Monday, 21 April 2008

Protest Iemma’s power sell-off outside NSW ALP conference

Dick Nichols

9.30 am, May 3, Darling Harbour—be there against Iemma’s power sell-off!

It’s time to apply our pressure against theirs. All the forces in favour of the electricity privatisation proposed by NSW premier Morris Iemma and treasurer Michael Costa have been heavying the delegates to the NSW ALP conference as well as NSW Labor MPs.

Within the ALP the pressure comes from the very top, beginning with Kevin Rudd, energy and resources minister Martin Ferguson and parliamentary secretary and ex-ACTU leader Greg Combet (note to Greg: whatever happened to NSW electricity workers’ rights at work?) All have come out in favour of electricity privatisation.

Within the state government the ministers belonging to the “left” faction (like Ian Macdonald, Linda Burney and John Watkin) also support the sell-off, to the point that Iemma tried to have the “left” component of the 16 parliamentary delegates to the state conference made up of cabinet ministers only!

· Click here to watch a slideshow of the case against NSW electricity privatisation

Along with the sticks come the carrots. Iemma is presently working out a new stick-carrot mix for the NSW cabinet. According to the internet gossip sheet Crikey “his advisers believe that he can gain critical backing [for privatisation] within the parliamentary party by rewarding factional hacks with seats at the Cabinet table.”

One obvious ploy would be to give a cabinet position to an MP from the Hunter region, which threatens being as devastated by the sale of the coal-based power industry as the Latrobe Valley was in Victoria. (The only Hunter MP presently in cabinet is hated treasurer Costa).

To date, despite the massive public opposition, only a minority (17 to date) of Labor MPs have come out against Iemma’s electricity sell-off. The spineless majority of the ALP’s “representatives of the people”—petrified at the thought of their parliamentary careers being destroyed by Iemma’s wrath—invoke the fictional rule of ALP parliamentary caucus solidarity to explain their strange silence on the issue.

The only answer to all this filthy pressure coming from the NSW business elite via Iemma, Costa and their “left” cabinet ministers is to strengthen the campaign against the sell-off.

Our most immediate job is to get as many people as possible to the May 3 rally outside the NSW ALP conference at Darling Harbour. The bigger this rally, the stronger the anger with Iemma and Costa that it expresses, the greater the chance of wavering delegates and MPs getting the point that they will have no future if seen to support the sell-off.

The decision of Unions NSW to ask the Sydney May Day committee to shift the city’s traditional Sunday march to Saturday and have it finish outside the ALP conference is a good step towards building the rally.

Over the years May Day in Sydney has become a symbolic stroll through the streets: having it support the May 3 rally against electricity privatisation restores relevance to May Day itself and says that the working class and union movement history it celebrates lives on around the critical issues of the day.

The Socialist Alliance NSW Trade Union Committee will be doing everything it can to build the May 3 protest. It calls on all Socialist Alliance members and our fellow unionists to be there.

Let’s all shake Darling Harbour with a mighty roar of rejection of Iemma and Costa’s power sell-off!

Dick Nichols is the National Coordinator of the Socialist Alliance

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