Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Labor’s local deck-chair shuffle is “business as usual”, say Greens

Newcastle Greens
9 September 2008

Newcastle Greens today warned that NSW Labor’s new Minister for the Hunter, Jodi McKay, represents “business as usual” for Labor’s push for electricity privatisation and climate-damaging energy policy.

The Greens Newcastle Lord Mayoral and Ward 1 candidate, Cr Michael Osborne, said that while local Greens welcomed the departure of the former Minister for the Hunter, Michael Costa, his replacement by Jodi McKay was more a matter of style than substance.

“We’d certainly expect Ms McKay to be less overtly belligerent than her predecessor, but the fact is that she and Mr Costa are both creatures of Macquarie St, and share the same attitudes to many crucial issues, such as electricity privatisation and climate change (including the expansion of coal mining and exporting).

“Like Mr Costa, Ms McKay is much closer to the business community than to traditional Labor constituencies, and she is on the public record as a strong supporter of electricity privatisation, and as a strong opponent of a phased and just transition away from coal dependence,” Mr Osborne said.

“Among local environmentalists, Ms McKay is best known for saying that she would ‘never turn her back on coal’. Perhaps a closer relationship with the region’s tourism industry might change her mind about the impact of coal,” he said.

Cr Osborne said that Ms McKay’s elevation to the Ministry was clearly a reward for compliance with Macquarie St dictates.

“Once the dust cloud raised by Labor’s shuffling of the cabinet deck-chairs has settled, local voters and the media will ask what has really changed,” Cr Osborne said.

“The Greens welcome a change from Mr Costa’s abusive and abrasive style, but can Ms McKay name even one significant policy on which she has a different view from Mr Costa?” Cr Osborne asked.

Cr Osborne said that many people in the local community (including some local Labor candidates in the Newcastle Council election) seemed to be under the mistaken impression that power privatisation was now off the agenda under the Rees government.

One Newcastle Labor candidate (their No.1 Ward 2 candidate, Tim Crakanthorp) stated on ABC 1233 yesterday that the local Labor team were glad that the push to privatise electricity was now over, because this would have cost Labor votes in Saturday’s council elections.

“Even Labor candidates don’t seem to be aware that the Rees Labor government is pushing ahead with the Iemma privatisation plan,” Cr Osborne said. “Yet Mr Rees clearly stated to Quentin Dempster on Stateline on Friday that ‘the retail sale will proceed.’”

Cr Osborne said that Greens councillors had taken a strong and consistent stand against electricity privatisation during the current council, and would continue voicing the view of the local community on this issue in the new council.

“For us, Saturday’s election is still a referendum on power privatisation. Given Ms McKay’s failure to represent the community on this issue, and local Labor’s vulnerability on it (reflected in their preference deal with Cr Buman, who has voted against council opposing electricity privatisation), The Greens are still the only reliable conduit for voters on Saturday to send Mr Rees’s new government a strong message to drop the Iemma/Costa power privatisation plan.”

For further information or comment, contact Michael Osborne on 0439 442 984.

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