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Powerbrokers apologise for lights going out i -

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Reporter: Simon Santow

ELEANOR HALL: The New South Wales Government is again in apology mode over the power failure which
plunged 70,000 homes and businesses into darkness late yesterday and caused chaos throughout
central Sydney.

Australia's largest city is fast gaining an unwanted reputation for failing infrastructure.

Today, the State Government apologised to residents who have also had to deal with frequent
transport debacles.

But the Government insisted that the response from emergency services workers was excellent.

Simon Santow has our report.

SIMON SANTOW: On the weekend, many Sydneysiders chose to switch the power off to make a point for
Earth Hour.

Just after 4.30 yesterday afternoon, they had no say in it.

VOX POP 1: The lights went out and the power went out, and that was the end of it.

VOX POP 2: We've been asked to leave. The emergency lighting's about to go out so everyone's got to
leave the building.

REPORTER: An inconvenience for you?

VOX POP 2: It's a pain in the arse... can't find a way home, can't drive home, the car's locked in
the car park, so it's inconvenient.

SIMON SANTOW: Some people were caught in lifts which were going nowhere.

VOX POP 3: The alarm bell inside the lift doesn't work, so you hold it for five seconds and nothing
happens (laughs).

I'm, like, right out the front of one of the doors or halfway between a level, so I've opened our
inside doors and I'm trying to jimmy open the other ones.

But just sitting tight and waiting for someone.

SIMON SANTOW: The problem for energy workers was trying to locate the fault.

Energy Australia took almost two hours to get the power back on.

But in that time, Sydney's powerbrokers had a cascading problem to deal with.

People pouring out of buildings took to the roads.

Traffic lights were out across the city.

Then one of two crossings north, the Harbour Tunnel, was closed, along with the Eastern
Distributor, which feeds into it.

New South Wales Roads Minister, Michael Daley.

MICHAEL DALEY: We're talking about a very rare, major power failure and what the people of Sydney
expect in the event, in such an event, is that information gets out as quickly as possible, and
that the police, and the RTA and government departments work as quickly as they can to get police
on point duty, and to make people aware that there are going to be major disruptions.

And yesterday afternoon, that happened.

It went well, and there were major disruptions and we are very sorry about that.

SIMON SANTOW: Deputy Police Commissioner Dave Owens.

DAVE OWENS: It's my job to make sure that traffic management is installed, it's in, the police are
where they should be and all of the agencies are working together, and that's exactly what I did.

SIMON SANTOW: Emergency Services Minister Steve Whan.

STEVE WHAN: I would, first of all, like to apologise for all the people who were inconvenienced, on
behalf of the New South Wales Government, for the inconvenience that they had while this fault was
going on.

It is important, though, to underscore that we had a plan that swung into operation immediately,
involving the police, the RTA, the fire brigades and emergency services.

And that emergency plan worked well in a very difficult situation.

SIMON SANTOW: The New South Wales Government says it sent out SMSs to 2,000 building wardens
telling them what was going on.

But a loudspeaker system installed for APEC was not used.

STEVE WHAN: At the same time a decision was made not to use the loudspeakers, which are around the
CBD, as it was felt that they were not appropriate for this situation as the train system was still
working, and they're designed for other events, including terrorist events.

SIMON SANTOW: It was an easy decision for authorities to make.

The system requires electricity and none was available.

Opposition spokesman Duncan Gay.

DUNCAN GAY: We've got some cute comments this morning saying, 'Well, it wasn't a transport
emergency, therefore it wasn't needed.'

The fact is, if it was needed, it couldn't have operated.

If you do have an emergency in New South Wales, the chances are you're going to lose electricity,
like we did yesterday.

And what use is it going to be?

So once again, no warning from the emergency warning system, even if the Government had wanted to
use it, and no warning from the Government.

Ministers hiding in their offices, behind trees, no-one wanting to come out and talk about it, and
put information to the people of Sydney.

SIMON SANTOW: Energy Minister Ian Macdonald was directly affected by the blackout.

IAN MACDONALD: This came at a peak time and caused a massive inconvenience to people across the
city.

And, of course, was something that we would like to avoid at all, on all occasions.

Had a meeting on it at one point there, and that was held by candlelight.

SIMON SANTOW: The Government says it still doesn't know the cause of the fault.

The Minister says finding out could take weeks.

IAN MACDONALD: Well, whether it's avoidable or not, I'm not too sure.

It was a fault in one of our very large cables - a KB132.

There are four of them that supply the CBD and Eastern Suburbs through two sub-stations at Daley
Street in Surry Hills.

When one of these four cables went out, it tripped the other three out as a precautionary measure.

SIMON SANTOW: Ian Macdonald argues that the two-hour disruption is much better than what happened
in Auckland 10 years ago.

Back then New Zealand's largest city went without power for weeks.

IAN MACDONALD: The system worked precisely as it's mean to; tripped out, it took a bit of time for
them to work out which cable had caused the problem and then isolate it, so that the other three
could then be brought back on-stream.

SIMON SANTOW: So were you happy with the response?

IAN MACDONALD: Well, I'm not an operationals person; I don't know precisely these matters in great
technical detail, but I'm meeting shortly with the acting head of Energy Australia to go precisely
through these issues.

ELEANOR HALL: That's the New South Wales Energy Minister Ian Macdonald ending that report from
Simon Santow.