Power industry unions are urging NSW Premier Mike Baird formally terminate the proposed sale of Australia’s largest electricity network business, Ausgrid, after Treasurer Scott Morrison identified serious national security risks posed by both bidders.
Chinese Government-owned State Grid Corporation of China and Hong Kong-based Cheung Kong Infrastructure, controlled by billionaire Li Ka-shing, were the only remaining companies seeking to take control of the Ausgrid network, which provides electricity to millions of homes and businesses in Sydney, Newcastle and the Central Coast.
The Electrical Trades Union and United Services Union, which represent Ausgrid workers, welcomed the Treasurer’s preliminary decision, urging Mr Morrison to stand firm in the face of expected lobbying from Chinese interests and the Baird Government.
ETU secretary Steve Butler said unions had been warning that the sale of Ausgrid to overseas interests was not in the national interest for more than two years.
“We have warned, time and again, that selling an essential service to a foreign investor or government poses serious risks to security, yet the Baird Governments only response has been to accuse us of racism and xenophobia,” he said.
“Today we have been vindicated, with Treasurer Scott Morrison and the Foreign Investment Review Board confirming what we have been saying all along.
“A monopoly asset that not only provides power to millions of homes and businesses, but also to countless government, defence and other critical facilities, is not something that should be sold off to any foreign investor or foreign government, regardless of what corner of the globe they come from.”
USU general secretary Graeme Kelly said Mike Baird’s power privatisation plans were in tatters.
“The only option left for Mike Baird is to abort this sale and commit to keeping our electricity distribution network in public hands,” he said.
“There are only two bidders left for Ausgrid, and the Treasurer has found both pose an unacceptable risk to our national security if they were allowed to take control of the company.
“It’s time the Baird Government stepped back from their ideologically driven privatisation push and put the interests of the Australian people ahead of a short-term cash windfall.”