Federal Minister for Energy Martin Ferguson has today released the Energy White Paper. It is an important step forward in the discussion around energy and electricity use in Australia. We now have a clear statement from the Federal Government that all Australians want to hear - it is about getting the industry right and not, yes NOT, about privatising state owned assets.
The White Paper leads a discussion on a range of issues including demand management, regulation and a role for the Federal Government.
The Federal Government's announcements today do not call for privatisation as some in the media had been arguing for, instead:
- The Energy White Paper calls for a level playing field by removing conflicts of interest that may arise from public ownership.
- Ultimately, privatisation is a decision for respective state and territory governments.
Greg McLean ASU Assistant National Secretary said, "We are pleased to see the Government's announcement as the recent media has been around ownership models by the same old faces. It has now shifted to a discussion on regulation, pricing and industry related issues which is where we have said the argument should be at all times, as ownership models are nothing more than a distraction for the privateers and not in the public interest."
The announcement also supports the Government's policy as well as ALP state party policies, including in WA, QLD, NSW and TAS, which shows this Government listens to party policy on energy.
The White Paper comes on the heels of the recent release of the Productivity Commission report into electricity network regulatory frameworks that, contrary to the view by some media, does not call for electricity privatisation by state governments.
On page 34 of the Productivity Commission report it states, under one point of network ownership, "that state owned business should be privatised OR improved governance, and non-commercial objectives and policies should be removed."
"The report does not call for privatisation but provides alternatives to privatisation. The merits are arguable as state government corporatised entities comply to OECD principles and include a social responsibility clause for state owned corporations, like balancing profit against environmental concerns, regional employment and the purchase of locally made products (for some states)," Greg McLean added.
"Most of the discussion seems to have now moved to regulation, pricing and industry related issues which is where we have said the argument should be at all times, ownership models are nothing more than a distraction for the privateers," he concluded.
One other point often forgotten is the consumer accountability of public ownership where each citizen has ownership of the asset and can cast a vote on its management through the ballot box at elections of state members of parliament. Parliamentary accountability to all citizens, not just big business having the control.
More will be said by the ASU on this issue in our submission to the Productivity Commission.
Privatisation of state owned assets is not in the public interest, 19 October 2012
Electricity Privatisation in Australia - A Briefing Note, 11 October 2012