record 12


Debates for 12th Assembly 2012 - 2016; ParliamentNT; Parliamentary Record; 12th Assembly 2012 - 2016




Made available by the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory





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Hansard Office

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES Tuesday 6 May 2014 4008 communities, which will stay within the Power and Water Corporation. These changes to our essential services provider are being rammed through with no mandate from or consultation with Territorians and no real proof to show anyone we will be better off as a result. There is no evidence or report to show Territory taxpayers how breaking up Power and Water will make the service better, more reliable or more affordable. This is a government hell-bent on following the road of privatisation and selling off what it can. It is in its DNA. It is quite happy to sell what it can and has made that very clear. We have heard its federal counterpart, Treasurer Joe Hockey, is placing more pressure on jurisdictions to sell assets, and Treasurer Tollner has signed up to that. Only last week we saw the Chief Minister sign up to that agenda with his COAG colleagues. Following on from that, it was very interesting in Question Time today to hear him place on the record that the government is not ruling anything in or out, and he is looking forward to the ongoing debate on the sale of assets. In Saturdays NT News the Chief Minister said asset sales should be looked at. He said: there are clearly no plans to sell any part of Power and Water at this stage. I repeat the last part: at this stage. To members opposite who do not believe the split of Power and Water, and this legislation in particular, is about a privatisation agenda and heading down the road of selling Territory-owned assets, my message is simple: wake up! It is what it is all about, and this bill will enable the government to privatise Power and Water. This will mean higher power prices and less reliability for your constituents. The agenda is very clear; those who do not believe it need to take their heads out of the sand. As stated earlier, in the Territory Treasurers rhetoric we have also heard his desire to make Power and Water run like a commercial operation. Under structural separation there will be business divisions left within the Power and Water Corporation which may not be as lucrative as generation and some of the big retail customers, but are essential to every household, business and the quality of our lives. In March we saw what happens when there is a major problem in power networks and system control when the lights went out in the Darwin and Katherine region. A large part of the Territory ground to a halt that day. Businesses lost stock and trade, people lost wages, schools and childcare centres closed and the public service was not operational. Everything was impacted. It was a stark reminder to us of what happens when the power goes out and why it is essential we continue investment in infrastructure to ensure reliability for customers. One must question whether investment in Power and Water will continue at the same level. Will the repairs and maintenance program continue at the level we need it? Fewer repairs and less maintenance means more outages for customers, lost trade and lost business. Staff are at risk when they go out on the job and are dealing with faulty equipment. The CLP has already stripped money from repairs and maintenance. In 2012-13, Labor had forecast a repairs and maintenance budget of $87m for Power and Water. After the CLP took power, the spending reduced to $80m and we now see it at $78m. This is a worrying trend and something which must be carefully monitored through this splitting exercise. Less investment in the Power and Water Corporation will ultimately mean less reliability of services to Territorians. It is also concerning to hear internal training programs have been scrapped under the CLP. These were designed to help staff deal with the highly complex, and at times, highly dangerous, nature of their jobs. One aspect of this bill I am concerned about is the governments level of commitment to the quality of power, water and sewerage services delivered to remote communities through Indigenous Essential Services and the remote operations section of the Power and Water Corporation. People in the bush have already shared skyrocketing increases to the cost of power. All Territorians have shouldered the increases together - the urban centres and the bush - and prices will not become any cheaper under the structural changes proposed today. In the Territory, in recognition of the fact power, water and sewerage are essential to every one of us, we have had a long-term policy of honouring subsidies to make electricity, water and sewerage services affordable. This means people have been protected from the real costs to receive those essential services. In the Territory we have unique challenges in delivering services. Much like the cost of petrol and groceries, the large distances, small population and isolation makes things more expensive to deliver, and the case in remote communities goes to a whole new level. The government has tried to calm the bush and its Caucus members by telling them there will be no changes to Indigenous Essential Services, which will help keep the price of power and water at a more affordable level. In Question Time today we asked questions with regard to a $5m to $6m

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