NSW Premier Morris Iemma and Treasurer Michael Costa will stop at nothing to secure the privatisation of the state’s power industry.
If defeated on the floor at the ALP state conference in April, they are ready to go ahead with their plans anyway. And why not? Neither are expected to be around at the next state election in 2011: Iemma is planning to hand over to his deputy John Watkins and Costa wants to spread his limitless financial genius in the private counting houses.
To build a fake constituency for the sell-off, Iemma has appointed a committee to review the effects of electricity privatisation. It contains a conga-line of pro-privateers who are unswerving Iemma loyalists: Robyn Kruk, the Director-General of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, David Richmond, the NSW Co-ordinator-General (the State’s infrastructure tzar), former premier Barrie Unsworth, a former electrician and NSW Labor Council chief who will chair the committee, Maroubra MP Michael Daley (he took over Bob Carr’s old constituency in 2005 when Carr moved to Macquarie Bank) and Monaro MP Steve Whan.
The union representatives are right-winger Matt Thistlewaite from Unions NSW who was a longtime admirer of Health Minister Reba Meagher, Ben Kruse of the United Services Union, and Steve Turner of the Public Service Association which is currently negotiating a delicate pay, jobs and working conditions deal with the government.
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The so-called community reps are Jeff Angel, head of the environmental lobby group, the Total Environment Centre, which is part-funded by independent projects paid for by the government, and the Rev Harry Herbert whose Uniting Church holds the contract to run the government’s heroin safe injecting room in the middle of Kings Cross.
Hilariously, The Sydney Morning Herald’s Brian Robins described the committee’s make-up as “delicately poised” when the only serious absentees appear to be Bob Carr and his Macquarie Bank boss Alan Moss! The committee will complete its strenuous investigation over the next four weeks and hand its report to Iemma on 22 February. Four days later parliament resumes for 2008 when an enabling bill for privatisation will be presented, pre-empting the debate at the party conference by several weeks.
These are ugly political times: the dominant right-wing faction is ramrodding the agenda to the wild applause of the Liberals and the Big End of Town; the so-called “left” from the Anthony Albanese faction are toeing the line in parliament and the unions; the other “left” group, the Ferguson faction, is divided, not on principle but on degrees of opportunism; and rank-and-file ALP branch members who are 90 per cent against the plan are being ignored.
This is Blair-style New Labor in action and the fall-out will be far-reaching.