This week saw the Turnbull government monstering AGL to keep its loss-making power plant open.
That’s right, a Liberal government, supposedly the champion of private enterprise, telling a business to keep its unprofitable operations open.
That of course followed the warning from the Australian Energy Market Operator that the closure of Liddell would lead to blackouts. And that could cost the government votes. The Turnbull government is trying to assert control over AGL to keep a lid on power prices.
But the Liberals had actually sold Liddell to AGL. What this shows is the political stupidity of privatising key assets like key assets like electricity. It will affect everyone who votes.
Back in 2014, the New South Wales government sold the 2000MW power station for zero dollars
NSW was just keen to get the plant off its books to avoid the liability associated with the cost of remediation when they close it. Coal fired power stations are part of a dying industry.
The government had failed to impose new and modernised conditions when it sold Liddell and Bayswater power stations.
The result: AGL can close it when it sees fit, regardless of what the government says.
The bottom line is that Liddell is the oldest coal-fired power station still running in Australia and AGL notes that it is likely to be more unreliable as it nears the end of its life.
The stupidity of the politicians is compounded by reports that NSW might now buy the power station back from AGL.
It’s all reminiscent of the comment from the late businessman Kerry Packer who said “You only get one Alan Bond in your lifetime, and I’ve had mine”.
It was a reference to the three year period in which Packer first sold the Nine Network to Alan Bond, reportedly for over $1 billion, in 1987 only to buy it back for a quarter of that price.
AGL might be saying that about the Liberal Party.