Saturday, March 08, 2008


Iemma faces ALP power war

By Joe Hildebrand, Daily Telegraph

March 08, 2008 12:00am

A LAST-ditch bid by Premier Morris Iemma to head off an ALP war over power privatisation has collapsed, with unions rejecting a compromise deal the Government had hoped would avert a showdown.

Still reeling from the Wollongong sex-for-development scandal, Mr Iemma now faces a new assault from his own party over the $25 billion sell-off.

The report of the so-called "consultative reference committee" was intended to lock Labor support for the electricity sale but rebel committee members have struck back with a dissenting report canning the committee's findings.

At the same time, the Premier's camp believe they have a weapon allowing them to steamroll through with the sale no matter what the party resolves.

The two forces are now on an unavoidable collision course set to come to a head at the ALP state conference in May.

The committee, led by former premier Barrie Unsworth, supported the plan to sell the Government's electricity retailers and operation of its generators.

It is understood the finding was only reached after concessions were made to environmental representative Jeff Angel.

The committee also proposed offering share packages to workers as an added sweetener.

However the three union representatives on the committee will issue a dissenting report condemning the proposal and Labor sources have told The Daily Telegraph they will still fight it on the conference floor.

"The people of NSW are understandably concerned by the Government's announcement and so is the union movement," the report concludes.

"There is an undercurrent of public opposition to privatisation of public assets for one simple reason - they do not generally deliver better outcomes for Australians."

However Mr Iemma plans to defy any move to block the sale by using a clause in the ALP constitution that prevents conference - the party's supreme policy-making body - from overturning a Government decision.

The Premier claims the Government has already made a decision to proceed with the privatisation and therefore conference cannot overrule it.

The report was handed to Mr Iemma yesterday.