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NSW govt under fire for power bill 'deal' with Shooters
01/06/2012 - Legislation to enable the sell-off of NSW's power generators has passed through parliament, after the state's lower house backed Shooters Party amendments to the privatisation laws.
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MPs in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday supported changes that had been made to the bill in the upper house, which add power worker protections such as guaranteed employment for two years and maintenance of apprenticeships.
Speaking before the bill was passed, NSW Treasurer Mike Baird said the passage of the power privatisation through the government-controlled lower house was a "historic day for the people of NSW".
MPs backed the privatisation on voices, or without a vote, despite Labor MPs arguing against the sell-off during a two hour debate.
The government has come under fire over its deal with the Shooters Party to get the privatisation through the upper house on Wednesday night.
The deal will allow recreational hunters to shoot feral animals in 79 national parks and reserves.
The government says the sale will unlock $3 billion for crucial state infrastructure, and lead to savings of almost $7 billion on maintenance and generation costs.
"(It is) legislation that has been spoken about in this place for two decades," Baird told the lower house, referring to the former Labor government's failed efforts to sell off the generators.
"This releases billions of dollars that will be spent not just in metropolitan but across regional NSW."
Baird acknowledged that negotiation to get the power sell-off through the upper house hadn't been easy.
"In the upper house we had to deal with the crossbenchers, and through those negotiations we believe we have reached a solution that is in the best interest of the people of NSW," Baird said.
Opposition leader John Robertson railed against the sell-off, saying Premier Barry O'Farrell had breached voters' trust by pushing ahead with the privatisation, and over his deal with the Shooters Party.
"The people in NSW can have no faith in anything, absolutely anything this premier says to them," he told MPs.
"He swore black and blue he had none these plans. He swore black and blue that he wasn't going to deal with our national parks in this fashion.
"He swore black and blue that he would not, under any circumstances do deals with cross benchers ... to get his legislative agenda through this parliament."
Under the legislation, power stations at Lithgow, the Hunter Valley and Central Coast will be sold off, but the poles and wires will be kept in public hands.
Following last year's election victory, O'Farrell vowed he wouldn't be "held hostage" to demands from the Shooters Party.
"We have no intention of doing deals with the minor parties," O'Farrell told reporters on April 13 last year.
"There will not be a decision to turn our national parks into hunting reserves."
O'Farrell on Thursday said shooters allowed into the national parks would be undertaking conservation work, not hunting.
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