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If the unions get off their knees, privatisation can be stopped

In spite of the fact that 79% of the Queensland public oppose privatisation, 66% would support industrial action to stop the Bligh Government's $15 billion fire sale and many union members have expressed a willingness to strike, the Queensland unions have failed to take the only action that could possibly cause the Queensland Government to change its mind.

See also: Queensland Not For Sale - the Qld Council of Union's anti-privatisation web site, Railing against privatisation by Daniel Hurst in the SMH of 29 Apr 10, Paul Lucas heckled at Labour Day march in Brisbane, as PM talks up super changes of 3 May 10, ETU raises white flag in fight against Queensland fire sale - Why? of 30 Apr 10.

The following is taken from a PDF leaflet (69KB) I intended to distribute on Labor Day. Unfortunately, a friend's photocopier, which I had been relying upon to duplicate these broke down, so they were not distributed. Some of the material is borrowed from my article ETU raises white flag in fight against Queensland fire sale - Why? of 30 Apr 10. - JS

In disregard of the wishes of 79% of the Queensland public, the Bligh government is pushing ahead with plans to sell off $15 billion of our assets.

Example of billboard featuring angry union members. Were
these ever intended by our union officials to be more than
empty bombast?

When the fire sale was first announced, in May 2009, 2 months after the elections, the outcry from the Queensland public was unprecedented. In the following months talk-back shows, newspaper letter columns and online forums were overwhelmed with opposition to the sale. Many people previously unsympathetic to trade unionism actually pledged their support for any industrial action against the sale.

That industrial action would have enjoyed public support was confirmed in December when a Courier-Mail online poll indicated 66% public support for the Redbank railway workers who struck upon learning their workshops were to be included in Fraser's privatisation plans.

The following motion was carried unanimously by a mass meeting of AMWU members at the Redbank workshops in June 2009:

This meeting of AMWU members condemns the asset sales devised by the ALP state Labor Government. We recognise that without a sustained campaign of industrial action, nothing will stop the sales from proceeding. Anna Bligh herself has said that she won't negotiate on the sell-off. We need to force her hand and the only way we can do that is industrially. We need an ongoing campaign of industrial action through rolling strikes in conjunction with community protests. We demand that our state secretary approves of any industrial action worked out collectively by the membership and seeks the support of the other railway unions.

Yet the unions failed to act.

Instead, they decided to undertake a long drawn-out campaign with redundant priorities, notably to 'convince' a public already solidly on-side. They also warned the Bligh Government of terrible retribution at the ballot box in 2012.

They seemed not to realise that the delay involved in an unnecessary attempt to convince the minority 16% of the Queensland public to oppose the sell-off would assist the further legislative and financial entrenchment of the sales (for example the $200 million paid to the commercial banks to oversee privatisation).

At a privatisation forum on 10 April, Queensland ETU Branch Secretary, Peter Simpson gave his view that the fight against privatisation was already lost, as I recollect, for the reasons decribed above. In view of Simpson's gloomy prognosis, perhaps union members and the broader public that had looked to unions such as the ETU to show leadership are entitled to know:

  1. 1.The reasons the unions had for relying on their campaign thus far to convince Bligh and Fraser to change their minds;
  2. If the unions truly imagined that their feeble campaign would succeed, at what point did it finally dawn on them that it would not; and
  3. Why, at that point, did the unions not give their members the choice of taking the stronger action that would have been necessary for success?

In fact, although the fight has been made needlessly more difficult, the fight to stop privatisation is far from over.

Any union, which stands up to the Bligh Government, is almost certainly assured of overwhelming support from the Queensland public, disgusted by this Government's dictatorial arrogance and wanton deception in the 2009 elections.

An excuse sometimes offered to not take industrial action is the fear that the unionists may face punitive fines under anti-union laws inherited from the Howard Government. However, when railway workers struck against privatisation last December, the Bligh Government dared not invoke these laws against them and there is no reason to assume that they would dare do so now against workers striking against policies opposed by more than 79% of the Queensland public.

What you can do: Demand that your unions call meetings to give you the choice of whether or not to oppose privatisation with industrial action. Support other unions which take industrial action. Send me a copy of any motions carried, so that I can make these known to others on

James Sinnamon, Brisbane Independent for Truth, Democracy, the Environment and Economic Justice, Australian Federal elections, 2010.

james[AT], 0412 319669, PO Box 86, Red Hill Qld 4059
See also:

See also: Queensland Not For Sale - the Qld Council of Union's anti-privatisation web site, Railing against privatisation by Daniel Hurst in the SMH of 29 Apr 10, Paul Lucas heckled at Labour Day march in Brisbane, as PM talks up super changes of 3 May 10, ETU raises white flag in fight against Queensland fire sale - Why? of 30 Apr 10.

