LNP has 'no plan B' to privatising electricity
PREMIER Mike Baird revealed there was "no plan B" if the government failed to privatise NSW's electricity assets, as he went head-to-head with Opposition leader Luke Foley.
The first, and decidedly congenial, leaders' debate before the March 28 election produced few surprises, with no mention of the Northern Rivers and a dominating focus on Sydney.
When grilled on how the LNP would fund its $20 billion infrastructure plan if the upper house blocked the 49% sale of the state's "poles and wires" electricity network, Mr Baird admitted it could not.
"Well, there's no plan B," he said.
"I'm not going to kick it down the road.
"I think the state and the electorate have had enough ... of the populist politics they've seen.
"They want someone to outline in detail how they're going to make a difference to their daily lives with the infrastructure program that is required."
Latest polls show only 23% of voters support privatisation, increasing to 47% if all the proceeds go towards infrastructure.
After repeated questioning, Mr Baird guaranteed his government would not seek to privatise more than 49% of the network during the coming term.
But he would not rule out future governments taking the sale further.
Mr Foley pounced on the comments.
"The most important thing Mike just said is there's no plan B," he said.
"If he can't sell the electricity network, he can't deliver any of his promises.
"No one can have any confidence in the extravagant promises that Mike is claiming to deliver because there's no plan B."
Labor has committed half as much to infrastructure as the Coalition, but Mr Foley insists the plan is fully funded without need to sell electricity assets.
The $10 billion required would come from deferring business tax cuts and using the Restart NSW funds attained through the LNP's leasing of ports last year.
"Labor have outlined a vision that's simply saying we can't have the infrastructure we need and deserve," Mr Baird countered.
"The Opposition are clearly taking marching orders from the unions."
Mr Foley announced Labor would install a state-wide moratorium on all coal seam gas extraction if elected to power, which would bring CSG mining operations in northern NSW to a standstill.
"Land-use conflict in NSW is at an all-time high," he said.
Mr Baird likened Labor talking about blocking CSG to disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong arguing against drugs in sport.
"They handed out licences across NSW for 16 years," he said.
Both leaders said they would fight for greater Commonwealth education and health funding.
They also admitted recent ICAC investigations had damaged the reputation of both sides of NSW politics, and vowed to return a government worthy of voters' trust.
Mr Baird said private election donations had "reached a corrosive level in NSW" and said he supported the highest level of public funding for elections possible.
The second leaders' debate will be held on Sunday, March 8.