Western Power privatisation will increase bushfire risk, unions say

Western Power privatisation will increase bushfire risk, unions say

05 April 2016

published by www.abc.net.au

Australia– Unions representing electricity sector workers say privatising Western Power will increase the risk to the community from bushfires in Western Australia.

The State Government believes the sale of the utility could generate $15 billion to help reduce state debt.

The Australian Services Union and Electrical Trades Union will today launch an advertising campaign opposing any sale or lease.

ETU WA branch secretary Les McLaughlan said the privatisation of Western Power would compromise maintenance of power infrastructure, putting the community at risk.

“When industries are privatised, they are privatised for the company that buys them to make money,” Mr McLaughlan said.

“One way that money is made is to reduce the amount of maintenance and personnel carrying out that maintenance.

“We will have a less reliable system because there will be cutbacks in maintenance areas.”

The campaign will draw upon evidence from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires which left 173 people dead.

It found that faulty privatised power lines were responsible for causing five of the fires.

Union claims refuted

But Energy Minister Mike Nahan labelled the union’s claims “propaganda”.

“The Electricity (Network Safety) Regulations 2015, by which Western Power is required to comply, would still apply, irrespective of ownership,” he said in a statement.

“Western Power employees working on the ground now are union members and would continue to be after any proposed sale.

“I don’t believe any of those members would put West Australians at risk.

“In other states where poles and wires have been privatised, the safety and reliability of the electricity network has been at least as good, if not better, than publicly owned poles and wires, and electricity prices are lower.”

Mr McLaughlan would not say how much the campaign would cost, but said it would continue up until the next state election in March 2017.

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