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NSW power price hike to be expected after sale: unions
31/05/2012 - Consumers have been warned they'll be paying more for electricity because of the NSW government's plans to privatise the state's power generators, which were given a green light after a deal with Shooters Party MPs. Adam Bennett
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Premier Barry O'Farrell has been accused of breaching voters' trust to get his power privatisation through parliament, after he backflipped on his previous stance and supported a Shooters Party push to allow shooting of feral animals in national parks.
O'Farrell said the power sell-off would generate $3 billion for the state, money he says will go to roads, skills and hospitals.
The premier acknowledged the government wouldn't have backed shooting in national parks if it wasn't for the need to get his power privatisation through the upper house.
But he said the government had to "live with the parliament that the people of NSW have given us".
"Our bigger public interest test here is to unlock the asset value of the generators to assist us in rebuilding the economy by delivering the infrastructure needed to get this state going," O'Farrell said.
But unions, the state opposition and Greens say the sale of the state's generators - the poles and wires will remain in public hands - will lead to a hike in power bills.
"The experience of energy privatisation interstate has been higher prices and disrupted energy supply," Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon said.
The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) Secretary Steve Butler said higher prices were the experience in other states where power generators have been sold.
Opposition Leader John Robertson said privatisation in South Australia had raised bills by 30 per cent.
"Barry O'Farrell promised to do everything in his power to reduce the cost of living for families, but there is nothing in this bill to protect families from huge electricity price hikes," Robertson said.
The bill to enable the sale of the power stations at Lithgow, the Hunter Valley and Central Coast has languished in the upper house since March, with the Shooters Party refusing to back the sell-off.
The government will also sell off electricity development sites and lease out or privatise the Cobbora coal mine in western NSW.
The legislation is expected to pass the Legislative Council on Wednesday night, including Shooters Party amendments which add worker protections such as guaranteed employment for two years, and maintenance of apprenticeships.
Shooters MP Robert Brown told MPs his party's major concern was getting the best deal for workers, not the amendments to the Game and Feral Animal Control Act which will allow licensed shooters into 79 of the state's 799 national parks, nature reserves and state conservation areas.
"We are satisfied ... that we have negotiated the best deal possible for workers in the power industry in a window that allowed us to do that," Brown said.
Business groups backed the the power sell-off, saying it would free up billions for much needed infrastructure.
"This is a win for NSW's infrastructure backlog," NSW Business Chamber chief Stephen Cartwright said.
"All the transport projects that we want to see built from the North West Rail Link to the M5 duplication and the M4 East extension are a step closer to reality with the sale of the state's electricity generators."
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