Home > Economic policy > Bligh’s bad arguments for privatisation

Bligh’s bad arguments for privatisation

October 29th, 2009

The Bligh’s government’s original case for the asset sales announced in the June budget was that the state’s finances had deteriorated drastically since the previous assessment at the time of the March election, as part of the generally declining outlook for the world economy. That argument has collapsed as the Australian and global economies have strengthened with the result that the Queensland state budget managed a surplus for 2008-09, as opposed to the projected $500 million deficit.

It would be possible to argue for some (though not all) of the proposed privatisations on the grounds of economic efficiency, but of course arguments of this kind are no more (and, given the epic failure of financial markets seen over the past two years) arguably less valid than they were before the crisis, at which time Labor rejected them.

That leaves the argument that the asset sales will improve the state’s finances. Such arguments depend on showing that the value derived from selling the assets exceeds the value realised by keeping them in public ownership. In this opinion piece, Bligh attempts to make such a case, but the arguments involve hopelessly invalid apples-and-oranges comparisons. When a policy is defended by such obviously shoddy arguments, the only reasonable inference is that the correct assessment comes out the wrong way.

Bligh’s first claim is that

Keeping these commercial businesses going over the next five years would cost Queenslanders $12 billion on new coal trains and wharves, money that could otherwise be spent on roads, schools and hospitals.

I’ve been refuting this kind of claim for at least 15 years now, and it’s depressing to see it wheeled out again. Even if Bligh doesn’t understand the fallacy here, I’m sure the Treasury officials who prepared this line know that it is utterly bogus. The coal trains and wharves are income generating assets. Taking money intended for income generating investments and using it to fund investments that return no additional revenue to government (although they do provide services to the public) is the fiscal equivalent of selling your share portfolio to buy a new car. The car is, in a sense, an investment, but it’s not one that returns a flow of income.

As NSW State Treasury Secretary John Pearce and Victorian Treasury Secretary Ian Little pointed out some years back ‘PPPs do not provide governments with an additional bucket of money for use on infrastructure projects‘. Replace “PPPs” with asset sales, and the validity of the point is unchanged.

The second argument is even worse. Bligh writes

these businesses are not, as some claim, a cash cow from which government can endlessly draw money. In 2008-09 they generated $320 million, or less than 1 per cent of the Government’s revenue. On the other hand, the Government will save $1.8 billion every year in interest payments on the borrowings needed to sustain them as viable businesses.

I found these numbers hard to believe and did some checking. It turns out, as best I can tell, that the $320 million is the dividend paid by the enterprise to the government as owners. The $1.8 billion is the total amount of interest that would be saved by selling the assets (for the projected price of $15 billion, and avoiding further investment of $12 billion. Comparing the two is utterly invalid.

The $320 million paid to the government is made after servicing the debt of the enterprises concerned (which would be a deduction from the sale value), making tax equivalent payments (which go to the state government) and retaining some earnings. Assuming the $12 billion investment in coal is commercially justified, it would have to generate enough cash flow to cover its interest costs along with a premium based on a commercial weighted average cost of capital. The relevant comparison for interest costs is not dividend payouts but earnings before interest and tax (EBIT). For QR alone, this figure is around $700 million, and it would obviously be increased greatly by the planned new investments, assuming they are commercially justified.

I haven’t done a full-scale assessment of the fiscal implications of the proposed asset sales. But I don’t really need to. The fact that the government and Treasury have relied on such a poor analysis tells us all we need to know. If the figures came out the right way, they wouldn’t need to fudge them. To quote my CT colleague Daniel Davies Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance.

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  1. Hermit
    October 29th, 2009 at 15:23 | #1

    It would be interesting to know how much of this is coal related. If so is it a pre-emptive move to avoid the ETS compensation row that has come up in Victoria? Arguably some services albeit fee based may be what used to be called a ‘natural monopoly’. In that case perhaps they should not have make returns that will please shareholders. For example in the supply of electricity and gas to households there may be a token PR effort on handy tips for lower bills. In reality they want customers to spend spend spend. However a publicly owned enterprise may have the freedom to introduce radical policies. Private ownership creates another layer of difficulty in getting certain outcomes; then again it may be more efficient.

  2. Ikonoclast
    October 29th, 2009 at 15:23 | #2

    Which must leave us wondering whether Bligh and her government are being stupid or devious. I find it hard to believe that they are THAT stupid particularly after advice. That only leaves the conclusion that they are being devious. Why are they being devious? Whose interests are being served? Clearly, the general public interest is not being served. Therefore certain sectional (and probably corporate) interests are being served.

