Libs take $30b pole sale plan to a poll

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NSW Treasurer Mike Baird at State Parliament House in Sydney. Picture: Nic Gibson. Source: NewsLocal

TREASURER Mike Baird says the O’Farrell government could be forced to take the $30 billion sale of electricity poles and wires to the next election as it looks at selling off state assets to fund projects like the West Connex and North West Rail Link.

Mr Baird said if NSW’s “revenues don’t improve” the government would have to look at alternatives to ensure key infrastructure was completed.

“The community has a big frustration with the lack of infrastructure and clearly we’ve put together a plan which details the ability to get on with the West Connex, North West Convention and Exhibition Centre, there are $5 billion dollars of hospital projects (promised) … not to mention the Pacific Hwy, the Princes Hwy,” he said.

“A big part of our ability to deliver … (depends) on the asset sales programs.

“Revenue falling at the same time as the amount of infrastructure is increasing, that is almost mission impossible for any treasurer or any government.”

Mr Baird said the Premier had clearly stated the government would need a mandate for a poles and wires sale so the party would have to consider that position in the lead-up to the election.

“That would have to go the party room, that would have to go to the Cabinet and, ultimately, that would have to go to the community,” he said.

Mr Baird admitted the state would need to put up with debt and deficits for a while because of the economic difficulties.

Mr Baird’s proposal comes as Finance Minister Greg Pearce revealed the government would embark on a multi-billion-dollar sale of government land to help pay for infrastructure, with everything from RailCorp land to old school land to the space above bus depots up for sale.

Mr Pearce also opened the door to cutting more than the 15,000 public service jobs in four years the government had promised

“We are definitely going to be selling off quite a lot more. The needs of the state are absolutely significant so we will sell as much as we possibly can if (the land is) surplus,” he said.

“Fundamentally, we only keep property if its necessary for service delivery or if it is a state asset like the Opera House.

“It’s definitely billions of dollars (to be reaped). We’ve got to do it in stages,” he said, explaining why the government initially announced it was selling only $300 million in property assets.

“There are vacant pieces of land around the place that have just been held because they’re convenient, because no one’s wanted to flog them off.”

Mr Pearce said he was proud he had been able to implement the government’s 2.5 per cent public service wage rise target and said there was scope for further job cuts in the 320,000-strong public service over and above what had been announced: “I think there’s scope through better use of technology for further reducing the size of back offices.”

The minister conceded the state’s AAA credit rating was fragile.

“If we don’t continue to deliver on our expense savings, if we don’t deliver on the asset sales we already have on course, then we are at risk,” he said.

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