Privatisation is ‘short-sighted’, says NSW opposition

By Shannon Jenkins

Friday August 16, 2019

Premier Gladys Berejiklian with the UK Secretary of State for International Trade, Elizabeth Truss. Source: Facebook

NSW Labor will oppose privatisations that were floated by Premier Gladys Berejiklian while at a trade delegation in London.

Shadow Treasurer Walt Secord and Shadow Minister for Natural Resources Paul Scully responded to a report that Berejiklian plans to sell the Forestry Corporation (formerly State Forests) and the remaining half of the WestConnex, Australia’s largest road infrastructure project.

“Selling public assets is a short-sighted approach, as it takes away a stable long-term revenue stream for NSW,” Scully said in a joint statement with Secord.

According to a report from the Australian, a number of agencies could potentially be sold, in the hope of covering costs of future state projects­.

Secord and Scully argued the government could fund new projects so long as the costs of current projects were properly monitored, like the $1.5 billion Sydney Light Rail, which is set to pass the $3 billion mark.

Since April 2011, the NSW coalition government has sold more than $70 billion in public assets, according to Secord. More recently, Transport Minister Andrew Constance set about privatising Sydney’s bus services — to much detriment.

“The Berejiklian Government has already sold electricity assets, ports, the desalination plant, the New South Wales Land and Property Information and part of the WestConnex. Enough is enough,” Secord said.

According to the Australian, NSW’s enthusiastic approach to privatisation has funded the Metro Northwest and Southwest rail lines, three stadiums, WestConnex, the F6 freeway, schools, hospitals and the Parramatta Light Rail. 

However, Secord noted, the sale of WestConnex “put Sydney on track to be one of the most heavily tolled cities in the world”. 

Scully’s main concern is in regard to the Forestry Corporation, which is the largest manager of commercial native and plantation forests in NSW, with more than two million hectares of state forests and an output of 14% of Australia’s timber production. The corporation has offices in West Pennant Hills, Wauchope, Dubbo, Tumut, Bathurst, Coffs Harbour, and Bateman’s Bay. 

“As we saw with the privatisation of electricity, these sell-offs result in job losses especially in rural and regional areas,” Scully said.

“Over the eight years of the current government, Forestry Corporation has contributed $124 million in dividends to the NSW Budget which is a revenue stream that helps pay for essential services throughout the state.”

 Berejik­lian told The Australian her current priorities are building the Western Sydney Aerotropolis and “reforming our balance sheet”, ie, privatisation.

She said she does not plan to sell more of the electricity businesses.

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