    Thus, in a sense, this is a conspiracy between a suborned government and sectional or special interests. Though not so defined legally (at present) it is morally speaking a conspiracy against the public interest.

  3. Richard McGuire
    October 29th, 2009 at 16:54 | #3

    I can’t wait to compare this excellent article with the government’s propaganda pamphlet that is due to lob into my letter box very soon….I would however like to approach the privatisation debate from the issue of control….As important as the cost benefit analysis arguments are, just as important, is the loss of control over an asset once it is sold….One only has to look at the federal government’s attempts to unscramble the Telstra egg….Once the Port of Bribane is sold off it will be operated and run for the benefit of its sharholders just as Telstra is….Some years down the track, probably when the current Premier and Treasurer have moved on, a future government will have more eggs to unscramble….Private ownership of important infrastucture like ports and rail lines in the medium to long term are not likely to serve the public interest.

  4. October 29th, 2009 at 20:52 | #4

    It seems astonishing that Bligh and Labor are really considering turning over public assets to the private sector given what has just happened. Maybe some deal is going down behind closed doors.

  5. stockingrate
    October 29th, 2009 at 23:35 | #5

    @Ikonoclast
    Borrow and spend, sell and spend: anything to boost preelection GDP.

  6. SeanG
    October 30th, 2009 at 08:18 | #6

    Selling assets now did not make sense during that time although the case could be made that selling assets when the Australian market is bouyant does make sense. Knock-down firesales are always a bad idea. However, the cost-benefit analysis must be rigorous. If they can derive great financial benefit from sales, then they should do it.

    Also, it is wrong to try to utilise the failing in one system and apply it across the entire private sector. If we used that logic, we could arge that Fannie and Freddie were transfer payments (because the government was the ultimate risk manager and regulator) and this means that in effect all welfare is redundant. It is poor logic and doesn’t do you credit.

  7. SeanG
    October 30th, 2009 at 08:23 | #7

    ProfQ,

    I read the article and I found this quote factually wrong:

    “The taste for financial innovation has also diminished notably following the downfall of Enron, correctly named by Fortune magazine as America’s most innovative company. As Enron shows, most financial innovations over the centuries have proved to be unsound, unworkable or just plain fraudulent. There have been enough successes to allow a steady expansion in the range of financial instruments available to businesses and governments but for every success there have been many failures.”

    Firstly, Enron was fraudulent accounting. Financial innovation was not fradulent, it was the lies, coverup and blantant mispricing of assets.

    Secondly, instead of financial innovation being seen as a bad thing, it took off after Enron.

    Enron booked expected future revenue streams as current assets and thereby artificially increased their balance sheet. They used SPVs backed with their shares as collateral to hide billions in additional debt that they took on to finance their expansion into broadband networks. None of this was placed in their financial accounts. It was not innovation, it is fraud. Innovation would have worked out fine, but they hid the losses and did not disclose them.

  8. Alice
    October 30th, 2009 at 08:41 | #8

    @Ikonoclast
    Ikono – I agree with you. The rot has already set in. The governments interests are so aligned with the interests of big business, kickbacks, donations, after political career careers, the hobnobbing with industry “”"leaders”"”, the cash for access dinners etc

    The entire political industry (yes Ill call it for what it is – just another private sector industry) in Australia is affected, state after state and Commonwealth.
    The latest insult to me and my taxes came with the news this morning that the future fund has been tax minimising by managing the fund through its off shore subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands.

    Great. Just great. So the future fund is ripping off the ATO.

    It doesnt get any worse plus the managers of the future just keep increasing their salaries to close to a million each. Good one Costello. Nicely execututed for a few mates to run it.

  9. SeanG
    October 30th, 2009 at 09:09 | #9

    OMG the world is falling in!!!!!

    I agree with Alice!!!!!

  10. Alice
    October 30th, 2009 at 09:41 | #10

    @SeanG
    If you agree with me Sean it must be falling in!
    Did you see that photo of the Rees government and their salaries in Tele (I dont read that rag but silly husband does…) Now taking those salaries on board puts them not in the top decile of personal income tax payers in this country BUT in the to 0.5 of a percent. Bastards. No wonder they keep working for the wealthy and wont do what they should as farv as economic policy goes. It is a conspiracy against the public.

