Policy Statement: Western Power Privatisation
If re-elected, the Barnett government is proposing to privatise certain aspects of Western Power, particularly the poles and wires which currently cost tax payers millions of dollars to maintain and replace each year. It has been suggested that this sale could net the state's coffers as much as $16 billion. Mark McGowan, backed by the Unions, has vowed to oppose the sale, and has said that it won't go ahead under a Labor administration.
I would like to think that I have a reasonably open mind on this matter, and have sought briefings from both state government and the unions to better understand where each side is coming from. Those meetings are still being scheduled, but ahead of them I will say this - for me to be convinced to back any sale, there would need to be a solid case for local benefits. If, as some senior Liberal figures have hinted, we could be looking post-sale at not only paying down a chunk of government debt, but also investing in three or four major infrastructure projects which would secure countless jobs over the coming decade, and if at least one of those projects was proposed in close proximity to Rockingham, then I would have to balance that against claims of inevitable price rises for consumers (which I have yet to see firm evidence of in the eastern states), and a loss of job security within the electricity industry. The case would have to be both immediate and compelling, however, and until such a case if made I would oppose any sale.
Now I say this in the full realisation that I'm leaving myself open to claims of fence sitting, but let me put it another way. If I am returned as your MLA in March, and the Barnett government is returned to power, likely with a much reduced majority, and if they offer to begin work on the $5 billion Outer Harbour project in Kwinana, and that project, with its tens of thousands of associated jobs is dependent upon the sale of Western Power's poles and wires, then I would be selling my local electorate out if I didn't seriously consider backing the proposal. If, on the other hand, the proposal is simply to pay down debt, and to offer nothing substantial to the voters and workers of Rockingham, then I'd be a fool to entertain it. So, for now, I will continue to schedule meetings with interested parties, and I will continue to mull over the consequences of any sale for both the State and the electorate of Rockingham. There are times when a considered approach is called for, and I believe this to be one of them.