'It's simply not good enough': Labor attacks gov over flood
THE State Government and opposition are in a war of words over the handling of the recent devastating floods in Northern NSW.
NSW Labor yesterday slammed the Berejiklian State Government for allegedly blocking NSW Shadow Minister for the North Coast Walt Secord from making a speech in support of North Coast flood affected communities.
In an extraordinary move the Nationals blocked Mr Secord three times from paying tribute to the North Coast communities struggling with the worst flooding in 50 years, Mr Secord said.
Mr Secord said he was profoundly disappointed that the Liberals and Nationals would stop parliamentarians speaking on one of the worst disasters to hit the North Coast in living memory.
Mr Secord, during Questions Without Notice in official Question Time, sought permission to have equal time to speak.
After Question Time, Mr Secord twice sought to suspend Standing Orders to make a Shadow Ministerial statement on the impact of the flood on North Coast communities.
Mr Secord added that today the Nationals broke a long-standing tradition of dedicating parliamentary time to discuss a significant natural disaster.
"It was an extraordinary display by the Nationals and Liberals. A natural disaster like this should be above partisan party politics.
"I had prepared a major speech paying tribute to those who lost their lives in the flood, the impact on the community and the brave SES emergency, health workers and volunteers who rallied behind the community.
"It was an absolute disgrace to see the Leader of the Government in the Upper House twice prevent the Shadow Minister for the North Coast speaking on the floods."
However, Ben Franklin, Parliamentary Secretary for Northern New South Wales, responded Mr Secord's claims, calling them "utter rubbish".
"The reason why Mr Secord was denied leave to speak at that stage of the day was because he would have been the only one able to speak on it," Mr Franklin said.
"It would have been inappropriate and unprecedented. The government believes that this issue is so significant, all members should have the right to speak on it - not just one."
"That is why the Government is planning to have a full debate on the disastrous events of the past few days, when every parliamentarian will be able to speak - Liberal, Labor, National, Green, Christian Democrats and any other member who wishes to do so.
"It is disgusting that Mr Secord is playing politics with this issue.
"This issue is too important for that. Every Member of Parliament should have the opportunity to contribute to such an important matter and it is a shame that the Labor spokesman is trying to deny them that.
"Finally, if Mr Secord wanted to contribute with a speech today, he could have done it in the Adjournment Debate at the end of the day's sitting. This is an appropriate forum and is exactly what I have just done as Parliamentary Secretary for Northern NSW.
"It's not all about you Walt. It's about the North Coast."
Essential Energy woes
THIS war of words comes as NSW Labor attacked the handling of the flood disaster by Essential Energy, saying that customers have been left "on their own".
On April 2 2017, Essential Energy's Facebook site informed its customers on the Far North Coast that:
"Throughout today we will be isolating homes and business' (sic) where the switchboard was inundated with water. You will need to contact an electrician to assess and test the switchboard and once done, the electrician will issue a Certificate of Compliance of Electrical Works (CCEW). The electrician can then call us .. quote the CCEW number and request power be re-energised.
"If your switchboard didn't get wet but water has been through your home/business, we will leave you connected to the network up to the switchboard. You will need to organise an electrician to have your power assessed to confirm there is no damage to the internal circuits and once the electrician gives the ok, they will be able to turn power back on."
In question time in the Legislative Council today, Labor's Leader in the Legislative Council and Shadow Minister for Energy, Adam Searle MLC asked Minister Don Harwin MLC who would pay for this requirement to use external electricians: the NSW Government, Essential Energy or flood-affected customers?
Minister Harwin was unable to answer.
Labor's Leader in the Legislative Council and Shadow Minister for Energy Adam Searle said it was "simply not good enough".
"Where homes and businesses have had power isolated, safety must be paramount before power is switched on again," he said.
"But for the government to require people to engage private electricians, but to not be able to say who will pay for it, is just extraordinary, particularly when electricians in the area are in short supply.
"In the past, this function would have been carried out by Essential but continuous job cuts under the Liberal/National Coalition Government have stripped it of capacity.
"Since they took office in 2011, nearly 1450 jobs have gone from Essential with 48 being abolished since Christmas 2016 and another 550 to go before mid-2018. The company has signalled it will get rid of another 1000 jobs by 2019.
"These assaults on the workforce have left Essential's ability to respond to emergencies such as fires and floods stretched.
"On top of this, the government either has no idea who will have to pay the extra costs of ensuring power is reconnected safely, or does not want to say."