Government robin hood out of control in 2011 (take from the poor to feed public servant feeding frenzy)

Directors turn backs on asset hearings Brian Robins STATE POLITICS

January 11, 2011 DIRECTORS of government-run power companies who resigned last month have refused to appear before a parliamentary inquiry into the sale of power industry assets, casting doubt on the inquiry’s success. The lack of parliamentary privilege in the proceedings has been cited as a reason for some of the directors’ decision not to attend. Directors may be summonsed to appear before the inquiry, or some hearings may be held behind closed doors. Amid mounting public pressure last week the Premier, Kristina Keneally, reversed her public opposition and decided to allow a parliamentary inquiry into the sale of government-owned electricity assets to proceed, saying both she and the Treasurer, Eric Roozendaal, would attend hearings. Advertisement: Story continues below It emerged yesterday that none of the directors who resigned from the board of Eraring Energy will attend the inquiry, and directors of Delta Electricity are also not expected to turn up. In mid-December four directors from each of Eraring and Delta quit their respective boards due to concerns that the sale of rights to the electricity they generate would not be in the best interest of the companies they represented. In response, Mr Roozendaal installed new directors to allow the sales to go ahead. Ross Bunyon, the former chairman of Eraring Energy, is believed to have informed the inquiry members yesterday that the lack of parliamentary privilege which would give him protection from being sued meant he would not attend the hearing. He had expressed concern earlier over the Crown Solicitor’s advice that privilege would not extend to next week’s hearings, since parliament has been prorogued. The former Eraring directors Dean Pritchard, Tony Maher and Michael Vertigan have also declined to attend. It is believed Mr Vertigan’s decision may also have been due to the fact that he is unavailable to give evidence this month. The Delta directors who quit last month – Loftus Harris, Michael Knight, Paul Forward and Sandra Moait – are also not expected to attend due to the lack of parliamentary privilege. ”Unless privilege is provided, the Delta directors won’t show,” one source close to them said yesterday. The committee is expected to contact those who have declined invitations to attend the hearings, to clarify their reasons and to offer the option of holding closed hearings to provide the witnesses with some protection. A committee member, John Kaye, the Greens MP, said yesterday: ”Parliamentary committees have the power to summons witnesses to attend hearings, and if we don’t get sufficient witnesses, this is something we could look at doing.” The Opposition Leader, Barry O’Farrell, said the decision of directors not to attend is ”confirmation Kristina Keneally’s desperate scare tactics to intimidate witnesses into not attending have worked”. ”This is a shameful way for a Premier to behave and it shows Kristina Keneally has got something to hide … The Keneally Labor government does not want directors to explain why they quit during the midnight sale process, what impact the sale with have on future electricity prices and whether taxpayers received value for money.”

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