The Western Australian Electrical Trades Union has responded to the proposed sale of Western Power with warnings that privatising the utility will undermine bushfire safety.
In response to the recent downgrading of Western Australia’s credit rating, WA Premier Colin Barnett and Treasurer Mike Nahan confirmed the Government was considering the privatisation of Western Power’s poles and wires.
ETU WA Branch Secretary, Les McLaughlan, said that selling publicly owned assets like Western Power was not the solution to address the Barnett Government’s fiscal failures.
“Privatisation is not the solution for the government’s debt problems, and will only lead to higher prices and poorer quality services, as private companies try to squeeze every last dollar of profit for their shareholders,” Mr McLaughlan said.
“If poles and wires are sold to the private sector, they will only invest in the network when it is profitable for them to do so.
“This could result in many parts of the network being left to decay, with disastrous consequences during bushfire season.”
Mr McLaughlan said the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires, which left 150 people dead, found that faulty privatised power lines were responsible for causing five of the most devastating blazes.
Mr McLaughlan said, “This tragic case study highlights the very real dangers of electricity privatisation to the community.
“It has special relevance to communities in Perth’s hills and the south west of WA, which have experienced their own bushfire tragedies in recent times.
“With the growing threat of bushfire in WA, we can’t afford to take risks with the maintenance of our electricity network.
“Colin Barnett needs to learn from the failures of privatisation around Australia and around the world and leave WA’s electricity system in public ownership.”