A Word from the Branch Secretary

Thursday 22 Feb 2018

The dust has settled after the state election and the reality for the McGowan State Government is that now they must govern. The damage done by the Barnett Government’s slash and burn policy and their incompetence has smashed the myth that somehow the conservative parties are good economic managers of the state’s finances.

No state government has inherited a debt of $41 billion-dollars. On reflection, you can just see the strategy that Mike Nahan had embarked upon; clock up a massive debt, then use the debt to justify selling all the state’s publicly owned utilities.

Even now, after the landslide Labor victory, the voices of the free-marketeers (the champions of privatisation) are still chanting from the roof tops for the sale of Western Power. It is a sign that they will never stop. If we are going to protect WA’s energy assets, we can never rest on our laurels. That is why our Use Your Power campaign will never end.

To win the battle against the would-be billionaires who desperately want to control our energy supply we at least need to be able to influence the Labor party and give voters a clear choice. The last thing we need is both parties seeking to sell out to the commercial independent power companies.

We have seen the debacle of the price gauging that occurs on the east coast and the lack of control both those state governments and the federal government have over the National Energy System.

The South West Interconnected System (SWIS) supplies electricity to the whole south-west, some 986,000 households and small businesses, and has a turnover of $1.1 billion per year. No wonder private companies want to get their greedy paws on these essential services. They see it as a licence to print money and a huge opportunity to make a profit off the community.

During the Use Your Power campaign, a group of ASU members employed at Western Power, Synergy, PTA and across Local Government formed a direct Branch of the Labor Party called Public Utilities and Local Government Employees (PULGE). They did this so that we could attend WA Labor State Executive and the State Labor Conference, giving us a voice from within the Labor Party however, if we are going to have a loud voice into the future, then it is not enough.

It has now been almost five years since our branch had a plebiscite that asked members the question of political affiliation. Recently, Muja Power Station ASU members passed a resolution directing me to start communicating with members about holding another plebiscite. In accordance with the rules of our branch, the only way the ASUWA can affiliate with any political party is through a plebiscite of members. It is a difficult process but, ultimately, only ASU members can make that decision.

The case for affiliation is strong. Legislation is being passed regularly by government that affects our members in Energy, Transport, Social and Community Services and Local Government, and ASU is not at the WA Labor Conference to represent our members’ interests.  I believe that we cannot fight everybody while continuing to remain separate from the decision-making process.

We have evolved into a campaigning union with the ability to influence the public at the recent election just to protect our members and the community.  Organisations like AGL, Singapore Power and CCI employ lobbyists to influence the government of the day, and WALGA lobbys very effectively in its own right. These organisations have a big influence on the media and they are masters of changing public option.

In some ways I now believe that Labor needs us, as much as we need them, to make the right decisions. The industries we operate in are complex and not easy for the rest of the Labor movement to understand.  ASU members have a wealth of practical knowledge and experience in their industries. We need to be there to give direction sometimes in very robust discussions.

The ASUWA Branch Executive has passed a resolution to conduct a plebiscite in the next 12 months. Whether you agree or disagree with affiliation, it is important that you have your say and take part in the process. Few unions would ask their members to make this important decision and would make the decision and in isolation. ASU WA is a union run by members for members. You get to decide. We are in control of our own future.