Open letter to Doug McTaggart

Update 12/12: This was initially posted here and emailed to QIC on the morning of 10 November. As yet, no response. And, apart from a snark by Andrew Fraser, no public response to my piece in last week’s Fin pointing out that the government’s case for privatisation was entirely spurious

Dear Doug,

As you may be aware, I have been very critical of the “Myths vs Facts” booklet which is, as far as I know, the only document released by the Queensland government to present its case for sales of public assets. In today’s ABC News, you are quoted as supporting the sales and saying

It can curtail its spending on its infrastructure program and let service quality deteriorate, it can raise taxes to pay for the interest bill that’s building up, or it can rearrange its balance sheet – sell those assets which don’t have a particular need to be in Government hands and own assets that should be,

This statement appears to endorse the government’s claims that investment in non-income generating assets can be financed by the sale of income-generating assets, with no need for additional revenue to service the associated debt. In my view, these claims are obviously fallacious, and I would appreciate clarification on a number of questions. I think these questions admit an unequivocal “Yes” or “No” answer, with supporting argument if desired.

1. Do you believe that the “Facts and Myths” booklet presents a fair statement of the arguments for and against privatisation, offering Queenslanders sufficient information on which to make an informed judgement?

2. Do you endorse the statement that ‘Keeping these businesses would cost the Government $12 billion over the next five years. That’s $12 billion spent on new coal trains and new wharves that can«t be spent on roads, schools or hospitals.?

3. Do you regard the statement that “The total return from all five businesses in 2008-09 was approximately $320 million … When the sale process is completed, it is anticipated the Government will save $1.8 billion every year in interest payments” as providing a fair basis for assessing the fiscal costs and benefits of privatisation?

With my regards,
John Quiggin

Note: A previous version was addressed to Bernie Fraser, but Doug McTaggart’s comments appear more directly relevant.

130 thoughts on “Open letter to Doug McTaggart

  1. @Joseph Clark
    Joseph – you dont know what you are saying (lord have mercy on your soul lol). This isnt just any old ordinary local blog.. The questions were asked by the Prof.

  2. Alice – if I frown at you whilst recounting an experience then the frown may be an expression of what I’m thinking and feeling but it is far from being a full account. In fact if I spoke a foreign language which you did not know you could remain quite unenlightened by my frown. Elections are similar expressions that tell us a condensed version of what the community is feeling at one point in time. If they prefer Howard over Keating or Rudd over Howard they have their reasons and they reveal their preference but Howard, Keating and Rudd do not represent the community at it’s best. We can expect at least 33 federal elections in a century but this number of decision opportunities is far too low to sensibly or collaberatively resolve the mirade wants, needs or differences within the broader community. And it entails far more centralisation of decision making than is sensible.

  3. And referenda. And state government elections. And local council elections. Sure, our democracy could be improved somewhat, perhaps more voting on issue type opportunities could be incorporated, and perhaps the professional lobbyist system could be shut out/down. Nothing’s perfect.

    Would Plato’s Republic meet your requirements, or the Athenian democracy Plato criticised, the one that had Socrate’s democratically voted to be put to death by hemlock? But I digress.

    Communities have local government, for better or worse. They have representation, which is one of the methods by which our democracry allows constituency influence on government policy.
    Society has – in our case – Federal Government. Communities across Australia metaphorically come together to elect a Federal Government.

    Where I would depart agreement with you Terje, is on your view that elections are a condensed version of what the community is feeling at one point in time. Surely the voters are able to see farther than one point in time? Whether their visions are prophetic or not is another question.

  4. Where I would depart agreement with you Terje, is on your view that elections are a condensed version of what the community is feeling at one point in time. Surely the voters are able to see farther than one point in time? Whether their visions are prophetic or not is another question.

    I agree that voters try and anticipate the consequences of their action. As such it does not seem like much of a departure. I don’t see that we are in disagreement.

  5. @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Well…Doug McTaggart has gone to ground and is probably hoping the thread will sink low enough down that his name doesnt appear…so if I make a comment it brings his name back up to the top. It is a shame he doesnt engage in open debate on this issue. I would be interested in his response and I think his (current) views would be an important contribution.

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