Media Release

2 March 2020

Labor has slammed the Government’s failure to make sure Essential Energy CEO, John Cleland, attends NSW’s Budget Estimates Energy and Environment hearings on Friday 6 March.

Mr Cleland has told the Parliament he will be on an overseas business trip for the duration of the hearing. Budget Estimates is one of the Parliament’s only opportunities to formally and publicly question the state’s top public servants and bureaucrats.

“Almost 200 Essential Energy workers have their fate hanging in the balance, and the National’s half-hearted temporary ‘halt’ has reassured nobody,” said Yasmin Catley, NSW Labor Deputy Leader and Shadow Minister for Regional Jobs.

“Mr Cleland should stop hiding from scrutiny and front up to the Parliament and rule out job cuts for these workers once and for all. Mr Cleland – what are you hiding?”

Budget estimates dates are set at the end of 2019 and senior public servants are generally expected to attend.

“The Government has known the timings of Budget Estimates for months. It is unacceptable that they have not ensured all witnesses are available, including Mr Cleland” — Adam Searle MLC, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy

Mr Cleland was questioned extensively in the last Budget Estimates session on the operation and staffing at Essential Energy, including on the latest round of proposed redundancies.

Essential Energy workers’ futures remain uncertain into 2020 as job cuts remain on the table at the state-owned regional energy provider. In 2019, a temporary “halt” was placed on the cuts to 182 jobs across regional NSW and Deputy Premier Barilaro has refused to rule out job cuts in 2020. Up to 500 jobs are set to go by 2024.

Mr Cleland’s absence at Budget Estimates comes as Labor calls on the Government to rule out privatisation of Essential Energy. The Liberal-National Government was forced to abandon its plans to privatise Forestry Corporation and NSW Labor has called on the Nationals to guarantee Essential Energy won’t be sold off to make up their shortfall.

“We desperately need good jobs in regional areas,” said Ms Catley.

“Our communities are still hurting from bushfires, droughts and floods. It’s time for the Nationals to stick up for workers in the bush and rule out privatisation and further job cuts at Essential Energy.”