Red News Readers,
Paul Keating has actually done the anti privatisation movement a favour with his outburst today in that he has made it very clear to everyone how out of touch he is now with his own party, the party that once fostered and supported him, elevating him to the highest office in the land.
Those in the party who still harbour illusions about Keating, should read his contribution in the Herald today carefully. This is not a man who cares about what happens to working families when services are privatised. Jobs are lost, prices go up, supply of the service is unreliable and service levels go down. This is a man speaking for the interests of the big end of town, despite his denial that he is compromised by his corporate relationships.
Bernie Riordan and John Robertson don't deserve a blast from Keating. They have been courageous, calm and committed through all of the difficulties they have faced, including the bizzare outbursts and behaviour of the Treasurer Michael Costa. Now there's a man who deserves a Keating outburst!!
Keating blasts unions
Alexandra Smith and Andrew Clennell, smh
May 6, 2008
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Paul Keating: Iemma deserved better than naked obstructionism
THE former prime minister Paul Keating has delivered a scathing assessment of the unionists leading the charge to stop the State Government privatising the power industry, describing one as "woeful" and the other as a mere T-shirt provider.
As the Premier, Morris Iemma, implored wavering MPs yesterday not to vote against privatisation in caucus - saying it would be a vote against his leadership - Mr Keating came to his rescue.
Writing for the Herald's opinion page today, Mr Keating attacks "lemmings" at the weekend state Labor Party conference and the "industrial obscurantists" who led the humiliating defeat of Mr Iemma with a 702-107 vote against privatisation.
Mr Keating describes Bernie Riordan, the Electrical Trades Union secretary, as a woeful state president of the ALP.
"Bernie Riordan's last foray into this issue was a decade ago when he downed Bob Carr and Michael Egan [when they tried to privatise the industry]," Mr Keating writes. "Then the power stations were worth $35 billion. A decade later the price discussion for the same stations is around $15 billion. That is, $20 billion in lost value; $20 billion that could have been spent on education, health and vital new infrastructure."
He also lambasts the Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson - who "sees his role as providing T-shirts to protesters" - and argues the union chiefs are refusing to accept reality: that there has been no economic or commercial reason for state ownership of power generation since the
Keating government established a national electricity market in 1995. "When lights are turned on in NSW now, much of the electricity is provided by private electricity generators in other states," Mr Keating argues. He says power stations are "expensive lumps" of old technology and the only assets worth owning are the poles and wires, which the Iemma Government intends to keep.
Despite Mr Iemma's internal battle, the Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, still refused yesterday to reveal his position on the proposed power sell-off.
There is understood to be a split in the Opposition over the sale that could cause Mr O'Farrell some difficulty, with the energy spokesman and former leader, Peter Debnam, expressing opposition to privatisation.
At least six Labor MPs, including some from the Premier's Right faction, have confirmed publicly they would be prepared to cross the floor in Parliament if legislation to privatise power is introduced. Mr Iemma has been calling right-wing MPs to shore up their support for him before today's caucus meeting and he has written an open letter to taxpayers, which runs in newspapers today, explaining the sale.
"We're taking this action because demand for electricity is growing and will outstrip supply within a few years, unless we act now," the letter says.
Tensions were underlined by a clash in cabinet yesterday between the Industrial Relations Minister, John Della Bosca, and the Treasurer, Michael Costa, over the way the negotiations have been handled, forcing the Premier to intervene.
Mr Della Bosca is understood to have defended himself against Mr Costa's suggestion that he leaked details of negotiations at the state conference. Mr Iemma, Mr Della Bosca and the Deputy Premier, John Watkins, are believed to have told ministers they must remain calm and hold their nerve.
Fireworks are expected at the caucus meeting today, when left-wing members will push for a fresh vote on power privatisation following the conference vote. But they are likely to be blocked by the Right, which will argue that caucus has already voted to support the sell-off.
The party's joint campaign committee - which includes the Premier, Mr Watkins, Mr Costa and Mr Della Bosca, as well as Mr Riordan and senior party officials - will hold an urgent meeting tomorrow.
Mr Robertson said yesterday he would not rule out industrial action over the power sale.
"If the Premier embraces the proposals that were put yesterday at the conference, I don't anticipate any industrial action being taken, [but] I'm not going to speculate on what might happen," he said.
Much of the NSW National Party, including the frontbencher George Souris, is opposed to the sale, and Mr O'Farrell said he needed to see the "detail" before giving the Coalition's position.
He would not indicate if he supported it "in principle", saying: "You can't take the in-principle decision. I could make an in-principle decision to take the train home this evening, but unless I know which way the train is going, it may not be worth my while."
Mr Keating denied he was motivated by his involvement with the investment bank Lazard Carnegie Wylie, which advised Treasury on the privatisation proposal. Rather, he wanted to see the final stage of his own electricity reform implemented.