EDITORIAL TUESDAY 260808
The Political Countdown
The clock is ticking… For the New South Wales Government, for Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell, and for the electricity consumers of this state. Both the Premier and the Treasurer remain adamant that the privatization process must proceed. In this they have the support of the business community, but not of their own party rank and file, or, more importantly, the general public. If it fails to proceed, their political careers are over. Even if it does, they are likely to lose office at the next election.
For Barry O’Farrell, the clock is ticking for a very different reason. In any other circumstances he would have to do nothing more than sit comfortably on the sideline and watch the Government rip itself apart, safe in the knowledge that all he has to do to become Premier is to avoid doing anything silly. But that is not the case. In a tremendous twist of irony, the spotlight has fallen on Barry O’Farrell as he is now in a position where he must make a decision, and he must make it by Thursday.
The business community has made it clear that they will wash their hands of him if he opposes the sale. On the other hand, if he supports it, he not only strengthens the position of the Premier, but passes up the opportunity to actually stand up for what the public wants and expects. Under any other circumstances it would be in keeping with Liberal Party philosophy to privatize the industry. But the politics here have turned everything topsy turvy.
And that brings us to the general public, and the public benefit. It is clear that a significant majority of the public is opposed to the sell off. They don’t trust the government, and they believe that prices will go up and jobs will be lost. The steps put in place to address those concerns are seen as an admission that the concerns are well founded. Many people suspect that the whole thing is a big con to line the pockets of big business.
When you think about it, if the industry is such a liability that the Government is better off to sell it, what private investor in his right mind would buy it? Conversely, if a private corporation can make the massive investment required to not only buy the operation but to build new capacity and make that investment into a profitable ongoing business, why couldn’t the Government do the same thing, at less cost because they already own it, and benefit from the ongoing income for years to come?
Once again, the prevailing economic philosophy has dictated the course of action to corporatise and then privatize everything, providing a bonanza for merchant bankers and lawyers, amid empty promises of better service for paying customers. The truth is that eventually governments, that is the people, will own nothing, and the people will no longer be able to provide for themselves.
And Barry O’Farrell? I suspect that he will embarrass the government for as long as possible, before allowing the privatization to proceed. After all, he would look silly stopping it now, and trying to do it himself when he becomes Premier in three years time.