Baird-man's bluff

Kerri Carr

Linking the sale of the state’s electricity poles and wires to school infrastructure spending is a form of blackmail, Federation President Maurie Mulheron said.

In November 2014, the Baird Government announced it would invest $1 billion to “build new schools and transform existing classrooms to meet the future learning needs” over 10 years but the investment was “only possible by recycling capital from our leased electricity network businesses” (Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, media release).

Mr Mulheron said the Baird Government was bluffing. “He is attempting to exploit community concern over a lack of infrastructure spending by tying it to a privatisation agenda.”

Funding for new schools on the existing Parramatta Public School and Arthur Phillip High School sites is to be sourced from the $1 billion program.

“We do not believe that the building of these schools is contingent on the sale of the state’s electricity network and wires.”

“He won’t un-announce the building of these schools,” he added.

“Federation is opposed to the privatisation agenda; giving away public assets at bargain basement prices to private corporations,” Mr Mulheron said.

“NSW is a large, healthy economy; the sale of assets is not necessary.

“Poles and wires provide a huge annual income for the government. Why would we want to give that up?” he added. The Electrical Trades Union estimates a $1.7 billion dividend was paid to the NSW Government last year.

The Liberal/Nationals need to gain control of the Upper House (Legislative Council) at the state election on March 28 in order to have the votes to proceed with leasing 49 per cent of the poles and wires on a 99-year lease.