NSW Elections. Mike Baird, the banker (in God I trust) new $20 billion vision. Sell, sell, sell to the very last pole. If you trust him you can trust me. Official.

A power pole in NSW Australia.

To the last pole. Mike Baird the former banker turned politician has a new vision for NSW but it comes at a price. A 49% $20 billion sell-off of NSW last remaining electricity assets. After that when the cupboard is bare the only alternative is raising the GST.

At Borderline we are in a bit of a quandary, what with a week to go before the NSW state elections. We held the opinion here at Borderline that Labor should only be given another chance when the likes of Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald amongst others were behind bars. That’s why we also believe, without any suggestion of reactionary indulgence that hard labour should be reintroduced—just this once—please! Good old fashioned hard labour is what Messrs Obeid and Macdonald along with their errant mates, especially Joe Tripodi and Tony Kelly, need to finally realise the error of their ways. What better way than breaking up rocks to facilitate the long and arduous path that leads to redemption. On second thoughts, you could have them in a travelling chain gang, travelling the length and breadth of NSW in a secure bus doing menial tasks such as picking up litter and things, then at night addressing public meetings as to the malignant nature of public corruption and their part in it, in NSW. The public could be invited to watch them toil away and then in the evening, make observations and suggestions that might encourage their rehabilitation and perhaps encourage them to perhaps make certain admissions as to their conduct. Mr Kelly who signed away Fromholtz Park would be especially welcome in South Albury.

Then with Labor on the ropes and a subsequent thrashing at the polls it seemed, momentarily however that the good ship NSW was in good hands—then again we can’t be confident too much these days. Take for instance, the captain of the Costa Concordia. Wasn’t it supposed to be woman and children first—just like on the doomed Titanic? We didn’t expect Captain Schettino to go down with the ship, unlike the brave and courageous Captain Edward J. Smith on the Titanic but then again we didn’t expect Schettino to be one off first off the ship either. Then The Liberals were caught up in their own corruption. Captain O’Farrell fell on his own sword—or rather, a $3000 bottle of plonk. Now it’s as as steady as you go except it all depends on one last search for the last chest of treasure to the sustain the ship for the time being; a $20 billion asset sale to allay fears and keep prospective mutineers in quiet abeyance.

It’s all pretty depressing when Captain ‘can-do’ Baird’s vision depends essentially on one particular course of action in liquidating $20 billion of some of the few remaining public assets in NSW—there’s not much else left to sell. Successive governments have plundered what was once owned by us, the people of New South Wales for mainly short-term goals. Political expediency knows no bounds when it comes to selling public assets because by the time they’re all gone they’ll be gone as well. Jeff Kennett started the rot. And what have they got to show for privatisation?

Gavin Dufty, the manager of policy and research at the St Vincent de Paul Society in Victoria, said the most expensive charges were in country New South Wales and country Victoria. “We don’t think people are really aware of what makes up their bill and what they can do about that,” Mr Dufty said. “So for example, the cheapest network costs we found are in the city of Melbourne, which are only paying about 24 per cent of their bill in network prices, whereas 58 per cent of people’s bills in country NSW is due to poles and wires. The reason why those poles and wire costs vary so much is because in country NSW there’s lots of poles and lots of wires and not a lot of people to pay for those wires.” Report from St Vincent de Paul Society and Alviss Consulting, ABC News, October 1, 2014.

Forget about cheaper electricity.

Still in the short-term, there’s a lot of foreign money-men chewing at the bit to get their hands on our electricity assets because it’s money for jam for the moment and buying a state owned monopoly is very profitable indeed. That’s why the money-men will want a return as quickly as possible. Time is not on their side. In many other places throughout the world, investors are no longer finding the privatisation model of electricity attractive, especially when you can only goal plate the system so far, and other advances such as solar power and other forms of electricity generation are on the rise. Then there’s the decline in demand for electricity making a mockery of what is generally considered a stalwart of forget about cheaper electricity. Then there’s been the gradual decline in electricity usage over the years which makes a mockery of one of the most vociferous orthodoxies of free-enterprise, supply and demand. The dictionary tells us Supply and demand; The theory that prices are determined by the interaction of supply and demand: an increase in supply will lower prices if not accompanied by increased demand, and an increase in demand will raise prices unless accompanied by increased supply. Dictionary.com.

