Will Nathan Rees survive the NSW Labor conference?

The 2009 NSW Labor conference is shaping up to be a focal point of anger at the Nathan Rees government. At the Sydney Entertainment centre on the weekend of 15, 16 November, Rees will face defiance both inside and outside the conference.
Activists will rally from 10.30am outside the conference and lobby left delegates to repeat last year’s decisive rank and file revolt that ended the privatisation push (and the leadership) of then Premier Iemma.
The government has now called for expressions of interest to buy the power retail companies, the “trading rights” to the power generators and development sites for new power stations.
Although there is no election until 2011, the Rees government popularity is plummeting.
The disarray at the top of the government is exemplified by the former Corrective Services Minister Richard Amery, and another seven Labor MPs, openly opposing the privatisation of the state’s prisons. Although, shamefully, former Unions NSW Secretary John Robertson, who headed the trade union movement’s defeat of power privatisation last year, heads the government’s plan to privatise the retail side of power delivery.
The NSW Labor government is firmly committed to pushing privatisation of electricity, jail, water and hospital catering, ferries and more. Speculation abounds that Labor is hoping the sell-offs will boost Labor’s coffers so it can buy its way out of election annihilation.
However, even when Labor announces significant spending on public transport projects, such as the Rozelle metro system, it undermines its popularity with its proposal that that metro be built and run by profit-hungry private enterprise. Transport department bureaucrats see this as an opportunity to take on the transport unions. The proposal will also rob a key underground tunnel reserve from the public railway system, denying important expansion capacity to the public transport system.
Concern about climate is also adding to the electorate’s dissatisfaction with the Rees government. The plan to sell off the electricity generators was stopped last year but Rees now has a proposal to build two new privately owned power stations that will burn fossil fuels (probably coal). He is also planning to expand existing coal fired power station at Erraring, on the central coast.
Rees’s power station proposals are set to be a focus of the NSW climate movement (see article p5).
The conference will be an opportunity to link together the issues of privatisations, public transport and the fight for renewable power generation.
To build the rally and present the argument for clean, green jobs, Power to the People Sydney is holding a public meeting on October 31, 2pm at the Tom Mann Theatre, Chalmers Street, near Central Station.  Speakers will include Greens MP Sylvia Hale, union representatives and public accountability academics Bob and Betty Walker. Contact Colin Drane, AMWU organiser, 0419698396, for further details.
By John Morris


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