Baird Government limits terms of reference of inquiry into the sale of the electricity network

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The NSW Opposition has attacked the extremely narrow Terms of Reference for the NSW Parliament’s inquiry into the sale of the electricity network following the vote in the upper house.

Yesterday the Government used their numbers in the Legislative Council to limit the scope of the inquiry – despite the size and impact of the transaction on the state.

Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council and Shadow Minister for Industry, Resources & Energy Adam Searle said the rejection of broader Terms of Reference proposed by the Opposition suggested the outcome was pre-determined and was not a genuine inquiry.

Labor sought to widen the Terms of Reference to examine some key areas of the transaction and its impact on the state’s finances – but they were rejected.

Key areas excluded from the inquiry include:

  • the likely impact of the transaction on the state budget and on the capacity of the state to deliver services, including the loss of dividends, tax-equivalent payments and TCorp guarantee payments;
  • the process of returning to state control and operation the electricity transmission and distribution businesses and associated infrastructure at the end of the lease;
  • the reasons for the changes made to the UBS report, who sought the changes, and why UBS made the changes to its report;
  • the likely impact of the transactions on employment in the electricity transmission and distribution businesses, particularly in rural and regional New South Wales.

Mr Searle said Labor was also very concerned that hearings of the inquiry will have commenced before submissions have been received.

“This is one of the biggest transactions ever conducted in NSW and it should be open to full and proper scrutiny of the Parliament,” Mr Searle said.

“Instead, the Government has ensured the Terms of Reference of the inquiry are limited and do not examine crucial areas such as the impact on the state’s finances as a result of the loss of dividends and other payments from these profitable businesses now owned by the community.

"The Government has not released the legislation that will govern this transaction. Without having the key details about how the transaction will be structured, the Committee will not be able to properly evaluate the Government's plan.

“The unreasonably short timeframe for people to make submissions, for the examination of witnesses and for the Committee to finalise the report sets a very bad precedent and will mean there will not be a full and proper consideration of the issues.

"This has all the hallmarks of a sham inquiry that has already decided on the outcome.

“If the Government were confident about its sale of the electricity network, they would allow for full and proper scrutiny and not seek to limit the Parliament's ability to properly examine the issues in a reasonable time."