January 6, 2015
Source: The Daily Telegraph
Author: Alicia Wood and Andrew Clennell
NEW Labor leader Luke Foley will continue to oppose Premier Mike Baird’s $20 billion sale of electricity poles and wires to fund infrastructure — but said he was not ideologically opposed to privatisation.
Mr Foley was yesterday elected NSW Labor leader unopposed in a caucus ballot — less than three months before the election — and said he would work constructively with Mr Baird on policy with which he agreed.
His elevation came after John Robertson was forced to resign as Labor leader in December when it was revealed he signed a letter of advocacy for Lindt cafe gunman Man Haron Monis.
Mr Foley confirmed Mr Robertson had turned down a chance to remain on the opposition frontbench.
Michael Daley will continue as opposition treasury spokesman and Linda Burney will continue as deputy leader.
Mr Foley is expected to unveil his full frontbench in coming days but said it would be largely unchanged, though he will take the job of infrastructure spokesman.
He said he supported the government’s sale of Port Kembla and Port Botany for $5 billion, and the sale of the Port of Newcastle for $1.75 billion.
“On privatisation can I say I am not an ideologue? I support an enterprising private sector and an effective public sector working side by side in the interests of this state,” Mr Foley said
“I can endorse the sale of the ports. I don’t think NSW needs to own the ports corporations.
“But when it comes to the electricity network — the transmission and distribution network, poles and wires into every home and business in New South Wales …
“Labor says that electricity distribution and transmission network and our water and sewerage services should remain in public hands. It’s not an ideological view.”
Mr Foley said his priorities would be to invest in schools and hospitals. He said he would release a costed infrastructure plan before the election.
Mr Foley said he wanted to boost the jobs market in Western Sydney and regional NSW and said he “was in it to win” the election.
He will leave the party’s left-wing faction and be an “independent”, non-factional leader in the model of former premier Neville Wran.
The Labor Party’s national executive yesterday cancelled the preselection for the seat of Auburn. It reopened nominations until Thursday and Mr Foley has confirmed he will seek endorsement as the candidate through a rank-and-file ballot. The result will be announced on January 17.
The previous Auburn preselection — contested by sitting MP Barbara Perry and Hicham Zraika — was beset by allegations of branch stacking.
Galaxy pollster David Briggs said it would be difficult for Mr Foley to make headway against the hugely popular Mr Baird, and a change in leadership did not always result in a poll bump: “It comes down to personality. There is very little time (for Mr Foley) to develop a profile among the electorate.’’
A senior Labor source said the party expected to pick up between 15 and 20 seats under Mr Foley. But NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance said Mr Foley was no different to Mr Robertson, and had “failed … his only test” by not backing the poles and wires sale.
Sydney Business Chamber CEO Patricia Forsythe said Mr Foley must explain how Labor would fund new infrastructure if it continued to oppose the sale.
Committee for Sydney CEO Dr Tim Williams suggested Mr Foley could revitalise Labor’s fortunes: “Sydney can only benefit from there being a real contest.”
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