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Aurora sale in doubt (no surprises)

Power pledge in jeopardy

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THE State Government could be forced to pull the plug on Tasmania’s landmark energy reforms on the back of undisclosed advice from Treasury.

Energy Minister Bryan Green yesterday confirmed bidding by potential buyers of Aurora Energy’s customer base had been closed almost three weeks before the planned October 14 cut-off.

Tasmanians were counting on the sale of Aurora to inject competition into the local power retail market for the first time.

It was expected at least two interstate companies would fight for a share of Tasmania’s electricity market and offer customers cheaper power.

The reform was due to come into effect on January 1 and the Government has already spent $50 million on the process.

Mr Green said there were parties interested in looking at Aurora’s books, but he would not say how many.

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Opposition Energy spokesman Matthew Groom said the process had turned into another costly debacle.

Mr Green said a ministerial statement would tell the public what was going on.

He said Treasury had told Cabinet on Monday that the circumstances surrounding the sale of Aurora’s customer base had changed.

But he said the Government was still committed to the energy reform process.

Mr Green admitted the public airing of issues connected with the reform process by the Tasmanian Liberals had forced his hand to close the bidding room.

The Tasmanian Greens yesterday said any failure to secure buyers for Aurora Energy would be an energy policy train wreck caused solely by the Labor and Liberal parties’ refusal to support the Greens’ proposal to reform the wholesale market.

Greens Energy spokesperson Kim Booth said the sale of Aurora was almost set up to fail.

“We said all along that failure to address wholesale competition will not only wash the value off Aurora, it will make it difficult to sell off Aurora’s customer base,” he said.

Mr Groom said Labor and the Greens had to be dragged kicking and screaming to support the Liberals’ call to introduce competition into the market.

“And now they have completely stuffed it up, leaving Tasmanians with a $50 million bill,” he said.

“This failure has all the hallmarks of the pre-2010 TOTE sale failure, where Labor also bungled the sale process, leaving taxpayers with a $30 million a year funding deed and ultimately selling the TOTE at a fire-sale price.

“Tasmanians would be scratching their heads wondering how Labor and the Greens could stuff up selling a profit-making business like Aurora.”

Sourced from The Mercury

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By Scott Evans

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