The NSW coalition government’s flagship electricity privatisation plan looks set to clear the upper house after powerful MP Fred Nile threw his support behind it.
Reverend Nile on Tuesday released the results of his select committee inquiry into the coalition proposal to hand over state-owned network Transgrid, along with 50.4 per cent each of Ausgrid and Endeavour Energy, to private businesses on 99-year leases.
“The committee believes that the government’s proposal is in the best interest of the state, taking into account the state’s fiscal position, the need to maintain a triple-A credit rating and the economic benefits arising from the significant investment in infrastructure,” Rev Nile told parliament.
However, his balance-of-power vote for the legislation that would enable the privatisation will depend on the government’s willingness to sign up to employment protections for existing workers, and an independent review of the powers of the planned Electricity Price Commissioner within the year.
The government’s legislation has already passed the lower house and is now before the upper house, where Rev Nile expects to move his make-or-break amendments.
If the government signs off on those amendments, the laws could be through the parliament by Thursday.
Premier Mike Baird indicated he is open to negotiation.
“Over coming days we will be speaking with all relevant parties as we guide our legislation through the Legislative Council,” he said in a statement.
The Nile report also questioned government claims that a $300 billion economic uplift would flow from the state-building investment that the lease plan promises to unlock.
That figure was backed in a 2014 report from Deloitte Access Economics, which Rev Nile says should now be reviewed by a “qualified, independent authority” before the laws enabling the power privatisation are enacted.
“In light of concern about the report and the long-term fiscal impact of the government proposal, the committee believes that the Deloitte report should be subject to an additional layer of scrutiny,” he said.