The sale of state owned assets continues to be a central plank of Liberal National Party policy – in spite of its own research, which confirms overwhelming opposition to privatisation.
The government bleats about the need to service state debt and says that the sales are in the interest of all Queenslanders. But while flogging off state assets is a financial boon to its mates in investment and development capital, it comes at the expense of the rest of us.
The shellacking that the Bligh Labor government received in the last state election is widely attributed to a voter backlash against its assets sales program. The LNP came to office assuring voters it would not continue with the sell-off. Of course, this is the same government that promised “no forced redundancies” for public servants, only to sack them in their thousands.
True to such form, the LNP has already sold off some $10 billion in state assets, including Queensland Motorways for $7.1 billion. They’ve also flogged off a number of prime pieces of real estate, which were snapped up by developers hungry to make a buck at our expense.
In a further sign of his utter contempt for the Queensland public, treasurer Tim Nicholls has confirmed that a further $37 billion of state assets would be “leased” if the government is returned at the next state election, due in the first half of 2015.
By offering 50-year leases with an option to extend, the LNP says that it has listened to the public and decided against privatisation. This is economic doublespeak. Such leasing arrangements would grant big capital a licence to print money for generations, even if the assets were returned to public ownership at some point in the future.
Unions and their supporters have been campaigning against the sales, although the focus has largely been on removing sitting LNP members from office. In a couple of recent by-elections this has indeed occurred. However, even if, as current polling predicts, there is a swing against the LNP at the election, its massive majority means it is unlikely to lose office.
The best chance of reversing the decision to lease is to use the power of the workers most affected, such as the thousands of Electrical Trade Union members, to mount a serious industrial campaign to force the government’s hand.
That would also send a clear message to prospective buyers that workers don’t take kindly to parasites, and we have the power to put them in their place.