I speak in support of the Constitution Amendment (Sydney Water and Hunter Water) Bill 2023. This is an important bill that sends a very clear message that, under the Minns Labor Government, the days of privatisation of our public assets are over. The people of New South Wales sent this Parliament a very clear message at the election—one that members opposite are finding hard to deal with. They said they are sick of their assets being privatised and they elected a Government that vowed to end the sell‑offs in this State. Today, I am proud to stand here and say we are delivering on our promise.
I have heard this sentiment not just in my electorate of Swansea but right around the State. During the campaign I spent time doorknocking with the new member for Leppington, Nathan Hagarty; the new member for Penrith, Karen McKeown; the new member for East Hills, Kylie Wilkinson; and the phenomenal member for Lismore, Janelle Saffin. I report to the House that the same message kept coming right back at me: this State should no longer privatise its important assets.
There was no trickery in any of this, as the Opposition leader just stated. As a member of this place I have long opposed privatisation, whether it was the former Government selling off our electricity network, poles and wires, the Newcastle transport network—that was a real fizzer—the Port of Newcastle or Vales Point Power Station. All of those sell‑offs have left our communities much, much worse off.
The Constitution Amendment (Sydney Water and Hunter Water) Bill 2023 is so important because it will enshrine the public ownership of those assets within the New South Wales constitution—and with an Opposition like this one, we have to make sure we keep public assets safe.
Hunter Water does a fantastic job of serving our community, investing in important future infrastructure such as the Belmont desalination plant to shore up the region's water supply—not to mention the well-paying local jobs for Hunter residents. It is important to remember why this legislation is so necessary. Over the past 12 years those opposite, with their addiction to privatisation, have sold off our power stations, electricity network, toll roads, public transport networks, the NSW Land Registry Services—that was one of the worst—the Port of Newcastle—I am glad to see the member for Newcastle—Port Botany, Port Kembla, our TAFE campuses, and 11 sport and recreation camps. They even tried to privatise Wyong Public Hospital—we all remember the question time when the then Minister announced that during one of her answers.
There is nothing tricky about any of this. These are the facts. People are scared of what the Opposition might do, and we are making sure to enshrine public ownership in the Constitution so that it is safe from the Liberals forevermore. They masked all of these privatisations with the brand "asset recycling". We all remember that. What did these privatisations do? They left our communities worse off, despite promising that these privatisations would make people's lives better.
Let us start by looking at the sale of the State's electricity network by those opposite. The then Liberal Government promised that the sale would reduce power bills and deliver securer power supply, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, between 2014 and 2021 privatised energy networks collected a 67 per cent increase in profits. That represents a $100 increase in electricity bills for households across the State, all thanks to those opposite. So much for the former Treasurer's promised $130 reduction in electricity bills. That was never going to happen. And it did not stop at selling off poles and wires. The Liberals sold off also the Vales Point and Eraring power stations. The sale of Vales Point Power Station demonstrates how badly the community was short- changed. That power station, which is in my electorate, was sold for $1 million in 2015. It is unfortunate that we did not pass the hat around. Can members believe this? The stamp duty waived by the Government was worth more than the sale, at $1.6 million. In the past four years the station has generated $354.4 million in profit after tax for its private owner, and last year it was sold to an overseas company for $200 million. We should not forget that in 2015 it was sold for $1 million.
As I said, Vales Point Power Station falls within my electorate. The sale of that asset created within the community a lot of anxiety over the future of jobs at the site and power prices and power security—not to mention that that asset has continued to generate profit in this time, benefiting the private owner and not the people of New South Wales. That is why this legislation is so important. We must give people hope, promise and some assurance and integrity, which comes in spades from this Government.
My community has paid the price for the failed privatisations of the former Liberal Government. Those opposite sold off the Newcastle Transport network, despite so much vocal opposition from the community. In fact, the then transport Minister, Andrew Constance, refused to engage in consultation with the community. We all remember that he came here and told us we would get a world-class transport network. What we got was longer travel times, services outages, removed bus stops and school kids left on the side of the road. Those opposite have turned a blind eye to the impacts of the failed privatisation in the years since, despite Hunter MPs consistently highlighting its negative impacts on the communities we represent.
It is not isolated to the Hunter. The privatisation of public bus services across the State over the past 12 years has been an "abject failure". That is not only my view. The findings of Portfolio Committee No. 6 from its inquiry into the privatisation of bus services also absolutely supports that. The Minns Labor Government is acting swiftly to deal with the consequences of bus privatisation, establishing a bus industry task force. The task force will examine service delivery and asset management models; service planning, including equity of services across the community—imagine having equity of services across the community—infrastructure and technology to support the effective delivery of bus services; employment of drivers, mechanics and other personnel; and other steps to improve performance. I commend the work of the Minister for Transport and state how thankful my community is. I commend particularly the Premier for his swift action in addressing the community's concerns about the failed privatisations of the former Liberal Government. This is a clear signal not only of the values of this Government but also that this Government takes on board the community's concerns and acts immediately.
I cannot go past the crown jewel in the failed privatisations of those opposite: the sale of the Port of Newcastle and the commitment deed associated with that. The Port Commitment Deed takes the cake in dodgy deals struck by those opposite. [Extension of time]
It not only placed a cap on the number of containers the Port of Newcastle could ship but also forced taxpayers to pay compensation if this cap was breached.
It is hard to hear, but those opposite will hear it. The deed drew criticism not only from Labor but also from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, that described it as anticompetitive and illegal. The deed has acted as an effective handbrake on the Hunter economy, and we will see that for years. I note that legislation to extinguish the liability of the Port of Newcastle and allow for the development of a container terminal passed this Parliament last year. It was such an embarrassing deal for the former Government that it had to vote to support that bill.
We know that the former Government had plans to privatise Sydney Water, which would have led to higher water prices, poorer services and unstable supply—not to mention the many lost jobs. The community vocally made clear its opposition to such a move. This legislation will ensure that cannot happen and I look forward to it passing the House. I note that the Opposition leader has said the Opposition will support the bill. Thank goodness. I suspect that the only course of action for a former government, now in opposition, that was addicted to privatisation for so long is to now admit its failures and that it put communities right New South Wales into a much worse position by privatising everything that was not nailed down.
I support the bill and commend it to the House.