When the specially recalled NSW parliament meets tomorrow (Thursday) Premier Morris Iemma has decided to take his electricity privatization bills into the Legislative Council rather than the Legislative Assembly, the Bear Pit.

Incredibly, he has chosen his confrontational Treasurer, Michael Costa, as the minister to introduce the bill. Talk about waving a red rag …

By first going to the upper house, Iemma is testing the water. If he loses there, he will abandon introducing the legislation into the lower house where he would face almost certainly a similar defeat.

The defeat in the upper house doesn’t carry the same impact as a humiliating loss on the floor of the assembly, so it is a way of fireproofing the premier from what would virtually be a vote of no confidence in him and his administration.

If they win the privatisation votes, Iemma and Costa will be flushed with triumphalism for about a nano-second before sitting down to organize the sale and produce the promised $16 billion for the long-suffering taxpayers.

Yet there is not a credible or responsible business leader in Sydney (or Australia) who believes in the Iemma-Costa plan. The financial markets are starved of ready credit; after the Cross City Tunnel and Lane Cove Tunnel fiascos there are huge misgivings about doing business with the inept NSW Labor Government; and there is no appetite for buying an antiquated coal and gas fired industry, particularly before a national carbon trading scheme has been produced by the Rudd Government.

With the general public opposed to privatization by between a margin of 60 to 80 per cent, Iemma and Costa are writing off Labor’s chances in the March 2011 election with careless abandon.

The NSW Nationals have decided to oppose privatization. They’ve checked their margins and listened to their electorates where the privatization of Telstra is still a very sore point.

O’Farrell has consulted widely and the hard-heads in his own party say that his duty is to support the electors and inflict maximum damage on the widely reviled Iemma Government.

If the Coalition decided to oppose Iemma’s bill in the upper house, this is the way the votes are likely to fall:

“Yes” to privatisation:

Labor: Costa, Della Bosca, Donnelly, Fazio, Griffin, Hatzistergos, Kelly, Macdonald, Obeid, Robertson, Roozendaal, Tsang. 12

Shooters: Brown, Smith. 2

Christian Democrats: Nile 1.

TOTAL 15

“No” to privatization:

Liberals: Ajarka, Clarke, Gallacher, Harwin, Lynn, Mason-Cox, Parker, Pearce. 8

Nats: Colless, Gardiner, Gay, Khan, Pavey. 5

Greens: Rhiannon, Kaye, Hale, Cohen. 4

Christian Democrats: Moyes 1

ALP conference loyalists: Sharpe, Veitch, Voltz, Westwood, West. 5

Not present because they are overseas: Catherine Cusack and Marie Ficarra (Liberals), Tony Catanzariti (Lab).

LC President Peter Primrose (no vote).

TOTAL 23

Does O’Farrell want the scalps of the Premier and Treasurer or is he going to dingo it? Now that would be a statewide poll worth organising.

Peter Fray

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