    Fat cats and Fat bureacrats.

  11. Alice
    October 30th, 2009 at 09:50 | #11

    Furthermoer we have lee Rhiannon (greens saying their salaries should be frozen and then linked to the CPI).

    Lee Rhiannon – you dont go far enough. At those levels their salaries should be slashed by 30% and then reverse indexed to the CPI ie when the CPI rises 3% then their salary falls 3% UNTIL they sit aroudn 100K before their 39K allowances and they GET USED TO IT. They might just understand then how their rising energy and water prices and government charges and levies and tools and fees from privatisations and poor managemenst and services are actually affecting most Australians then. In our hip pockets. Not theirs.

    When the median income in Australia is really $27,000 per annum…this is an outrageous insult. Politicians should have a respectable salary, not one that places them in the top 0.5 of a percent of all income earners. I put these figures in before. I wont cite again.

    Who on earth do they think they are??

  12. Alice
    October 30th, 2009 at 09:53 | #12

    tolls

  13. Sea-bass
    October 30th, 2009 at 10:42 | #13

    @Alice
    Alice, the median income in Australia was about $27,000 15 years ago, it was about $31,000 3-4 years ago, so I question the validity of your statistics (note: I got this information from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, a prominent part of the rightwing blogosphere).

    The less said about the Australian Greens, the better (and to think I used to vote for them!). I still can’t believe that rampant moraliser and hater of free speech Clive Hamilton will be running for the seat of Higgins as a Greens’ candidate – their eco-fascist colours are shining through!

    As for privatisation, well, privatisation per se is a good thing, but knowing the way things around here work it will be one of these heavily regulated quasi-privatisations that involve all kinds of subsidies and kickbacks and price-controls and other such moonbat-ery. And at the slightest sign of a sub-optimal result, all the moonbats will cry foul and curse the free market.

  14. Alice
    October 30th, 2009 at 11:14 | #14

    Sea Bass – Ive told you before (and others have as well). Your self education isnt deep enough, you read too much propaganda, take it at face value, whether its right wing nonsense, left wing nonsense, the daily Tele or famous flying saucer sightings.

    Please read this and read it properly this time. The “median”!!! It was a few years ago but no later than 2005 here and Leigh is a fairly incisive investigator. Now what part of “the politicians are being paid far too much”, dont you agree with SB? Even Sean agrees with me.

    Some grace or acknowledgement here and there would help your cause SB… instead of automatically seeing the word “green” , then turning blue or purple and launching another grandiloquent ad agency sound bite ( “eco warrior” this time).

    http://econrsss.anu.edu.au/~aleigh/pdf/PoliticalEconomyTaxReformPP.pdf

  15. Alice
    October 30th, 2009 at 11:18 | #15

    “eco- fascist” I mean but I was close enough. Such a cliche.

  16. Sea-bass
    October 30th, 2009 at 12:05 | #16

    @Alice
    I actually agree, they get paid too much. But have you ever heard the phrase “power corrupts – absolute power corrupts absolutely? You want to give them more control of everything, and then get upset when they use the enormous responsibilities entrusted to them to give themselves a raise? Please. In the free market, people that perform badly either get fired or go broke, as it should be. I’m surprised you have not yet seen the error of your ways.

    By the way, your fat cats can’t survive without their fat bureaucrats. Again, you are falling into the “if only we had the right people in charge” fallacy.

    And the Greens are only into the environment because the whole Marxist revolution thing went out of fashion and they needed some other bandwagon to jump on.

  17. nanks
    October 30th, 2009 at 12:25 | #17

    Sea-bass :
    Again, you are falling into the “if only we had the right people in charge” fallacy.

    the only time I’ve ever agreed with you I think. The system is structurally incapable of responding to any issue of substance with a time scale of longer than a few weeks – or to be generous say a few years even. Either way, people are corrupted by proximity to power so it is the structure of power that must be challenged and changed.

  18. October 30th, 2009 at 13:08 | #18

    In fact, the original excuse put by Bligh, back in May, was that the flood damage on top of the other natural disasters Queensland faced this year was the straw that broke the camel’s back, but that excuse has since been quietly dropped. Perhaps it occrred to them that this excuse would have looked too similar to the excuses of Hurricane Katrina, the Boxing Day 2004 Tusnami and other natural disasters used by unscrupulous thieves to ransack the economies of New Orleans, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand etc., as chronicled so well in Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” of 2007.

