WA's biggest business lobby has thrown its weight behind the Barnett Government's long-term plan to privatise electricity utilities, arguing it will ultimately lead to lower power prices.
The WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry's endorsement comes after Energy Minister Mike Nahan revealed plans that would allow households to choose where they bought their electricity from for the first time.
But the CCI, which criticised the Government's decision to merge generator Verve and retailer Synergy, called for transparency about how the privatisation plans would be implemented. "Consumers should be looking to this reform process in a positive manner because the end state is greater choice and, therefore, lower prices," CCI chief economist John Nicolaou said.
But the Opposition savaged the revelations of a privatisation agenda, saying it was a betrayal of the Government's promise before the March State election not to sell off power utilities.
Shadow energy minister Bill Johnston also queried why the Government was merging Verve and Synergy only to split them again when it could simply allow them to compete with each other now. "The time to tell people your policy details is before the election, not after the election," Mr Johnston said.
Dr Nahan insisted the Government had not broken any promise because energy reforms were long-term and any privatisation would be well into the future.
He denied Labor claims that prices would have to rise sharply, saying the Government was committed to keeping increases at about the inflation rate.
WA Council of Social Service chief executive Irina Cattalini said any shake-up must have safeguards for the disadvantaged and people living in rural areas, where prices were higher.
Under the Government's plans, Verve and Synergy, due to be merged on January 1, would be split into multiple competing electricity businesses within five years. These companies would eventually be privatised.