I spoke yesterday at a Forum on the Bligh government’s privatisation program. I got a presentation ready (it’s over the fold) but spoke off the cuff instead.
As well as my oft-stated critique of the government’s case for privatisation, I took a look at the broader budget problems facing Queensland. Although the government has overstated these problems to promote the privatisation push, they are real enough.
The fundamental problem is that the government is committed both to high quality service and to keeping Queensland a low tax state. According to standard measures, Queensland’s tax effort is about 85 per cent of the Australian average, which amounts to a shortfall of around $1.5 billion, or pretty much the gap the government is trying to fill. In addition, Queensland provides more business subsidies and incentives than any other state, most notably the indefensible Investment Incentives Scheme. To the extent that these incentives actually attract new business to the state they increase the demands on infrastructure and thereby create even more problems. Mostly, though, they are just a waste of money.
The government has committed itself clearly and publicly to providing Queenslanders with services that are as good as those in other states. That can’t be done while also holding down tax revenue.
Looking at the political situation regarding the asset sales, it seems to me unlikely that they can be stopped while Bligh and Fraser are in charge, and unlikely that Labor will change leaders unless electoral defeat appears inevitable. I’ve therefore concluded that, in the absence of such a change, I’ll be giving the Greens my first preference and the LNP my second.
In a democracy, it’s important that parties should alternate in office to some extent, and it follows that it can’t be reasonable always to prefer one major party to the other. As a general rule this hasn’t had any practical implications for my vote – for most of my life, long-running Labor governments were a rarity. But Queensland Labor has been in for 20 years, with only a brief interruption under Borbidge, and it shows. It looks like it’s time to give the other side a go, unimpressive as they are.
Update More from Mark Bahnisch at LP