$272m aid to help power sale
Brian Robins, smh
April 11, 2008
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Privatisation turns Iemma green
COMPENSATION of $272 million for the poor and elderly will be part of electricity privatisation in NSW, the Iemma Government has announced, in an attempt to neutralise objections by welfare and environment groups to the sale.
Measures to boost the use of renewable energy will also go to cabinet in the next few weeks.
Pressure on the issue within the parliamentary Labor Party is growing before next month's state conference. Members of the Right caucus are seeking to force members of the Left not to speak against or vote against privatisation at the conference.
Opposition to privatisation at branch level is intensifying. The state electoral council in the Marrickville electorate of Carmel Tebbutt voted this week to expel from the party any MP who votes for privatisation.
The measures announced by the Government yesterday were in response to the concerns of the Reverend Harry Herbert, from UnitingCare, and Jeff Angel, from the Total Environment Centre.
They were members of the Unsworth committee, formed by the Government to consider electricity privatisation, which with their support backed the sale.
The Government's $272 million "electricity safety net" outlined yesterday raises the pensioner rebate to $130 from $112 and indexes it to the consumer price index. Rebates will be extended at a cost of $27.5 million over five years to include those receiving carers' and sickness allowances and special benefits.
Also included is $125 million over five years for a "no disconnections" policy for domestic customers and $55 million, also over five years, to increase funding under the energy accounts payments assistance scheme.
"It's interesting, when people want your vote, what they will do," Mr Herbert said. "Electricity prices are going to go up. Greenhouse gas changes will involve higher prices. More will have to come."
He said NSW had been lagging other states in consumer protection, so the undertakings helped to close that gap. To address the concerns of environmentalists, the Government is developing policies to boost renewable energy use. The policies will be released in the next few weeks.
"It takes energy efficiency and greenhouse emission measures a major step forward, and makes us the leader in policies in this area," Mr Angel said.
The Government said it will not indemnify Government-owned power generators for the cost of their carbon liabilities. The NSW Treasurer, Michael Costa, has indicated that informal talks with the Federal Government on compensation are at an impasse. He says he opposes giving generators free permits. "No one is arguing for free permits, but [for] a system that recognises existing ownership" and the need for compensation, he said yesterday.
Mr Costa said the next power station in NSW is likely to be coal-fired, following a surge in international gas prices that had prompted many domestic gas producers to turn their focus to exports. "It makes more sense to sell it on the international market," he said.
A business lobby group, the Energy Users Group, wants the three generators to be split into five to increase competition.