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Australia: Government does not support electricity privatisation

14 December 2012
The Australian Government published their Energy White Paper in early November. In a clarifying letter to the Australian Services Union, the Prime Minister confirms that she does not support privatisation of electricity.

Following the publication of the Government's Energy White Paper in early November, various media and other sources have been suggesting that the Government supports electricity privatisation. This was not the Australian Services Union's (ASU) interpretation of the Government's position, so they sought a clarification from the Prime Minister's office which has confirmed their position.

The Federal Government published its Energy White Paper to set the agenda on energy and electricity. Some in the media, as well as some state politicians, have been saying that the White Paper supports electricity privatisation. Some have also been referring to the Federal Government and Prime Minister's views as supporting privatisation.

From the outset, the ASU has challenged these comments, with their view that the White Paper does not specifically call for privatisation to occur.

The ASU has reviewed the Australian Labor Party (ALP) policies on electricity privatisation across the non-electricity privatised states, which all oppose electricity privatisation, as well as the ALP national policy which also does not support electricity privatisation.

The misinterpretations have been of concern to communities and ASU members. To clear up the matter the ASU wrote to the Prime Minister seeking clarification on the Federal Government's position. This ultimately saw the ASU National Office and a number of ASU Branches meet with the Prime Minister, with the Prime Minister advising the Government does not support privatisation of electricity, including the following quote from the attached letter:

I also note there has been a number of misconceptions and inaccurate reporting claiming that the Energy White Paper advocates the privatisation of state electricity assets and that this is the view of the Government.

To be clear, the Government has not and does not advocate for the privatisation of electricity assets. To argue that the Energy White Paper supports privatisation is wrong and is not representative of my views or the position of the Government.

Further, with regard to specific proposals regarding privatisation of electricity assets by state governments, while these are ultimately matters for voters in these states, my Government has no intention of supporting or advocating plans for privatisation.

ASU Assistant National Secretary Greg McLean, who coordinated the ASU work in this area, including the earlier consultations around the White Paper over a number of years and ASU recent arguments over the last 12 months said, "The ASU meeting with the Prime Minister and the commitment of the Government is an important step for ASU members and those that use the essential public services of electricity across the whole country."

"This statement by the Prime Minister confirming that the Government's Energy White Paper does not call for electricity privatisation, as some in the media have reported and some state government ministers have misunderstood, is welcome.

"It was very pleasing to meet with the Prime Minister to clarify the issues and to have her comments confirmed in a letter to the ASU is greatly appreciated – it's also the clearest call we have seen on electricity and energy by any Australian government," Greg McLean concluded.

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