Asset Privatisation

Speaking in support of a motion calling out the Government’s continued obsession with privatisation of essential services and infrastructure, Abigail called for publicly owned and operated services and against the politics of austerity.

Ms ABIGAIL BOYD (21:10:42): The Greens support this motion. We agree that privatisation of public assets has reduced productivity and increased prices for the community. Of course not everyone has been a loser from the sell-offs. Huge corporations and wealthy individuals have made a killing. One of the best examples is the sale of Vales Point power station which we know well in this House. It was bought for just $1 million in 2015 by Sunset Power and Trevor St Baker. Two years later they revalued it at $730 million. The shareholders then lined their pockets with nearly $40 million through a share buyback.

The public is not fooled. In 2015 polls were conducted in the lead-up to the electricity sell-off in New South Wales. In South Australia, only 8 per cent said they were better off after 20 years of privatisation. In Victoria, just 14 per cent said they were better off. The flip side though is that despite decades of propaganda, renationalising assets and putting them back in public hands is becoming increasingly popular. In 2016 the British Labour Party took to its election a commitment to renationalise water, electricity, gas and rail industries. It was the first time in recent memory that a major political party in a comparable country had taken a strong anti‑privatisation agenda to the people. The Conservatives were reduced to minority government and Labour won the biggest swing since World War II.

In addition to giving away the store and ripping off the community, privatisation has stripped the Government of its independence, making it dependent on external profit-driven bodies. Privatisation has also gutted the internal skills and knowledge resources of the public service. But of course the work that public servants used to do still has to be done. Documents released in 2018 showed that the Liberal-Nationals Government had spent almost $2 billion of public funds on external consultants and temporary staff since 2011. The Government continually claims that this is a great deal for the people of New South Wales. However in August it was revealed that at least one of these consultancy firms was charging up to $16,000 per day to advise on work the Government used to do itself. For these reasons—and so many others—we support this motion.

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