POLL: Essential Energy in pole position after surviving state sell-off

SAFE FOR NOW: Central West Union Alliance representative Bernard Fitzsimon and Orange councillor Ron Gander outside the Essential Energy depot in Orange which has survived the sell off of the state’s electricity assets. 
 Photo: JUDE KEOGH   0610powersell1

SAFE FOR NOW: Central West Union Alliance representative Bernard Fitzsimon and Orange councillor Ron Gander outside the Essential Energy depot in Orange which has survived the sell off of the state’s electricity assets. Photo: JUDE KEOGH 0610powersell1

ESSENTIAL Energy, which employs more than 170 people in the Orange electorate, has escaped the state government’s plan to privatise the power network following controversial National and Liberal party room meetings in Sydney on Tuesday.

However Transgrid, which has a base in Orange and employs 63 people, will be subject to the government’s plan to sell 49 per cent of the state’s electricity assets.

The state’s poles and wires will be sold on 99-year leases under a policy approved by Liberal and Nationals MPs.

The Coalition will take the sale to the March 2015 election. 

Stop the Sell Off campaign spokesman Adam Kerslake told the Central Western Daily Essential Energy employees and their families must be relieved at the news the organisation is exempt from Tuesday’s sell-off.

“While we are happy for them our thoughts too are with the families of the 63 Transgrid employees in Orange who are now affected by the sell-off,” he said.

Member for Orange Andrew Gee said he went into Tuesday’s meeting in Sydney opposing any privatisation of the poles and wires.

“That didn’t change throughout the course of the party’s lengthy deliberations and I argued as hard as I could,” Mr Gee said in his statement.

“But it didn’t carry the day and ultimately the party has made a decision.”

However, he said one of the positives for regional NSW from Tuesday’s lengthy and fiery joint party room debate was that Essential Energy was exempt.

“It has effectively been quarantined and that at least is a positive for regional NSW,” he said.

OUR SAY: DECISION A VICTORY FOR REGIONAL NSW

Central West Community Union Alliance co-convenor Bernard Fitzsimon believes the National Party MPs  fighting the privatisation are only “protecting their own patch”.

“They [NSW state government] normally dictate the terms but they know they are going to get a hammering in the next state election and they’ve merely thrown a few lollies to their National Party mates to keep them on side,” Mr Fitzsimon said.

“Any decision to privatise should have been an all-or-nothing scenario.”

Orange councillor Ron Gander, who prior to his retirement had a 40-year history of involvement with the NSW Electrical Trades Union, said he had mixed feelings about  privatisation.

“While we are hearing electricity prices will drop some of the infrastructure couldn’t get any worse as a lot of it hasn’t been kept up to scratch in many areas of Orange,” he said.

Cr Gander fears there will be a decline in the level of service and quality of infrastructure in networks in the coming years.

“I had 48 years in the electrical game that service was our priority and at the moment if you have a problem with a service inquiry you just get put on to Port Macquarie or Queanbeyan,” he said.

Essential Energy employs 98 people out of the depot in Orange, 17 in Wellington, 43 in Mudgee and 10 employees each in Canowindra and Wellington.

janice.harris@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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