Sunday, June 08, 2008


Fury at plan to link rural services to privatisation

Lisa Carty NSW Political Editor, Sun Herald

June 8, 2008

CLAIMS of political blackmail and double-crossing now pose the most serious threat to the State Government's controversial power privatisation plan.

It is understood five lower house MPs from rural and regional areas have been affronted by what some believe is the Government's attempt to link the privatisation to spending in country NSW.

They believe Premier Morris Iemma committed a major breach of faith when the state budget failed to contain a response to the recommendations of the Rural and Regional Taskforce, which was formed in June last year.

The taskforce was headed by former Premier's Department director-general Col Gellatly and its members were independent Northern Tablelands MP Richard Torbay and Labor's Monaro MP Steve Whan.

Mr Torbay is understood to be furious at the snub. What is said to have outraged him further is a Government budget release which referred to the taskforce, and then said: "The Government will be making announcements about enhanced infrastructure investment in rural and regional NSW in the context of utilising proceeds from its electricity reforms".

"This was never tied to privatisation and to link the two now smacks of blackmail," an insider said.

Mr Torbay, a vociferous opponent of privatisation, now seems determined to do all he can to derail the plan. Yesterday he told The Sun-Herald he was bitterly disappointed the budget did not address the taskforce's recommendations on infrastructure, telecommunications, broadband, the authority of local government, and transport.

"The taskforce was designed to deliver good policy to the people of rural and regional NSW and the fact that was not considered in the budget is a major disappointment," Mr Torbay said.

"Most people in rural and regional NSW do not support the privatisation. They do not like it."

A spokesman for Mr Iemma said the Government took its obligations to deliver better services and infrastructure to rural and regional areas seriously.Source: The Sun-Herald