    The unquoted source in John MacCarthy’s Courier Mail article “A very public problem” of 21 Oct 09 (can’t find online version) reveals that almost certainly the later GFC excuse is a lie:

    As one source said of the privatisation talks between the government and unions last week, “It would be a foolish government that wastes a good crisis.”

    As I have pointed out elsewhere, I e-mailed Andrew Fraser and Anna Bligh even before the elections were called requesting them that they reveal any intentions to flog off public assets. I pointed out the long list of assets that had been flogged off in previous years without the consent of the people. I concluded:

    Given this history, it seems to me that the Queensland public have good reason to fear that, upon re-election, your Government may proceed to sell of yet more of their assets, including Queensland Railways, electricity generators, more airports, the water grid, public buildings, public land, etc.

    The reason I write this letter is to seek your firm assurance that if you do intend to privatise any of these assets that you state your intention to do so to the public before the forthcoming elections, or, alternatively, that you will put any planned privatisations to the public at referenda.

    I repeatedly contacted them during the course of the election in an attempt to get them to either make a firm commitment against privatisation or else be prepared to publicly debate a candidate standing opposed privatisation, which, incredibly at the time, in all of Queensland, was only me.

    My requests were ignored.

    I also attempted to get the Local ABC station, particularly Madonna King (who has since managed to create an illusion of being one of Queensland’s most outspoken critics of privatisation, or, more accurately, ‘the way’ in which they went about it, rather than privatisation per se.) My attempts were ignored save one ineffectual token attempt. Much of the details can be found in the article “Brisbane ABC suppresses alternative candidates in state elections despite listener dismay with major parties” of 30 Apr 09.

    Had they simply treated as ‘newsworthy’ my well-founded and meticulously documented fears that privatisation was an indeed an issue at stake in those elections, it would have been impossible for Bligh and Fraser to have avoided the issue. They would have had to have even given an iron-clad commitment not to flog off assets, or they would have had to defend privatisation.

    In the latter case they would not be in Government today.

    In the unlikely even that the LNP also came out in favour of privatisation during the elections, all independents including myself would have received a far higher vote and many would have been elected.

    Even the Greens, in spite of their strenuous efforts to keep their anti-privatisation policy a secret from the Queensland public, would have gained and Lee Ronan and possibly, even Larrissa Waters would be sitting in the state Parliament today.

    Today there would be a hung Parliament and the hand of the 84% plus opposed to privatisation would have been immeasurably stronger.

    However, as I said, none of the ABC journalists judged privatsation ‘newsworthy’. Moreover, as Kirsten McLeod of the ABC’s Audience & Consumer Affairs section informed me in a letter of 10 June 09:

    The ABC’s approach to election coverage focuses on the Government and official Opposition on the basis that one of the two major parties will ultimately form government and thus represent the principal points of view. Whilst not discounting the views or policies of the other parties and independent candidates, coverage in respect to such parties and candidates is determined on the basis of newsworthiness. The Policies also note that the ABC reserves the right to withhold free broadcast time to political parties, including those not currently represented in the Parliament concerned, on the basis of the measure of demonstrated public support for the party.

    Consistent with this they swallowed uncritically pronouncementst by both Lawrence Springborg and a senior Government Minster — Bligh, Lucas or Fraser, I can’t remember which — that “a hung Parliament would be the worst possible outcome” (in Lawrence Springborg’s words) and they systematically refused to give any useful amount of air time to any independent (except on one occasion where the sitting rural independents were interviewed in the course of a single story) nor to even the Greens.

    Had they behaved in a slightly less blatantly biassed fashion, or had they recognised then what has since become undeniably obvious, that is, that privatisation is highly newsworthy, the outcome of the election would have been very different.

    But they didn’t and because they didn’t, the ABC is as much culpable as anyone for the appalling circumstances now faced by the Queensland public in late 2009, not only in regard to privatisation, but in regard to almost every conceivable aspect of state governance.

    The incompetence and likely corruption of the Queensland Governmet approaches that of many past fabled Third World banana republics and they are almost as unaccountable as any military dictatorship.

    The question is not whether or not the Queensland Government has a leg to stand on an more.

    The Question is are the Queensland public are going to lie down quietly as Andrew Fraser and Anna Bligh continue to destroy our quality of life and economic, social and ecoligical viability, or are we going to stand up to them?

