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Andrew Constance meeting with Chinese state owned power giant adds to fears over electricity network sale

Feb 3, 2015

Treasurer and Member for Bega Andrew Constance has been urged to reveal the purpose of his meeting with Chinese Government owned State Grid Corp following reports it is the leading contender to buy the NSW electricity network under Liberal and National Party privatisation plans.

Ministerial diary disclosures, published in recent days, revealed that Mr Constance had met with senior figures from State Grid Corp late last year for a “discussion on investment in NSW”.

State Grid Corp, which is wholly owned by the Chinese Government, is the seventh largest company on earth, the largest power company, and already owns much of the Victorian and South Australian electricity networks.

Stop the Sell Off campaign director Adam Kerslake said Mr Constance needed to come clean with local voters over the purpose of his meeting and the potential impacts of a sale of our state’s largest income generating asset to foreign owners.

“Any sale of an essential service like the electricity network will be bad for consumers, but the sale of those publicly owned businesses to foreign companies only adds to the risks that prices will go up, maintenance will be reduces, jobs will be cut, and the public will lose out,” Mr Kerslake said.

“Andrew Constance owes his local electorate and the people of NSW an explanation about why he was meeting with State Grid Corp, and whether the public can expect to have our essential services run by a Chinese government owned business after the March election.”

Mr Kerslake said consumers in Victoria and South Australia, where State Grid Corp already owns the electricity network, were so unhappy that a poll conducted late last month found that almost three quarters of all voters would support a government buy back of the electricity network.

The ReachTEL poll of 2275 people found 73 per cent of Victorians and 70.9 per cent of South Australians would support the return of the electricity network to public hands, with only 13.4 per cent in Victoria and 9.7 per cent in South Australia opposed to a buy back.

“In that same poll, almost two-thirds of consumers said power prices were cheaper under public ownership, while 74.1 per cent of South Australians and 66.7 per cent of Victorians believe they are now worse off due to the privatisation of the electricity network,” Mr Kerslake said.

“Overall, just 8.1 per cent of South Australians and 13.8 per cent of Victorians believed they are better off with the privately owned and operated electricity network.

“The public knows that selling public assets, especially the electricity network, is a terrible idea, because in those states that have done it, prices have risen and maintenance was reduced.

“The Liberal and National parties lack any plan for NSW beyond the sale of profitable public assets, including the electricity network, for a one time cash splash.