NSW Premier Mike Baird has put opposition parties on notice that he expects them to honour his mandate to partially privatise the state’s electricity assets.
Mr Baird wants to introduce into parliament as soon as possible the legislation to lease 49 per cent of the NSW electricity network for 99 years for about $13 billion, helping create a $20 billion infrastructure fund.
The privatisation policy had been the single biggest issue of the election, with Labor campaigning hard to keep the assets in public hands.
Despite what Mr Baird called the “biggest scare campaign in NSW history”, the coalition convincingly retained government, despite losing at least 15 of its 69 seats.
“I say not only to the upper house but to the Labor party: they have a chance to support what the people of this state have done and that’s given us the mandate to get on with it,” Mr Baird told reporters on Sunday.
But he’ll face resistance in the upper house, with the Greens steadfastly refusing to acknowledge that voters have approved the privatisation plan.
“There is no mandate that comes specifically from winning a lower house election,” Greens MLC John Kaye said.
Half of the upper house was up for re-election on Saturday and its final makeup may take weeks to finalise.
In the meantime, Mr Baird has indicated he’ll hold discussions with the upper house parties, including crossbench MLC Fred Nile.
“The sooner we can get on with it, the sooner we can start building the infrastructure,” he said.
Opposition Leader Luke Foley, despite promising that Labor would fight to keep NSW’s electricity assets in public hands “win, lose or draw”, has opened the door to a possible policy backflip.
Mr Foley said while he “expects” Labor to retain its anti-privatisation stance, it would be up to the ALP party room to review the policy.
“All policies are reviewed after an election loss,” he said.
“I believe in caucus democracy and party democracy, so if anyone wants to put an alternative view on any policy matter, we will have those discussions.”
However, he thinks the government will end up with the numbers in the upper house to get its legislation through.
Mr Baird said his first election win as premier was “very humbling” and he vowed to deliver on his promises during this term.
“I know exactly what we can do over the next four years. We’re going to work incredibly hard, and we’re determined to get on with it.”
Labor will enter the new parliament with at least 34 MPs and a renewed confidence that it can win the 2019 election.
“When we lost in 2011, the conventional wisdom was that Labor would be out of power for a generation … suddenly now, after yesterday, the next election is very winnable for Labor,” Mr Foley said.
Mr Foley will move from the upper house after winning the seat of Auburn and go head-to-head with Mr Baird in parliament.
“I’m determined over the next few months to mould a credible alternative government,” he said.
The Greens look like winning four lower house seats – the Sydney seats of Newtown and Balmain and the north coast seats of Ballina and Lismore from the Nationals.
The winners of some of the state’s tightest electoral races might not be formally declared for another three weeks, officials say.
Gosford, Strathfield, and The Entrance are considered very close, while ABC election analyst Antony Green counts Lismore among that number.