23 January 2022

Electrical Trades Union campaign targeting 'dangerously neglected' infrastructure

| Max O'Driscoll
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Burnt electricity pole and power lines

The Electrical Trades Union is demanding upgraded poles and wires to prevent future bushfires across Australia. Photo: Supplied.

Following $10 billion worth of budget cuts during the past decade, the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) has become the target of a new national campaign courtesy of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU).

The ETU, which represents more than 15,000 electricians and electrical trades workers across the ACT and NSW, and more than 70,000 nationwide, has launched the campaign aiming to prevent further budget cuts to electrical maintenance, and help prevent bushfires and dangerous power outages.

ETU national secretary Allen Hicks said Australian lives are being put at risk by cost cutting that leaves the electrical grid “dangerously neglected”.

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“Without proactive maintenance, ageing poles and wires are a risk to everyone,” he said.

“Faulty powerlines caused five of the Black Saturday bushfires [in 2009], which killed 173 people.

“Ageing networks also put our workers at risk. They have no choice but to wait for the grid to fail, then work on unsafe infrastructure to restore it.

“This is a matter of life and death for communities and workers. We cannot wait until after a horrific bushfire for change.”

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The ETU is calling for federal and state energy ministers to stop the AER from making drastic cuts to preventative maintenance and network upgrades, and improve AER’s assessment of maintenance and upgrade proposals.

The union would also like to see an increase in job safety and security for power company employees, and let power workers fix problems that could lessen or prevent natural disasters, including bushfires, cyclones and storms.

Mr Hicks warned that delaying these actions could be devastating.

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The destruction of our electricity networks has come about from our governments’ selling off (‘privatising’) essential services. Private industry cares only about making a profit and paying dividends to their shareholders (so they look like they’re doing a good job). Private Industries generally have no interest in spending their money on maintaining or upgrading infrastructure. It’s a no-brainer. No essential service should ever be, or ever have been, privatised.
(Yes, I worked in the electrical industry (HV Network).

John O’Neill8:09 pm 24 Jan 22

Well I think the ETU and Mr Hicks have a pretty valid argument. Since the Government changed the rules and privatised the utilities with “ring fencing” and privatising the “retail sector” to market forces there has been major increases in costs to anyone requiring electrical works that was previously under the utilities umbrella. Once that privatisation occurred there was no option for the utilities other than cut cost and staffing levels and obviously maintenance suffers. Solar roofing panels contribute to loss of income to the utilities and while everyone wants cheaper electricity it comes at a major cost : maintenance.

Ian Matthews9:54 pm 23 Jan 22

The NSW State Government needs to have a good look at all the poles and wires.and Stop the cuts of its funding because its our network for our customers . the 3 Electricity Suppliers of Endeavour Energy. Ausgrid. Essential Energy. they needs to fix any Electrical Problems in its network . power poles need to be replace if necessarily. because if power poles don’t get fix in its network Electrical problems starts to happen like power lines come down and start a Fire in the bush land and it can be very Dangerous if power lines come down in a street and another thing transformers if to old it can Explode and Cause A Fire as well as chaos.Therefore our network suppler needs to keep up with the maintenance so that it does not ever happen . its part of every day routine we need to have our networks protected therefor power Companys don’t need budget cuts .

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