ALMOST one in three Queenslanders believe the Newman Government’s decision to switch from selling electricity assets to leasing them is a better option.
A new Reachtel Poll, conducted exclusively for The Sunday Mail and Seven News, has revealed the support for the Government’s proposal to lease the power generation and distribution businesses.
However, while 32.1 per cent of respondents were convinced the leases would make a practical difference, 41.6 per cent believed it would not be a better outcome for the state.
The remaining 26.4 per cent were undecided.
The results suggest the Newman Government still has a massive battle on its hands to convince Queenslanders about the key policy platform that it will take to next year’s election.
About $37 billion worth of power and port assets will be sold to the private sector through leases of up to 99 years, under the so-called “Strong Choices” plan.
Power generators Stanwell and CS Energy, distributors Energex and Ergon Energy and the ports of Gladstone and Townsville make up the bulk of the businesses to be sold off over five years.
The Government has sweetened the deal with $12 billion of the proceeds to be spent on infrastructure and removing the cost of the solar bonus scheme from household electricity bills.
The remaining $25 billion would be used to reduce debt, putting the Government in line to reclaim an AAA credit rating.
According to Reachtel, support for the switch to leasing assets was strongest among voters already committed to the LNP at 42.1 per cent.
However, there was strong opposition among Labor, Greens and Palmer United Party supporters.
The Government has been attempting to convince people that leasing the assets will allow it to retain greater control by setting conditions, particularly around prices and standards, as part of the agreements.
Critics, including Labor and key unions, insist power privatisation will lead to high electricity bills regardless of the ownership structure.
Independent and minor party MPs last week announced an alliance to oppose asset sales if they hold the balance of power after the next election, prompting criticism from Treasurer Tim Nicholls that their stance imperils up to 25,000 jobs.