Western Australians have been told they have nothing to fear from the sale of its state-owned electric utility Western Power as unions ramp up an anti-privatisation campaign ahead of the 2017 election.
The poles and wires company would not be sold unless he was confident it was in the interests of the state and would have no adverse effect on electricity consumers, Premier Colin Barnett said.
The government is pursuing privatisations and asset sales such as Fremantle Port to deal with soaring multi-billion dollar debt, a budget deficit and several ratings downgrades as the end of the mining boom has hurt the state’s finances.
“Poles and wires businesses around Australia have all been privatised, operate well and in many cases produce lower costs for consumers, which is a good thing,” Mr Barnett told reporters.
Mr Barnett said WA was still the nation’s strongest economy even if the China-driven resources slowdown had hit government coffers through less taxes and royalties.
“Old asset sales will fund the building of new assets and we will see revenues start to improve after probably being at a low point for the last 12 months, and will use that to stabilise the levels of debt and ultimately reduce it,” he said.
UnionsWA secretary Meredith Hammat has accused the Barnett government of being in a budget mess and bowing to pressure from business to privatise, which would mean poorer services in pursuit of profits.
She cited the new $2 billion Fiona Stanley private hospital as proof of that, after a group of senior clinicians publicly criticised leadership and problems there last month in a newspaper letter.
UnionsWA will be using volunteers to phone voters as part of its campaign.