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ACCC warning of negative impact on consumers from poles and wires sale exposes Baird’s spin

Jun 23, 2014

The consumer watchdog’s stark warning that privatisation of the NSW electricity network will have a negative impact on consumers and push up prices has exposed Premier Mike Baird’s promotion of the sale as empty spin, according to the Stop the Sell Off campaign.

In a speech delivered today, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims issued a damning assessment of the sale proposal, saying: “selling monopoly or near monopoly assets with the primary aim of maximising proceeds, without due consideration of the competition implications, is effectively a tax on future generations.”

Stop the Sell Off campaign director Adam Kerslake said it was the second blow delivered by the ACCC to the NSW Government’s privatisation plans in recent months after the Premier’s $1.5 billion sale of Macquarie Generation to AGL was scuttled due to the impact on competition.

“We have said from day one that selling monopoly public assets is bad for consumers, with any short-term windfall from a sale more than eroded by higher prices and reduced services as future owners look to maximise their profits,” Mr Kerslake said.

“There can only ever be one set of poles and wires running down the street, delivering power to homes and businesses, and if they end up in the hands of a private owner it is inevitable that consumers will be left worse off.

“While the Premier has accused sale opponents of running a scare campaign, these warning from the ACCC chairman vindicate our statements about the potential impacts on consumers and reveal that Mike Baird’s pro-privatisation spin lacks any credibility.

“Mike Baird claimed the sale of Macquarie Generation would be good for competition and would lower prices, but earlier this year the consumer watchdog rejected that and halted the sale.

“Now Mr Baird is making the same claims about the sale of electricity network businesses Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, and TransGrid, but once again the ACCC has highlighted that the reality for consumers would be less competition, higher prices, and a larger burden on future generations.

“We are calling on the Premier to heed the advice of the ACCC and abort this proposal to privatise the monopoly electricity network companies.”

Mr Kerslake said privatisation opponents were now closely watching the ruling of the Australian Competition Tribunal into the $1.5 billion purchase of MacGen by AGL, following a legal challenge to the ACCC’s decision to block the sale.

The Stop the Sell Off campaign is jointly funded by the Electrical Trades Union, the United Services Union, and Professionals Australia.

Media comment: Adam Kerslake — 0425 231 820
Media contacts: Paul Lister (0408 231 858) and Tim Vollmer (0404 273 313)