Saturday, June 07, 2008


Iemma told list of foes growing

Andrew Clennell and Brian Robins, smh

June 7, 2008

THE Blue Mountains MP, Phil Koperberg, warned the Premier, Morris Iemma, this week there is a growing list of Labor MPs prepared to cross the floor in the lower house to defeat the Government's planned sale of electricity assets.

Mr Koperberg also told the Opposition Leader, Barry O'Farrell, about the MPs willing to stop the sale, Labor sources said yesterday.

Mr Koperberg's warning was made in a week when Mr O'Farrell met the Treasurer, Michael Costa, and the Unions NSW secretary, John Robertson, over the Opposition's position on the sale.

The Government's concerns over the passage of the bill were also illustrated last week by an hour-long meeting Mr Costa had with the independent MP Richard Torbay to attempt to gauge the independents' positions on the sale.

If the Opposition were to oppose the bill, joined by independent MPs and six of seven Labor MPs understood to be prepared to cross the floor on the sale, it would be defeated.

Paul Gibson, Robert Coombs, Sonia Hornery, Gerard Martin, Alison Megarrity, Paul Pearce and Kerry Hickey are the MPs the Herald has been told are prepared to vote against the sale.

At least three Labor upper house MPs are understood to be prepared to vote against the bill should the Opposition oppose the sale.

The Government has already met several conditions governing the sale demanded by the Opposition, but has failed to meet one, that the Auditor-General produce a report on the sale.

The Premier now faces having to amend the Auditor-General's Act governing the audit office in order to meet Mr O'Farrell's demand for such a report to be prepared on the sale.

Any report by the Auditor-General criticising or questioning the sale could give Mr O'Farrell grounds to oppose it, and if it were to be voted down, Mr Iemma's leadership would be under threat.

Ultimately, the manoeuvring means the Government's electricity bills are likely to be delayed.

Mr Koperberg refused to comment on his discussions with Mr Iemma or Mr O'Farrell but said he had not decided which way to vote on the proposal and it was being overwhelmingly rejected in his electorate.

The Labor Party's chief governing body - its administrative committee - passed a resolution yesterday inviting Mr Iemma to attend next month's meeting of the committee to attempt to sort out the dispute between the party machine and the Premier over his decision to defy the state conference of the party and press ahead with the sale.

"The decision of the leadership … to proceed in open defiance of the policy of the NSW branch … constitute the most serious threat to the balance of relationships within NSW Labor since the 1939 Unity Conference reunited the party in this state," the resolution said.