BRIGHT IDEA: Greg Aplin supports plan to sell off wires, poles

Greg Aplin with some power poles that may be up for sale in the near future. Picture: PETER MERKESTEYN

Greg Aplin with some power poles that may be up for sale in the near future. Picture: PETER MERKESTEYN

MEMBER for Albury Greg Aplin says he will back the sale of regional NSW electricity poles and wires as long as there are no job losses or hefty price increases.

His comments are at odds with the National Party’s deputy leader and fellow Riverina MP Adrian Piccoli, who opposes the move because he does not believe it is supported by his constituents.

The Liberal and National parties will discuss the government’s plan to sell off 49 per cent of the state’s electricity networks at a joint party room meeting today, ahead of next Tuesday’s budget.

“If it benefits the area, we should be seriously considering the way forward,” Mr Aplin said.

“If it results in growth, increased employment opportunities and stimulus to infrastructure, we should seriously look at it.”

Mr Aplin said he would also want assurances price increases after any private sale would be in line with the Producer Price Index.

However, he said he couldn’t discuss the issue in detail before he had been briefed today.

Mr Aplin said he hadn’t received feedback from his own constituents as to whether or not they supported the sale.

Mr Piccoli told ABC Riverina radio listeners last week: “I know in my electorate people have made it very clear they don’t want their local electricity poles and wires to be sold, and I agree with them.”

“In Sydney they can do what they like — there are two companies who own the poles and wires in Sydney.

“But in the country, where Essential Energy run the poles and wires, I certainly won’t be supporting the sale, even the partial sale, of Essential Energy — and I think most country-based members of parliament would share that view.”

Unions NSW’s Adam Kerslake said even if the sale was just kept to Sydney companies, regional areas, including southern NSW, would be affected.

“Every state that has allowed its electricity poles and wires to be privatised has seen prices rise, service standards drop, complaints soar, and quality local jobs lost,” he said.

“Every time you privatise essential services, prices go up and we lose out.”

Mr Kerslake said almost half of TransGrid workers, the company that delivers electricity from power stations to the three companies, lived and worked in regional areas.

There wouldn’t be any potential job losses in Albury unless Essential Energy was sold, he said.