Labor promises Snowy cash for regions

NSW Labor leader Luke Foley

NSW Labor will support the sale of the Snowy Hydro scheme to the Federal Government – but only if there is a guarantee the scheme stays permanently in public hands and if every dollar from the billions raised is used in regional NSW.

NSW Labor leader Luke Foley announced the policy during a visit to Queanbeyan this week. Mr Foley committed a Government he’d lead in 2019 to ensuring that 100 per cent of the funds raised will be used to improve regional infrastructure in areas such as: education, health, roads and transport, water security, and culture and sport.

He gave as an example the suburb of Googong, in Queanbeyan which is set to grow tenfold – from 2,000 residents to 20,000 in just over 15 years – saying some of the money from the sale could be spent on building a new primary school there.

Snowy Hydro Limited is currently owned by NSW (58 per cent), Victoria (29 per cent) and the Commonwealth (13 per cent). Each shareholder has equal voting rights. Under NSW’s Snowy Hydro Corporatisation Act 1997, the NSW Government may sell its share to the Commonwealth without further approval from the NSW Parliament. This means that the sale could proceed and be concluded relatively soon.

Snowy Hydro’s value is estimated at $6 billion – $7 billion, and industry estimates are that NSW’s share would be between $ 4-5 billion.

In last week’s Budget the Commonwealth proposed that it acquire complete ownership of Snowy Hydro Limited in order to progress its plan to invest in a pumped hydro energy scheme – to provide additional electricity generation capacity.

Mr Foley said the Snowy Scheme is iconic.

“The hydro-electricity scheme in the Snowy Mountains defined Australian enterprise, innovation and ingenuity. It was the key to the post-war reconstruction program of the Chifley Labor Government; its construction linked forever with the development of modern regional Australia,” he said.

NSW Labor said it would support the sale if: NSW receives full market value from the Commonwealth; Snowy Hydro remains permanently in public hands; Proper environmental protection is secured and water entitlements are recognised; and 100 per cent of the proceeds are allocated to regional infrastructure.

Mr Foley said regional Australia deserved more investment.

“A Foley Labor Government in 2019 will ensure that the billions of dollars that will flow from the nationalisation of Snowy Hydro will be put right back where it belongs – in local infrastructure for the people of regional NSW.”

Premier Gladys Berejiklian declined to match Mr Foley’s plan and said the government was already spending record amounts on infrastructure in regional NSW.

“Any decision the NSW Government makes on the Snowy Hydro transaction will be in the best interests of the people of NSW and the local community,” she said.