Thursday, May 08, 2008


Keating's views as elder statesman respected, but not relevant now

May 8, 2008

Letters to the Editor,smh

I do not agree with Paul Keating in relation to my role as president of the Labor Party ("Unions in the dark ages, says Keating", May 6). Times have changed in the ALP over the past 30 years.

The factional infighting which besieged his presidency is now virtually non-existent.

I view my role as supporting the general secretary and officers, guaranteeing that the views of the members of the party are heard in the appropriate forums and ensuring that the rules of the party are complied with by all party members. I do not see my role as selling out the rank and file of the party.

I believe I know a little bit about the electricity industry in NSW, having been involved in the industry all of my working life as an apprentice, tradesman, union official and director. Mr Keating was a depot clerk about 50 years ago.

In 1997, the figure used by the privatisation proponents Bob Carr and Michael Egan was $25 billion, not $35 billion as quoted by Mr Keating. Also, anyone who knows anything about the industry knows the real value in the industry is tied up in the transmission and distribution networks.

Mr Carr wanted to sell these, Morris Iemma does not - which explains the price differential from $25 billion in 1997 to $10 billion in 2008.

Mr Keating fails to understand that the national energy market does not work as he would have planned because of the lack of capacity in the interconnectors between the states. There is an engineering problem, not to mention the electrical theory of voltage losses, which provides a restriction. The fact is that the provision of baseload generating capacity in NSW is basically a monopoly. Mr Keating's assertion that "much of the electricity is provided by private electricity generators in other states" is simply not true.

The facts are that less than 10 per cent of the state's electricity is supplied from other states (Owen Report).

Finally, the role of the trade union movement in the re-election of the Iemma Government was there for all to see in March last year. Even the Premier made special mention of it in his speech to the conference last Saturday. Mr Keating was in Europe.

Mr Keating is an elder statesman of the ALP. He is entitled to his views and his opinions deserve to be respected - their relevance is up to others to determine.

Bernie Riordan Secretary, Electrical Trades Union of Australia, NSW Branch