    The unions response, in particular, is a joke, and that even includes left-wing unions. I know many workers are itching to take industrial action to stop privatisation, and letters to the Courier Mail as well as comments on online forums indicated that many members of the public, even those not normally inclined to support unionism, would have enthusiastically supported union action against privatisation.

    But they did nothing, except stage a few token protests and pursue their silly strategy of ‘convincing’ a public who has long since stated its overwhelming and consistent rejection of privatisation, that privatisation is bad.

    How would Queensland’s Unions look to unionists in other countries who have fought, and won, against military dictatorships.

    For the next two and a half years, they have seem to no better strategy to offer than for all of us to stand, metaphorically speaking, with our arms crossed, gritting our teeth and glaring at a Government that has ‘betrayed’ us, as those QR workers depicted on that large billboard are doing in Bligh’s electorate at the moment, whilst doing nothing more, in the meantime, to stop them from continuing to play out that betrayal.

    And what will happen if Labor is booted out and the LNP wins Government in 2012?

    If the LNP remains true to its current stated opposition to privatisation but finds itself bound by contracts entered into by the Bligh, then how do we reverse that?

    Personally, I would counsel the LNP Government to simply tear up those contracts, but I wouldn’t count on them doing that.

    There is no reason for the unions not to act and act today to stop privatisation.

    They need not even strike.

    They need only threaten to strike unless privatisation is put to a public referendum.

    And they need not even demand that.

    They need only demand that Bligh and or Fraser agree to justify the fire sale in a proper televised public debate (with a competent debater against privatisation), lasting at least an hour.

    If even just one of the many Trade Unions purportedly opposed to privatisation did that then the Government’s privatisation plans would be abandoned tomorrow.

    Given that the unions are unlikely to lift a finger, I think it is up to the rest of us to do something.

    I think someone should set up a pettion to the Governor calling on her to sack this Government so that new elections can be called.

    I see this as necessary in spite of the obvious difficulties:

    1. This may appear to run counter to my own strong objections to the sacking of the Whitlam Labor Government in 1975 and the sacking of the NSW State Lang Government in 1932.

    2. The Governor may not have the actual constitutional power to do so.

    Nevertheless, I believe that is essential that the Queensland public make known as emphatically as possible their objection to the blatant deceit that this Government engaged in in order to get re-elected.

    Whether of not the Governor is willing, or able to act, the people of Queensland need to make known their objection to this Government continuing to misrule this state in the way that they have.

    They need to make known to whoever it is who is considering entering into secretive contracts and deals with this Government, particularly in regard to the $15 billion fire sale, that those contracts do not have the consent of the Queensland people and that a future Government that enjoys the support of the people of Queensland should not feel bound to honour any such contracts.

  19. Alice
    October 30th, 2009 at 13:40 | #19

    @nanks
    I agree with Nanks. The only way we have to do that is to vote to destabilise and shift existing power structures away from the over remunerated major political parties who have become way too comfortable with their hobnobbing. They wont change unless we change them at every opportunity. Whether you vote Greens or independents its a good move (only choose your indepedents with care..last thing we need is the shooters party getting up or more Fred Niles)…whether you agree with their platforms or not but obviously you have to get as close to what you want without subscribing to the “popular platforms” of the majors (even if you do believe in them) and then have them get in and do precisely none of it and initiate no positive changes again and again ad nauseum.

    There is a seconday benefit from this – if enough in an electorate vote to send the electorate marginal then the incumbent parties start showering resources on it, such is their anxiety to maintain their power.

  20. Alice
    October 30th, 2009 at 13:51 | #20

    @Sea-bass
    Sea Bass

    You say “Please. In the free market, people that perform badly either get fired or go broke, as it should be. ”

    No they dont Sea Bass. Many stay at the top of the corporate structure getting vastly overpaid for poor performances without getting sacked or going broke (and often they can even drive a company broke or into a takeover against the shareholders interests, if they pick up a big enough kickback). Did Goldman go broke Sean? By your reasoning it should have but it didnt and neither are fatcat executives salaries or performances indicated as some endogenous factor of free markets.

    Thats where your reasoning is wrong Sea Bass. The markets are not free, and never will be, and nothing you do can make them free and if you could it wont help. You can control the ability of others to exert control frauduently and you can only do that with responsible regulation and legislation not irresponsible de-regulation.

