Households in the Illawarra region will face higher electricity prices following the passage of State Government legislation to privatise the electricity network passed the State Parliament, Member for Shellharbour, Anna Watson, said today.

“The State Government is appealing a decision by the Australian Energy Regulator (AER), which would deliver a saving of $106 per year to an average household and $152 per year to an average small business in the Illawarra region.

“If the appeal against the decision of the AER – the independent national regulator – is successful, the NSW Liberals have guaranteed that electricity prices will remain higher for much longer than necessary.

“In the Illawarra, electricity prices have already increased by 35 per cent since March 2011.

“I notice the Member for Kiama, Mr Ward, finally turned up to cast his only vote on the Government’s legislation and without once having spoken during the debate.

“Over the next four years, I will be reminding my constituents every time they cop an increase in their power bills that Mr Ward is responsible for that.

“His hand is in their pocket every time they are forced to pay higher prices for electricity”, she said.

Ms Watson said that crucial questions around the construction of the Albion Park Rail Bypass still remain unanswered following the passage of the State Government’s electricity privatisation legislation.

“We still don’t know what the sale price of the electricity network will be.

“If the Government is unable to raise the expected $20 billion from the sale, this will place the Albion Park Rail Bypass project at risk.

“Already there a questions about the overall cost of this project.

“The Liberals maintain it’ll only cost $550 million while the RMS estimates it would cost $600 million.

“The Albion Park Rail Bypass must be the only road project in the country which has actually been estimated by the Liberals to cost less before a single shovel hits the ground.

“The Government has form on under-estimating road projects, including suggesting the Foxground to Berry Bypass would only cost $510 million.

“It was revealed only last year that its cost has blown out by a still unexplained $70 million”, she said.

Ms Watson has already moved a Notice of Motion calling on the State Government to outline a precise timetable for the construction of the Albion Park Rail Bypass in the State Budget in June, including calling on the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, Duncan Gay MLC to explain how the project will be funded if the Government cannot achieve the sale of the electricity network.

Ms Watson also said that she had kept faith with her electorate in opposing the Government’s privatisation legislation telling State Parliament last week:

There is no question about the position that I put to my electorate at the last election and, in the end, my electorate agreed with my argument.

I received a 9 per cent swing in my party’s favour at the election.

My Liberal opponent, who I acknowledge campaigned hard on the privatisation issue in the Shellharbour electorate, suffered a swing against his party.

I have a direct mandate from my electorate to oppose the Government’s privatisation agenda. I make no apology for it.

I made it very clear in my electorate what I would do when this bill was introduced into the House. I said I would vote against it and I will do just that when the question is put.

4 June 2015