Eric Ripper

Eric Ripper

Deputy Premier; Treasurer; Minister for State Development

    Nationals avoid uncomfortable truth

    14/01/2005 3:15 PM

        ‘It was Mr Barnett who opposed spending money on upgrading electricity infrastructure in country WA…as Minister he refused to tell Western Power to upgrade its systems and that refusal is still being felt throughout country WA.’
    National Party Leader Max Trenorden, November 13, 2001

    Energy Minister Eric Ripper says the National Party is fighting a losing battle to regain its credibility after eight years of neglecting regional electricity infrastructure as members of the Court Liberal-National Government.

    Mr Ripper said the Nationals could not face the uncomfortable truth that former Energy Minister Colin Barnett had decimated regional Western Australia, while the Labor Government was spending $1.8billion to upgrade the electricity network.

    He said no amount of gimmicks, stunts or slogans would hide the fact that during the Court years Mr Barnett:
    • SOLD $3.4billion in energy assets but didn’t reinvest an extra dollar in the electricity network;
    • PLANNED the privatisation of Western Power;
    • CUT 1,000 staff from Western Power;
    • ERODED the uniform electricity tariff, forcing some country businesses to pay more for their power;
    • BLOCKED regulations requiring independent oversight of Western Power’s performance; and
    • HALVED the size of the Collie coal fired power station.
    In just four years the Gallop Government has:
    • REPLACED an average 965 wooden power poles a year in the rural parts of the South-West power grid, compared with just 410 under the Liberals;
    • DOUBLED maintenance spending on the rural part of the electricity network, compared with the Coalition's last years in office;
    • INVESTED $3million on the Minnivale feeder in the northern Wheatbelt to improve reliability;
    • BUILT the $60million Pinjar to Eneabba transmission line to improve capacity and reliability;
    • ESTABLISHED the $48million Rural Power Improvement program to target ‘black spots’;
    • STARTED a program to silicone coat 40,000 power poles to fight pole top fires;
    • HIRED a record number of workers to restore WA power supplies in the event of faults;
    • INSTALLED more than 650 intermediate power poles and spreaders to minimise the risk of lines coming into contact; and
    • REVERSED Colin Barnett's decision to withdraw the uniform electricity tariff from many country businesses.
    “The truth is, this Government has spent more money on the electricity network in each of the last two years than at any time over the last decade,” the Minister said.

    “Most importantly, it was the Labor Government that gave the energy safety watchdog the teeth to independently investigate consumer complaints about Western Power’s performance.”

    Mr Ripper said the Director of Energy Safety had brought a new focus to country power reliability, exposing problems that had been hidden for years.

    In a 2003 report, the director (Albert Koenig) said:
      ‘…the problems that are evident (in the network) have not developed recently but over quite some time, becoming more pronounced during the last 10 years…’

    “Clearly, these problems have not arisen overnight,” the Minister said.

    “They have been ignored by successive governments and the Gallop Government is doing something about it.”

    Minister's office: 9222 8788