    Fine that you dont want a lazy ineffective self interested overpaid government (I agree) but at least permit individuals access to the legal system which they cant do when de-regulation and removing all controls is extreme (plus you cant remove them – there are hideous theiving controls on firms that powerful individuals and groups exert against shareholders even if you did de-regulate all). Dont forget also we dont have the choice NOT to put money into super and choosing between one opaque fund and another is no choice and MOST of them are opaque.

  21. Jamie Johnson
    October 30th, 2009 at 17:02 | #21

    I was wondering if there is a refutation of modern money theory (MMT) floating around that our favourite neo-classical economists can roll out to stop the silliness of suggesting that the federal government, as the issuer of the currency, does not have to go to the debt markets for deficit financing but can simply pay for government services (including essential infrastructure) from the government account.

    If this is the case, then the fire sale of Queensland assets to remedy the Federal/State fiscal imbalance is a fallacy built on an irrational assumption.

    Needless to say, MMT does recognise real constraints in the economy, and has to be managed accordingly. But if the only reason for issuing commonwealth debt is to placate the currency traders then it would have to be seen as a discipline that fails the Australian community for the sole benefit of a vocal and belligerent minority who assume some sort of authority as the harbingers of financial markets.

    And if MMT cannot be refuted, then economy as science must be discredited (as if that is not already the case) and neo-classical economics becomes a social theory for the control and redistribution of wealth (the Oligarchywealth as opposed to the Commonwealth) that can be shown to have failed miserably over the last thirty years with the increasing divergence of equity and justice indicators.

    As a country we sell our children into peonage to purchase a roof over their head, and then turn and say that this is the market in action. Perhaps it is no more a rational market than the subconscious desire to punish the other, particularly the poor, incapable, unspoken for, maladjusted and just plain different.

    Only wondering.

  22. barry
    October 30th, 2009 at 17:50 | #22

    @Ikonoclast
    Agree with the idea the govt knows the asset sale is against public interest. I would like to know who exactly is recommending this line of action. As you mention, there appears to be ‘certain sectional (and probably corporate) interests’ involved.

    When I heard of proposed asset sales, my first thought was Naomi Klein and her theory of Disaster Capitalism – the corporate takeover of public assets and services during times of economic distress following natural disasters or in this case man-made disaster – GFC.

    Would not be surprised if the advisors to QLD govt pre the GFC & Budget collapse are the same ones advising what to do now (to benefit some casino capitalists).

    I really feel like we are being duded.

  23. barry
    October 30th, 2009 at 17:55 | #23

    @daggett
    ‘They need only threaten to strike unless privatisation is put to a public referendum.’

    Good idea. That is all the Unions need to do. Put it to a REFERENDUM.

  24. Alice
    October 30th, 2009 at 18:04 | #24

    Barry – when labor state politicians salaries are over 200 and 300K they dont give a damn about the rest of us – only what deals they can do with private sector top income earners like themelves. Its not about governance any more – its about kicking their lifetime incomes along.

    Im disgusted that that Nathan Reesn (Nathan Rees Loser – “NRL” thinks for one minute he or a representative in his PATHETIC government is worth 351K or even that Carmel Tebbut and others are worth over 220K (she who has never been known to do a decent thing ever while she was education minister except display a frozen half smile…).

    Im really angry – how dare they pass themselves off as politicians? That we have sunk this low without noticing reflects on all of us.

  25. Alice
    October 30th, 2009 at 18:06 | #25

    @barry
    We ARE being DUDDED Barry BIGTIME.

  26. Michael of Summer Hill
    October 30th, 2009 at 18:58 | #26

    Barry, if the French unionists can stop their government from privatising the French Postal Service then there is still hope that Australian unionists could deny the Bligh government the opportunity from privatising Qld public assets. Remember it is not over till the fat lady sings.

  27. SeanG
    October 30th, 2009 at 20:05 | #27

    The French unionists would strike if anyone touched their extraordinary benefits. They’d strike over anything. It is quite amazing to see the number of secondary strikes that can hit France.

    It is not a model I would expect Aussie unions to follow.

  28. SeanG
    October 30th, 2009 at 20:16 | #28

    @Alice

    Politicians are from a political class. That is their profession and they get paid very well for it. What is happening is that because they have no transferrable skill set, they are reliant on re-elections in order to keep them employed. That means that they are more reliant on donors and using their arbitrary decision-making power which breeds corruption.

