Fraser to agitate for Coffs' share of $6 billion
COFFS Harbour member Andrew Fraser may have been a vocal opponent to the sale of electricity infrastructure but that won't stop him fighting for his electorate's fair share of the proceeds.
Following a Nationals' party room meeting on the issue, Mr Fraser was philosophical about the outcome which promises huge investment in infrastructure in exchange for a selling off control of poles and wires.
"Politics is a bit like anything, 50% plus one is an absolute majority, so they have a majority and got this through and we've done our part to protect Essential Energy," Mr Fraser said.
"On that basis I'll work hard to get my fair share of the infrastructure funding for Coffs and the North Coast."
Coalition leaders, Premier Mike Baird and Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner, are spruiking the $6 billion that will be spent in regional areas from the sale in what they call a once-in-a-generation opportunity.
Funded by a long-term lease of 49% of electricity distribution infrastructure, Mr Stoner said the money would go to a range of infrastructure including water security, flood mitigation and essential services.
"Building this infrastructure will create jobs as well as ensuring future generations in regional NSW have safer roads, better schools, world-class hospitals, and high quality water infrastructure to protect communities from drought," Mr Stoner said.
Mr Fraser said despite his opposition, the guarantee of 30% of the proceeds for regional communities was good.
"I think we've got the best of what we could hope for, that we retain Essential Energy in public hands," he said.
"I do think we still need to legislate for price and maintenance and I would suggest that legislation would need to include Essential Energy."
Mr Baird and Mr Stoner expect to raise a total of $20 billion from the sale of assets which last year generated $1.7 billion for the government.
But Opposition Leader John Robertson said the promise of infrastructure spending was "smoke and mirrors" and would result in higher electricity prices for consumers.
"The more than $1 billion the state currently receives from the electricity network that it reinvests to fund essential services like our hospitals, nurses, schools, teachers, police and infrastructure will now be lost." Mr Robertson said.
"What we do know is that privatisation has driven up electricity prices in South Australia and Victoria.
"In fact, according to the independent energy regulator, South Australia now has the highest electricity prices in the whole country - despite the then Liberal Government promising to reduce prices."