Media Release

21 February 2020

There are fears about the future of state-owned Essential Energy, after the Liberal-National Government was forced to abandon plans to privatise Forestry Corporation because of bushfire damage to softwood timber.

Selling off Forestry Corporation to the highest bidder was expected to raise around $1 billion. The NSW Labor Opposition has today called for a guarantee that Essential Energy won’t be sold off to make up for the shortfall.

It comes as the fates of 182 Essential Energy workers still hang in the balance because the Deputy Premier John Barilaro has failed to issue any formal directive to save their jobs.

NSW Labor Leader Jodi McKay said: “After privatisation, Ausgrid’s workforce was slashed and we have twice seen that the company is now completely ill-equipped to respond to significant storm damage to the electricity network. We cannot let this happen to Essential Energy.”

Labor Shadow Minister for Rural and Regional jobs Yasmin Catley said: “This comes down to jobs. Jobs that are desperately needed in rural and regional NSW, which is hurting from bushfires and drought. The Government must honour its promise to save Essential Energy jobs and it must rule out privatisation.”

“The Government lied about guaranteed workforce numbers at Ausgrid. The Premier also went to the election promising no more privatisation. I wouldn’t put it past her to now look at Essential Energy to make up for her infrastructure blowouts. We can’t let that happen” — Adam Searle MLC, Labor Shadow Minister for Energy

Essential Energy operates and maintains Australia’s largest electricity network and has numerous depots across northern and southern New South Wales with regional offices in Port Macquarie, Tamworth and Wagga Wagga.

The company’s frontline workers are crucial in the state’s bushfire recovery, with Essential Energy being responsible for over 850,000 connected customers across 95% of NSW, including the worst hit areas of the North and South coasts.