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Barilaro suggests new coal power station

BACK IN JUNE, The District Bulletin reported on the Berejiklian Government’s unholy appetite for selling off serviceably performing public assets for little apparent public gain. RELATED STORY: Selling NSW by the pound, while losing your $$.

In an eye-watering act of the counterintuitive, Monaro local member, Deputy Premier and Leader of the Nationals in New South Wales, John Barilaro, now wants you to pay for the construction of a new coal-fired power station.

columnist-John-PrestonThat Barilaro has raised the idea with the Premier suggests two things: one is that the New South Wales government’s flirtation with privatising power generation has been less than a stellar success. The only measurable outcome so far? Your power prices are on the up and up.

As Labor leader in the Legislative Council and Shadow Minister for Energy, Adam Searle MLC, points out: “Under the deregulated system put in place by the Liberals and Nationals, the electricity companies are profiteering at the expense of consumers. NSW consumers are paying hundreds of millions more than they should for electricity.”

Searle, and NSW ALP leader Luke Foley, are calling for re-regulation of the market and an end to profit gouging by generators.

The other reason Barilaro has raised this now looks more political in nature.

In June, the Bulletin reported that an increased spend for Sydney sporting infrastructure was the mooted outcome from the sale of public assets like Service NSW or The Land Titles Office. So, rather than dealing with power prices, directing taxpayer funds to a power station may be an attempt to dodge the outrage generated by splashing $2.5 billion from asset sales on a couple of sports stadiums in inner Sydney, as recently reported in Sydney media.

Rebuilding Allianz Stadium at Moore Park in the eastern suburbs and ANZ Olympic Stadium at Homebush in the inner west provides precious little benefit to NSW residents west of the Great Dividing Range. So Barilaro may have raised the power station idea to counter a rural and regional backlash to yet another Sydney-centric cash splash by the Berejiklian government.

Labor’s claims that regional NSW needs this sort of funding for hospitals, schools, TAFEs, road upgrades and water security at least has the appearance of sincerity.

Whose electorates?

Both stadiums are in Labor-held State seats. Allianz is in Heffron — held by Ron Hoening ALP — and ANZ Stadium is in Auburn — held by Opposition Leader Luke Foley. So, in effect, opposing the stadiums does nothing to shore up Labor votes in those electorates. (That the stadiums happen to be in the Federal electorates of Wentworth — sitting member Malcolm Bligh Turnbull — and Reid — Liberal Craig Laundy — at a time of some difficulty for the Coalition Government, is pure coincidence I’m sure.)

At the same time as criticising the stadium deal, Labor continues to berate Barilaro and the Berejiklian government for doing little to secure affordable energy for NSW.

The suggestion from Barilaro about nuclear energy a few months ago and this strategic announcement on a coal-fired power station are described by Labor as a ‘thought bubble and distraction.’ Certainly neither look likely to provide any short-term or environmentally sound solutions to the growing problem of energy prices in the NSW.

Given the egregious stadium spend and the coal-fired thought bubble, perhaps Barilaro believes that all the people need is bread and circuses?

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