Friday, August 29, 2008


Iemma is unethical: Labor backbencher

August 29, 2008 - 9:10AM, smh

NSW Premier Morris Iemma has been branded "unethical" by one of his own backbenchers, following his continued push to privatise parts of the state's electricity sector.

Paul Gibson, Labor's member for Blacktown and a long-term critic of the government's privatisation plans, on Friday said the premier was continuing to oppose the will of his party.

"What's happened, what the premier has done, is totally unethical and I would hope that the head office of the Labor Party has a strong look at it," Mr Gibson told ABC Radio early Friday.

"A line in the sand has to be drawn."

The Iemma government on Thursday withdrew enabling legislation which underpinned the plan to sell the state's electricity retailers, and offer long-term leases on generation assets, because it was set for defeat in the parliament's upper house.

Late on Thursday, Mr Iemma announced a new plan to push ahead with the sale of the retailers, while potential power station development sites would also be offered to the private sector.

This process can go ahead without the need for legislation.

The backup plan was discussed at a Labor caucus meeting late on Thursday, and Mr Gibson said it was not passed unanimously.

"I heard plan B when it was announced, and I was truly amazed by it," Mr Gibson said.

"To go against party policy in round one is bad enough, to go against party policy and platform in round two, as far as I'm concerned, is unforgivable.

"You've got a government in NSW that has got a fairly big majority - if the government can't get their bill through with their own numbers that tells you that maybe it's not the right thing to do."

Mr Iemma said the move to a backup privatisation plan was forced upon the government because its original package was not supported by the opposition.

The government does not have a majority in NSW's upper house, where it relies on the opposition and minor parties to scrutinise but not block its legislative agenda.

The premier also said the backup plan was canvassed as an option in an independent report into the privatisation.

"With the greatest respect to Mr Gibson, if he had taken the opportunity to read the Owen Report ... there are a whole range of options including the option of just doing retail and linking that to the sites where stations can be built," Mr Iemma also told ABC Radio Friday.

"Even (Opposition leader Barry) O'Farrell, in May last year, stood in the parliament ... and said this would be an option he would pursue."

Mr Iemma also said the opposition's refusal to back the privatisation showed Mr O'Farrell was not fit to be premier, as he had opted for "five minutes of fame" rather than the good of the state.

"The simple fact is NSW has a shortage of electricity in 2014 ... I was elected not to do popular things but to do the right thing by NSW," he also said.

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