    Ask yourself this question – what transferrable skill does Rees have?

    Compare the pollies today to those of twenty years ago and see the quality fade.

  29. October 31st, 2009 at 01:09 | #29

    Thanks Barry. Glad to know I have struck a chord with you.

    Interesting that some here are aware of how French Unionists have stopped the privatation of their postal system. As it happens, there is an article about that (not wrtitten by me) on my blog site. It is “French organise national resistance to Privatisation of Post Office” of 5 Oct 09. It was written by Sheila Newman, based on a French Language news story she watched on the Internet.

    Had anyone read that appalling article ” Queensland asset sell off the only choice” in the Courier Mail of Monday 26 October by Anna Bligh in defence of the fire sale? She wrote:

    I didn’t take on the premiership to squib on the tough choices. I’m prepared to stare down the critics … in order to do what’s right.

    As I responded on an anti-privatisation mailing list:

    ‘Staring down’ also happens to be a favourite catch-phrase of News Limited journalists. I know it has already been used at least once by a Courier Mail journalist to depict the way she got the Labor Party state conference to rubber stamp her fire sale plans.

    It has also been used on at least one occasion by Imre Saluzinsky, the chief pro-electricity-privatisation propagandist for the Australian newspaper. Please see “Media contempt for facts in NSW electricity privatisation debate” of 18 Sep 08. (Unfortunately, at the time I wrote the article, I could not find the article in which Saluzinsky lauded Iemma and Costa for having ‘stared down’ the Labor Party following the state Labor Party’s roughly 7 to 1 repudiation of privatisation at the state conference of May 08.)

    I somehow doubt if 84%+ of Queenslanders, opposed to privatisation, would have taken too kindly to them having been “stared down” by Bligh over her privatisation plans during the March elections.

  30. Alice
    October 31st, 2009 at 06:39 | #30

    @SeanG
    Sean -what Id like to do is see where their salaries were twenty, thirty, forty and fifty years ago on average. I would be surprised if they fell into the top income earners bracket and as a matter of principle, so that they dont align their objectives with this class, they shouldnt earn so much. Backbenchers dont and are likely fine (yet when you add their outrageously generous superannuation benefits they would as well). Its just an insult to the overwhelming majority of Australians. To even think that Rees or Bligh with their continued privatisation firesales and their utterly contemptuous neglect of infrastructure needs is worth that is absurd.

    I didnt hear you say they were worth it did I Sean?

    Forget the pat hackneyed jargon like “transferrable skills” Sean. It makes you sound like a twenty something recruitment agent. They cant judge a candidate properly so they ask people to list their “transferrable skills” and basically it means little.

  31. SeanG
    October 31st, 2009 at 06:43 | #31

    They aren’t worth enough to me to lick my shoe after I walked through a cow paddock.

    When I mean “transferrable skills” I mean that they have enough life experience that they can go back into a previous profession. A professional politician can’t do much but a person who has had some real life experience means that they will not feel needed to have to win because they know they couldn’t get a job elsewhere.

  32. Alice
    October 31st, 2009 at 06:53 | #32

    @SeanG
    Sean – every few years we get another pat expression – now a few years ago it was “hit the ground running”, and of course “transferrable skills”

    and then there is the fabulous overuse of the word “platforms” to launch everything from a “strategic vision” to a “moon landing” and then there was “global combined with strategic” ie the worst I ever heard was “we are a regional global university with a strategic vision”. I wont dob in the uni by telling you who it was.

    How about “our global platform matrix of objectives helps us to achieve a strategically aligned visonary approach to our clients”….

    blather, blather blather….

    I just detest these intangible meaningless unpackable for all occasions “takeaway” expressions.

    Can any body think of any more?.

  33. SeanG
    October 31st, 2009 at 06:58 | #33

    The difference is that a transferrable skill is something like being a doctor in real life before being a pollie. Not like managerial-speech like some sort of MBA professor on steroids and cocaine at the same time. Most pollies talk like that because it sounds good rather than being honest.

    I can bring up a lot of Rudd-speak.

    One of the best lines I heard was from a British politician Lord Peter Mandelson and watch how he handle the question about his title: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TdQb6seAdJM

    BTW, his title is Baron Mandelson, of Foy in the County of Herefordshire and of Hartlepool in the County of Durham, First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, President of the Board of Trade and Lord President of the Council.

    But hear his response about his title because it is a title with a purpose.

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