NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has shut down speculation his government will sell more public assets and completely ruled out privatisation if re-elected next month.
- Mr Perrottet previously said he could not rule out further privatisation
- Today he definitively excluded the possibility of any asset sales
- Labor has promised not to sell any public assets if elected
The issue of privatisation reared its head during a leaders’ debate three weeks ago when Mr Perrottet argued with Opposition leader Chris Minns about the need for asset recycling.
The Premier said major infrastructure projects like the $16.8 billion WestConnex motorway would be impossible to fund without selling public assets.
Although he said his government had “no plans” for more privatisation he couldn’t rule it out.
“Progress wasn’t made by taking things off the table,” he said during the debate.
“Money doesn’t grow on trees, you’ve got to make the tough decisions.”
Labor has promised not to sell any public assets if elected on March 25.
“You can’t be a situation where you’re flogging off the family jewels or the family home to pay off the credit card,” Mr Minns said during the leaders’ debate.
The Premier has been plagued by the issue of privatisation since the debate and has been pressed for weeks about what assets could be on the table in the future.
He initially refused to rule out selling state-owned statutory corporation Sydney Water.
“I’ve always said that we will always look at the means possible to continue to build infrastructure,” he said when asked about Sydney Water during a press conference on February 10.
Yesterday he backflipped and pledged not to sell Sydney Water and Hunter Water.
Today he definitively excluded the possibility of any asset sales.
“I’ve said we’re not privatising assets, I can’t be clearer.”
“What I have said is we have an economic plan, we have a sustainable and manageable debt position here in New South Wales because of our management over our time in office.”
Opposition treasury spokesman Daniel Mookhey said he doesn’t believe the premier’s backflip.
“The only way the premier can pay for his unfunded infrastructure promises is to put Sydney Water and Essential Energy on the chopping block.”
During his time as treasurer in 2017 Mr Perrottet described asset recycling as the “secret sauce” to the state’s success.
At the 2015 state election, premier Mike Baird made a commitment to privatise about half of the state’s electricity poles and wires to fund new roads, public transport and education infrastructure.
Although his government lost 15 seats. Mr Baird won a second term and the sale made the government nearly $3 billion.
The NSW government said it had invested $178 billion in infrastructure projects over the past decade and has budgeted for $116 billion over the next four years if re-elected.
Mr Perrottet said these record-breaking investments would plunge the state into massive debt if it weren’t for asset recycling.
The 2021 sale of WestConnex — the biggest infrastructure project in the nation — helped drive the state’s debt down and also funded the $5 billion WestInvest fund which provides more facilities for suburbs in Western Sydney.
Labor said if elected it would fund future infrastructure projects from the dividends of state-owned corporations such as Essential Energy and the Forestry Corporation.
It says it will also save money by abolishing the Transport Asset Holding Entity (TAHE), and scrapping the government’s promises to raise the Warragamba Dam wall and build the Northern Beaches Link.
TAHE was set up by the NSW government in July 2020 to manage the state’s rail assets and infrastructure.