PDF icon PrivatisationCanBeStopped-2may10.pdf68.86 KB
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The reason that privatisation of public assets is bad is that instead of encouraging the 'innovation' and 'expertise' trumpeted by government PR, all it does is set up a cosy arrangement between private operators and the government bureaucracy, where both parties have an incentive to collude against the public's best interests. Profits become the main reason for continuing, not management of public funds to provide a public service. In the operator's case an aim is to minimise its costs, and in the bureaucracy's case to protect the government from political damage.

Jeff Kennett started privatisation in Victoria as an 'easy way out' of debt.
He privatized public transport, electricity, favoured private education by cutting funding to schools, closed a lot of schools, and other public services. But then people realise he didn't get rid of the debt. He just let someone else take over these things so there's no debt. And now we are paying more while the government says they are in 'surplus'. Some government activities may be unsuited to outsourcing. It means we have a "skills shortage" due to lack of apprenticeships and jobs.

A decade after the Kennett privatisation push - which extended to hospitals, prisons and toll roads - the radical changes are showing mixed and questionable results. Public debt was cut from a crippling 30 per cent of Victoria's gross domestic product to 1 per cent. The problem is that there has been very little independent evaluation of the real benefits or otherwise that have resulted from privatisation in Victoria. Victoria's state debt was slashed, and history has shown the Kennett government negotiated exceptional prices for many of the assets sold.
Most of the private investors that bought assets have subsequently struggled to generate an acceptable return on them.

Fifty-thousand public servants were retrenched in the privatisation process. As well, 350 government schools were closed, 7,000 teaching jobs removed. At the same time, reforms were made in state education including self-management, increased use of technology and greater emphasis on literacy and numeracy skills. The government forced through amalgamations of local councils, and also reduced their powers.
The social cost of the Kennett reforms was considered high by many commentators, academics and those who suffered economically and provoked a campaign of demonstrations by trade unions and community groups. The government's sharp cuts to government services were particularly resented in country Victoria,

The 1999 election meant that the Liberals lost 13 seats to Labor, most of them in regional centres such as Ballarat and Bendigo, and to three Independents in rural areas. Maybe Anna Bligh should take a lesson from Victoria's history!

The lying spin to unions of Bligh Labor last weekend was palpable.

Enough is enough! The union movement has blatantly been betrayed by Labor and repeatedly.

It would seem prudent that for any Government experimenting with an untried policy, to first consult with its electorate to demonstrate empirical proof of performance for such untried ideas, or ones proven to have failed on expectation elsewhere.

Why should established society's investment heritage be gambled on unproven political ideas and empty spin promises? Established society has invested in their values, property and lifestyle such to not permit all that be gambled away on some politician's insecure empty promise.

Privatisation is a worn methodology that governments have abused in order to acquire cheap new revenue out of selling off public assets not theirs to sell. The benefit delivers only to the government coffers of the day, but such is a short term gain and unwisely forgoes the surety of long term revenue.

Such a profiteering strategy only plays to the shortsighted election cycle of a short-sighted politician. It is at the end of the day selling the public farm without democratic right.

It is so Cesarean and immorally exploitative of a trusted electorate.

The union movement should accept that Labor across Queensland has abandoned them and their cause for the ordinary worker just to allow Anna Bligh unjustly remain in power. The union movement, to survive, needs to hold its heritage pride and immediately distance itself from a corrupt Labor Party to conceive a brand new ideological political party committed to the cause of workers rights.

Whatever that party be, it must only hold workers's rights as principle absolute.


Could not agree with you more James.

I am utterly against the privitization policies of Anna Bligh. My attempts to draw attention to my concerns about her asset sale policies failed, but I will persist. I remain seriously concerned and believe that this particular Head of Government should be urgently replaced within the Labour Party. The Council of Australian Governments needs to have a different Queensland representative on it.

I have concerns about energy policy in several States including Victoria, Queensland, NSW, ACT and South Australia. These concerns are closely associated with policies for disaggregation and sale of assets, property development and asset management practices that are common practice but not necessarily consistent with a range of laws already in place and those proposed, including generic laws, tenancy laws, owners’ corporations provisions; trade measurement provisions (proposed and pending lifting of remaining utility exemptions). In the case of Queensland certain warranties and assurances were made to purchasers of both contestable and uncontestable assets.

