ETU campaign demands upgrade of Australia’s poles and wires to prevent bushfires

powerlines touching trees (united energy)
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The Electrical Trades Union (ETU) has launched a multi-platform national campaign to force the Australian Energy Regulator (AER) to stop cuts to electrical maintenance in order to prevent deadly bushfires and dangerous power outages.

The Australian Energy Regulator has slashed electricity companies’ operations budgets by $10 billion over the past 10 years. 

ETU national secretary Allen Hicks said this had resulted in cuts to maintenance and upgrades and was putting Australians’ lives at risk.

Related article: Powercor begins major pole replacement program

“The Australian Energy Regulator’s cost cutting over the past decade has left our grid dangerously neglected,” Hicks said.

“Without proactive maintenance, ageing poles and wires are a risk to everyone. Faulty power lines caused five of the Black Saturday bushfires that killed 173 people. 

“Rickety old poles and wires were wiped out by storms in South Australia and Melbourne and needed to be entirely replaced, leaving people without electricity for more than a week. 

“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. 

“Commonwealth and state governments need to act now, before a coroner’s report forces them to.” 

Related article: Powercor pleads guilty over Terang fire

The ETU is calling for federal and state energy ministers to: 

  • Change the AER’s decision making process to stop drastic cuts to preventative maintenance and network upgrades
  • Improve the AER’s assessment of maintenance and upgrade proposals
  • Increase safety and job security for members working at power companies
  • Let power workers fix the problems to lessen or prevent the worst of bushfires, cyclones and storms.
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