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Unions and NSW Government to do battle at ALP -

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Unions and NSW Government to do battle at ALP conference

Broadcast: 02/05/2008

Reporter: Tom Iggulden

Premier Morris Iemma wants to sell-off the state's electricity assets, provoking open revolt from
the union movement which has the numbers to roll the Premier and his Treasurer, Michael Costa.


VIRGINIA TRIOLI, PRESENTER: The New South Wales Labor Party conference wouldn't usually attract
much attention from the rest of the nation. But this weekend's ALP pow-wow could be an exception to
the rule.

Instead of the usual stage-managed policy announcements, it looks like the Sydney Town Hall will be
echoing to the sounds and the fury of real debate tomorrow.

The Premier Morris Iemma wants to sell-off the State's electricity assets, provoking open revolt
from the union movement, which has the numbers, it's believed, to roll the Premier and his
Treasurer Michael Costa.

Tom Iggulden reports.

TOM IGGULDEN, REPORTER: In one corner, it's the Premier, prepared to sell off his State's
electricity assets at almost any cost.

MORRIS IEMMA, NSW PREMIER (archive footage, March 14, 2008): If I have to take political hits along
the way, so be it.

TOM IGGULDEN: In the other corner, it's the powerful union boss crying foul.

JOHN ROBERTSON, UNIONS NSW: We're going to see electricity prices increase significantly to prop up
profits for big businesses. That's not what Labor Governments are about.

TOM IGGULDEN: Tomorrow, they go head-to-head at the ALP State conference, where official Party
policy on the privatisation will be decided.

Each side's been doing its utmost ahead of the conference to skewer the other before the debate
even starts.

The union movement made public a letter and an email from the Premier, both written around the time
of last year's State election.

MORRIS IEMMA (voiceover): "The privatisation of the State Government owned energy companies is not
on our agenda", says one.

"There is no plan to privatise our electricity network. That includes the generators", says the

JOHN ROBERTSON: This Government has no mandate from the people of NSW to proceed.

TOM IGGULDEN: That was accompanied by a stunt from one Labor Party branch, which threatened to drum
the Premier out of his own Party.

BEN AVELING, ALEXANDRIA BRANCH SECRETARY ALP: The Premier is not respecting the Party processes,
the institution of the Party, institution of conference, the rank and file.

TOM IGGULDEN: Fighting back, the Premier and his Ministers say they've been misunderstood.

MORRIS IEMMA: 'Cos there's also a lot of misinformation about that. We aren't selling any of our
electricity infrastructure or assets.

TOM IGGULDEN: They say they're only selling electricity retail operations and leasing the State's
generators for 99 years.

JOHN WATKINS, NSW DEPUTY PREMIER: There is no selling of the generating assets or the transmission
assets. And that needs to be made very clear.

TOM IGGULDEN: The Government's nonetheless hoping to get around $10 billion for its assets in
what's been seen as a buoyant market.

But news from Queensland this week that its privatised electricity company Origin could soon merge
with British energy giant BG is dampening expectations.

GRACE CHAN, ANALYST, JP MORGAN: Well, with Origin potentially disappearing into BG, that means that
one of the competitors who might have bidded for the NSW assets has disappeared.

TOM IGGULDEN: And what potential impact could that have on the sell-off price here in NSW.

GRACE CHAN: Um, well, definitely I think the competitive tension has been reduced and therefore
we'd probably expect to see some lower prices possibly.

TOM IGGULDEN: If, as seems likely, Mr Iemma and Mr Costa lose tomorrow's vote, that may not kill
off the privatisation plan.

NSW Stateline tonight reported on a legislative loophole that could allow the Treasurer to transfer
the assets regardless.

He says he's looking forward to the conference.

MICHAEL COSTA, NSW TREASURER (NSW Stateline, 02/05/08): I am so looking forward to the May
conference as I look forward to all conferences and I always like a vigorous debate, as people

QUENTIN DEMPSTER, JOURNALIST: And if you get done over?

MICHAEL COSTA: Well, the Government's gotta govern for the people.

TOM IGGULDEN: The row comes at a bad time for Morris Iemma. This week, Newspoll found support for
him at just 28 per cent, that's the lowest it's ever recorded for a NSW Premier, a fact his
opponents are sure to remind him of at this weekend's conference.

Tom Iggulden, Lateline.