Call for referendum on sell-off of public assets

THE NSW Government is being urged to delay any proposed budget announcements on the sale of the state's poles and wires before the public has had the chance to vote.

Stop the Sell Off campaign director Adam Kerslake says he has the support of several National Party MPs to call on Premier Mike Baird to allow a referendum on the future of publicly-owned electricity assets.

It comes after an independent poll of voters in four key National Party-held regional seats - Ballina, Dubbo, Port Macquarie and Tamworth - unveiled what Mr Kerslake described as "overwhelming opposition" to privatisation.

Of the 2.892 voters to take part in the survey, more than 70% said they would not support the sell off.

Asked about the impact they believed privatisation would have on power prices, 82.1% feared an increase.

More than 80% said the electricity network was an essential service which should remain owned and operated by the State while little more than 12% had faith that the sale would fund vital NSW infrastructure projects like the Pacific Hwy upgrade.

Almost half said the sale would impact their vote for the Nationals at next year's State Election.

Mr Kerslake urged National Party MPs to stand up to the Premier over the sale of the major energy companies controlling electricity across the state - Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy, Essential Energy and Transgrid.

"In the last couple decades we've seen the privatisation of banks, telecommunications and aviation, and each time regional communities have suffered reductions to services, increased costs, job losses, and an impact on their local economy," he said.

"Premier Mike Baird has said repeatedly that he won't sell the electricity network poles and wires without a mandate, and what better way to seek a mandate than with a referendum that allows the people of NSW to have their say."

Recent media polls suggest that were a state election to be held now, the Coalition would maintain power but lose between 10-20 seats.

Mr Kerslake said a referendum was "common sense" and urged the government not to take lightly the sale of a public asset which delivers almost $3 billion a year to treasury.