Mark McGowan yesterday fell back on the privatisation of Alinta Gas 15 years ago as evidence for his claim that the Liberal Party had an unstated privatisation agenda as Colin Barnett again branded the claim a lie.
The Opposition Leader called a press conference at Fiona Stanley Hospital, where the Liberal- Nationals Government signed a 20-year, $4.3 billion support services contract with private operator Serco, to again hammer the privatisation drum.
"He has a privatisation history as a minister and also as Premier and our belief is he will continue to privatise if he is re-elected," Mr McGowan said.
Mr McGowan produced a parliamentary answer from August 1997, when Mr McGowan asked Mr Barnett, then the energy minister, if he would rule out privatising Alinta.
Mr Barnett replied that "at present the Government has no plans to privatise Alinta Gas".
Sixteen months later and after the Court government's 1998 re-election, Mr Barnett announced the 100 per cent sale of the utility.
"Claims that I will privatise Western Power and the Water Corporation are absolutely false and anyone who puts themselves forward to be the premier of WA must tell the truth," Mr Barnett said.
"Mark McGowan deliberately went out and told falsehoods, lies, whatever you want to call it.
"He did not tell the truth and it wasn't just an error - everyone can make errors, I can excuse that.
"It was a deliberately planned approach to go out and tell things that simply aren't true."
Asked if his philosophical position on privatisations had changed since the sale of Alinta and the Dampier-Bunbury gas pipeline, which Mr Barnett also oversaw, the Premier said he took a pragmatic view of privatisations.
"The reason that you would retain the energy utilities in government hands is the energy utilities are major engines of economic growth in this State and only through ownership of utilities can you guarantee supply and reliability of supply, particularly in a State like WA which has a small, isolated grid that cannot be connected to the other States," he said."Reliability of supply is the No.1 issue but a tool of economic development is important, for example extending the northern pipeline to Geraldton and the gas pipeline to Albany."
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