Liberal National Party Premier Campbell Newman has failed to convince Queensland workers that more assets need to be sold-off to reduce state debt.
Since mid-April, the state government has run a $6 million “Strong Choices” media campaign, which it claims is part of a commitment to “an open dialogue with Queenslanders about the challenges, opportunities and choices that confront us’’.
The centrepiece of the “consultation” is the Strong Choices website, which has received more than 50,000 submissions commenting on the three options on offer: increasing taxes, reducing services and the sale or lease of state assets.
The loss of more than 12,000 public service positions, cutbacks to vital community services and hikes in utility and transport costs have already hit hard. Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming majority of responses have opposed the sell-off or leasing of assets and called for an increase in taxes – specifically on mining and gambling.
Queensland is undergoing unprecedented economic expansion. The rate of growth has been high for the last 15 years (apart from a blip following the global financial crisis), and greater than any other state.
Yet the Queensland Resources Council has been promised no increase on state mining royalties for at least 10 years. “Raising those sorts of taxes may have an impact on jobs, on economic growth, on mines being developed and tourism’’, Treasurer Tim Nichols told ABC Radio on 11 May.
Such is the two-faced nature of the LNP government that, in the wake of an announcement by rail corporation Aurizon (formerly part of Qld Rail) on 7 May that 480 rail maintenance positions were being cut, Newman told reporters: “People know these things happen with privatisation.’’
Unions such as the Electrical Trades Union have been vocal in opposition to the Strong Choices campaign and the privatisation agenda of the Newman government, and have organised petition campaigns and where possible mobilisations of members at regional community consultation meetings.
But much more is needed to tap the sentiment against privatisation and growing opposition to the LNP government. Only a concerted campaign of industrial action led by unions, along with community protests, can guarantee a halt to public asset sell-offs and the protection of jobs and services.