NSW plans spending of electricity proceeds

The Australian state of New South Wales has outlined the projects that might be paid for from the sale of a stake in electricity assets.

In what looks like a “teaser” designed to win support for its plans to privatise electricity assets, New South Wales (NSW) has updated its State Infrastructure Strategy with details of projects that might be paid for from the proceeds of such a sale.

The State Infrastructure Strategy envisages A$20 billion (€14 billion; $17 billion) of infrastructure spending over a 20-year period. Among the planned projects are a new road tunnel in Sydney, called the Western Harbour Tunnel (as yet uncosted), plus a A$7 billion harbour rail crossing also in Sydney. The crossing would connect the north-west rail link in the north with the Bankstown line in the south.

Other initiatives in the Strategy include: a A$1 billion light rail line around Parramatta; A$2 billion for schools and hospitals; A$1.2 billion for a sport and cultural fund; A$1.3 billion to improve the productivity of Sydney’s roads; A$4.1 billion for regional transport; and A$1 billion for works to upgrade the capacity of Sydney’s western rail line.

Making clear that the proceeds from a planned sale of a 49 percent stake in the state’s electricity “poles and wires” assets will be spent on infrastructure will almost certainly make the controversial privatisation more palatable to the public. A recent Fairfax/Ipsos poll revealed that only 29 percent of voters supported the privatisation, but that this figure rose to 55 percent support if the proceeds were spent on infrastructure.

“If we get the poles and wires leased, NSW will be a different state in 10 years, because of the scale of public infrastructure that we will be able to get done with the proceeds,” said Brendan Lyon, chief executive of lobbying group Infrastructure Partnerships Australia, in a statement.