NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell has left the door open for full privatisation of power generators in NSW if a new special commission of inquiry recommends the move, reported Leo Shanahan in The Australian (2/5).
The Final Report of the NSW Legislative Council’s Nile Inquiry chaired by the Rev. Fred Nile into the Gentrader (Electricity Power Stations) Transactions was tabled on 23 February.
The report recommended the transactions be rescinded and a Royal Commission – a judicial inquiry – be appointed to inquire into the matter.
Announcing the terms of reference yesterday for an inquiry into last year's bungled power sell-off by the Labor government, Mr O'Farrell said that former premier Kristina Keneally and treasurer Eric Roozendaal could find themselves forced to give evidence in public hearings on the state's power privatisation program.
The inquiry is to be headed by former Federal Court judge Brian Tamberlin QC and will have similar powers to a royal commission, including the power to recommend criminal charges.
Mr O'Farrell said the terms of the inquiry would be broad, and would include the ability to examine whether the contracts from the former Labor government's electricity sale would be binding, as well as whether the state should retake the asset or fully privatise.
…prorogation controversy …
AAP reported that Mr O'Farrell has also promised legislation to stop governments closing parliament early during an election year.
Then premier Kristina Keneally controversially prorogued, or shut down, parliament just before Christmas, effectively hamstringing an upper house inquiry into her government's unpopular $5.3 billion power sell-off.
Mr O'Farrell said the new legislation would ensure parliament was open until at least January 26, so questions on notice could be answered and committees could continue to hear evidence.
"We will introduce legislation to prevent parliament being shut down before Australia Day in an election year," he told the lower house on Wednesday.
"It will ensure that this parliament can never again be treated with the disdain shown to it by the Labor Party, the former premier and former treasurer (Eric Roozendaal) in the lead-up to the last election campaign."