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State asset sale slows

HAS the privatisation of WA Government assets ceased?

Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett’s shock election loss earlier this year hinted at a growing backlash against privatisation.

The Government has privatised Perth’s public bus operations, its car leasing services, State Print and WA’s ports.

A 45 per cent piece of AlintaGas was sold to the Utilicorp United-United Energy consortium on July 31 and the rest is due to be sold to the public from mid-October.

Westrail’s freight business should be offloaded by the end of the year.

On that basis, Western Power could be the next utility for sale. It has been speculated that the utility would be privatised if the Coalition Government was re-elected.

Western Power managing director David Eiszele believes Australians’ appetite for privatisation is shrinking.

“I doubt Western Power will be privatised in the next term of Government,” Mr Eiszele said.

“If it is to be privatised, I think that is a good five years out.”

At the announcement of the successful cornerstone bidder for AlintaGas, WA Energy Minister Colin Barnett said the Government had “no intention of privatising Western Power”.

“However, we may sell a power station,” Mr Barnett said.

University of WA political science department deputy head Bruce Stone said the WA Labor Party was quite happy to take a shot at the Government.

“If the ALP got in it would draw a line under privatisation and say no more,” Dr Stone said.

“But are they prepared to go the next step and enationalise any assets?”

A spokesman for WA Labor Leader Geoff Gallop said the party opposed privatisation of core government bodies such as the Water Corporation, Western Power or AlintaGas.

It also opposed the privatisation of services within key Government portfolios

such as health and transport.

“But we have no intention of going out and spending $1 billion repurchasing AlintaGas,” the spokesman said.

“We have said we would honour any contracts the Government has entered into.”

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