It’s anyone’s guess how much the sale of NSW’s remaining electricity assets will bring. Once upon a time, public assets provided dividend year after year, after year. It was a modest return but year after years it returned a dividend to the state. Even though the dividend decreased somewhat in the years to come, it would have still provided a steady stream of income. Then and started bleeding public utilities like electricity to pay more and more. At last count our state owned electricity assets assets were returning over $1.5 billion a year to the coffers of NSW. Some have suggested why can’t NSW use this money to fund infrastructure projects. That’s a problem with politicians these days—they’re impatient for the big picture and they need the cash now. That’s why selling the lot off can pay for the big picture—and payoff the electorate as well with another grand vision for NSW. Then again, in Queensland they would never have a bar of it, not with Campbell Newman’s lay waste, don’t take any prisoners style.   Still Premier Baird, believes his poularity and quasi religious conviction eanestness  will convince the votors that no harm will come from it. Just trust me.   And  what happens when every public asset he can get his hands on is sold? Then we’re pretty sure Mr Baird will be the first cab off the rank  entreating Canberra  for tax reform — “once and for all” to replemish the coffers and perhaps raise the GST “this once” and NSW will again walk tall.

Mr Baird’s promises extend to Albury? A $11 million upgrade of the Riverina Highway will go ahead regardless of who wins. Then there’s the proposed $ I billion upgrade of the XPT. The only thing missing is the timeline. That’s the trouble when Albury and Wodonga are deemed safe seats by head office in Sydney and Melbourne, and places are held by the Coalition—that a certain complacence percolates through both places. All their huffing and puffing and the endless reports of the member for Albury, Greg Aplin, or his Victorian counterpart, Bill Tilley, beating a path to the door of a minister over this or that are almost entirely a bit of contrived political theatre. Always has been. How many times does the minister make an announcement prefacing their largess by thanking the honourable member for their persistence and doggedness in pursuing the matter? This leaves the public believing that without the member’s intervention, it could have gone the other way—so be damned thankful what we’ve given you you miserable ingrate! That’s why we’re so grateful for small offerings down this part of the woods and so damn beholden to their sporadic generosity that we proudly proclaim Albury as one of the safest Liberal seats in NSW.

The truth is our Coalition representatives on both sides of the river never appear to have a sense of urgency about them, except when their own political careers are on the line. Remember Tilley and the Simon Overland affair? The Baillieu government had a majority of one and Tilley threatened to resign from the Liberal Party—of course it was a matter of principal. Always is. Mr Aplin has become a bit more animated lately with a perceived threat from ALP candidate Ross Jackson. He was pictured in the Border mail a week or so with some minister—could have been his second cousin from Zimbabwe for all we know. Such is our knowledge down here of the NSW Parliament.

Look at the Albury to Melbourne rail service. Tilley and Aplin with a lethargic sameness, meandering through their electorates, grasping the nearest photo opportunity. Then again there might be a clue in it somewhere as Mr Aplin and Mr Tilley principal advisers/secretary are a  husband and wife team, Bruce Holmes (Aplin) and Tracey Holmes (Tilley). Not much chance of the Holmes family defaulting on the electricity bill. One big family.

All things considered, does anyone think that if Albury and Wodonga were marginal seats like Ballarat and Bendigo, we would have done a bit better in this part of the world? Of course we would of. So there’s the quandary we have at Borderline this time. What to do about it. Our preferred option is that Albury be no longer considered a a safe Liberal seat. This requires a candidate capable of making Albury a marginal seat. To this end we believe Mr Ross Jackson, councillor and deputy mayor of Albury and ALP candidate for Albury has the capabilities to achieve this end. What is important is that Mr Jackson is not a child of the Sussex street NSW party machine or a prop in the machinations of all that goes with it, that of which led to the likes of Eddie Obeid gaining unparalleled ascendency in NSW and selectively plundering its riches as he saw fit.

Mr Jackson was born in Albury. That may not be important to some but it is of fundamental importance to the future of Albury to have your heart in a place. In our opinion, Greg Aplin’s heart has never been in Albury. He fell into this seat and has been richly rewarded not only with a very generous salary but with a very generous lifetime pension that would take most of us a lifetime to accrue.  It’s no secret that once Mr Aplin resigns, he will be out of this place as quick as a flash. Sydney we believe is his preferred destination. No doubt Mr Aplin had made provision for his move already.*

That’s why we would prefer someone with a bit more passion to represent Albury. Someone more capable that understands the place we live in. Albury.

Mr Jackson, perhaps.

*If the property assets of his federal counterparts from both sides of parliament are any indication, there are 226 members of parliament in Australia (Representatives 150. Senate 76.) Between them they own 563 properties. That’s almost two and a half properties each. NSW parliamentarians salaries are tied to their federal counterparts, so it stands to reason they are enjoying the benefits of negative gearing as much as their federal colleagues are.

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