Iemma manoeuvres desperately on privatisation

by

Ed Lewis

As the NSW government’s certain defeat on privatisation at the NSW Labor conference draws closer, the government is manoeuvring frantically to find cracks in the anti-privatisation forces. About a week ago the media had a story that Eddie Obeid, former Labor powerbroker and controversial businessman, who resigned from parliament a few years ago, had been brought in to lobby anti-privatisation unions. Obeid got his answer in no uncertain terms from Labor Party administrative committee chairman Bernie Riordan, who said the party’s most powerful administrative body would not tolerate attempts to victimise Labor MPs who opposed privatisation. The attempt to use Obeid shows the desperation of the privatisers.

Of course, the manoeuvres will continue up to the conference, and today the Financial Review quotes Iemma saying the Shop Distributive union (SDA) has not made up its mind and implying that the government could buy the SDA’s vote with a deal on an attempt by big retail interests to secure unrestricted trading on public holidays.

Given the Iemma government’s record of breaking promises, the SDA officials must be thinking long and hard about how much a promise on trading hours would be worth. This is a government that went to the last elections supporting the Labor Party’s position on privatisation, and then after the election tried to ram through its electricity privatisation. How much would a promise on trading hours be worth?

And how much will it be worth in any case, if the Iemma-Costa odd couple lead Labor to disaster in the next elections and make way for a Liberal government?

The Financial Review reports that the SDA and a couple of other unions likely to support the government would have about 20 per cent of the votes at the conference. That’s about the best Iemma can hope for.

Meanwhile, on Crikey, Steven Mayne reveals that Paul Keating also has been doing the rounds on behalf of the privatisers:

Should Paul Keating be holding meetings with Unions NSW secretary John Robertson and Riordan when he is the international chairman of Lazard Carnegie Wylie, the advisory house which landed the lucrative energy privatisation gig with the NSW Government?

John Wylie is Australia’s leading energy privatisation exponent, as you can see from this list of power deals over the past 15 years.

He led the $30 billion worth of energy sector privatisations for Jeff Kennett and his old firm CS First Boston collected more than $100 million in fees. Wylie’s share is thought to have been well over $20 million.

Wylie left CS First Boston to establish the boutique adviser Carnegie Wylie with his old Oxford mate Mark Carnegie shortly after Kennett lost office. They then came together with Lazard last year which was led in Australia by Paul Keating’s long-time mate Mark Burrows.

If Keating stands to personally profit from NSW belatedly following Jeff Kennett’s lead, then surely he shouldn’t be using his ALP connections to get involved in the lobbying ahead of Saturday’s conference.
In the interests of full disclosure, perhaps the parties should place all the cards on the table. What is the nature of Lazard Carnegie Wylie’s contract with the NSW Government and what is the nature of Paul Keating’s contract with Lazard Carnegie Wylie?

Ridiculously, Mayne also accuses Electrical Trades Union official Bernie Riordan of a conflict of interest for being involved in the electricity privatisation debate. Riordan is defending his members’ interests, which is his obligation. That is activity undertaken for his personal gain, as Keating’s involvement with Lazard Carnegie Wylie indisputably is.

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2 Responses to “Iemma manoeuvres desperately on privatisation”

  1. media tart Says:

    er, I think you’ll find that the Fin revealed Keating’s involvement, 5 days before Crikey.

  2. Ed Lewis Says:

    No doubt you’re right MT. I don’t read the Financial Review every day.

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