See Energy (Restructuring and Disposal) Bill 2006 reported in Hansard 11 and 12 October 2006, and the warranties and guarantees made during the sale and disaggregation of energy assets.

See the Queensland Auditor-General's 2007 Report with emphasis on energy asset sales and policies.

Today I had occasion to write to the Prime Minister drawing attention in the first place to dissatisfaction with the governance and accountability of Anna Bligh as Premier of Queensland, copying that correspondence to other including the Queensland Auditor General. Though the Queensland matters are in some ways unique there are similarities with regard to the adoption and application of certain policies that also apply to other States including Victoria. I will elaborate further at a future stage.

There seems to be nationwide dissatisfaction with the governance and accountability of Anna Bligh as Queensland Premier and a member of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

Dissatisfaction with Anna’ Bligh’s governance and accountability appears to be reaching feverish levels despite some supporters. Something needs to be done to stem the ebbing confidence in the current Government.

Last night I read an article online published by Inside authored by Jane Goodall, an independent writer and Adjunct Professor at the Faculty of Arts, University of Southern Queensland. The article pictures Julia Gillard as Prime Minister beside the Queensland Premier Anna Bligh. I endorse the succinct views expressed by Stephen Le Page as follows:

Hate campaign”?…”Media vilification”? Because Bligh is a female politician? Hardly. Most -if not all – the criticism is being leveled at someone unable to come up with realistic policies. The Labor government in Queensland is tired and Bligh seems unable to cope with the challenges. It has nothing to do with gender and it is a pity Goodall discloses her own bias right at the end of an otherwise balanced article.

My attempt to respond to the article awaits moderation. Perhaps it was censored. I am keen to provide some public feedback and also to alert the Prime Minister and Jane Goodall personally as to my concerns. I share the view that the otherwise worthy article was compromised when the author revealed her biases. In addition I am copying this for the attention of the Queensland Auditor-General who will undoubtedly recall his 2007 report and reservations expressed therein.
There has been long-standing unrest about Anna Bligh and her policies, especially with regard to her privitization schemes and accountability. Many would like to see a different leader in Queensland. When can the public expect that?

On November 2009 in an article entitled “Anna Bligh admits failure to communicate”

Andrew Fraser had reported in The Australian that Ms Bligh has been under strong attack from unions as well as the Liberal National Party (LNP) over the asset sale program. Fraser reported on Bligh’s concession that that “she could have better explained her government’s decision to sell $15 billion worth of state assets.

I am not of the view that there is room to place any confidence in Anna Bligh's decision-making processes. Perhaps the new Prime Minister will see fit to address widespread and long-standing concerns about governance and decision-making in Queensland. I would be extremely sorry to see Anna Bligh remain in politics - anywhere. It is more than time for someone else to take her place within the Labour Party. I cannot possibly support her decisions, especially the manner in which she has handled the sale and disaggregation of energy and other assets.
There is nothing new in concerns about accountability under Anna Bligh's governance. Her policies regarding disaggregation of public assets without any due regard for minimal levels of accountability have been topics of heated discussion since she took the charge and well before that during her time as Treasurer and Minister for Mines and Energy. See for example decisions associated with the inappropriate sale and disaggregation of energy assets under the Energy Assets (Restructuring and Disposal) Bill 2006, which was rushed through the Queensland Parliament on 11 and 12 October in the face of considerable opposition.

As to the inappropriate “bulk hot water policies” adopted in Queensland and in other states, apparently violating the fundamental principles of government and non-government owned monopolies – that is another story – see my widely published material within the public consultation arena.

Otherwise contact me directly to ascertain what the concerns are about. At a larger scale, these policies as adopted are contributing significantly towards detriments and alleged flaunting of existing legislative provisions including under s47 (exclusive dealings) of the Trade Practices Act 1974, which will be renamed Consumer and Competition Policy 2010 when all amendments are complete.

I have uncovered rorts and inappropriate market conduct, specially within the energy arena, associated with policies perceived to be grossly flawed and am in the midst of exposing some of these practices with particular reference to Victoria’s “bulk hot water policies” as impacting adversely on large sectors of the community. I have already extensively published on this issue in the course of my public consultation participation.

Many issues that have repeatedly been raised with the AER, ACCC, AEMC, MCE, AEMO, and other arenas, and though much of that material is re-submitted in the context of further material that has come to light, I make yet another attempt to call attention to my concerns, not only from the perspectives of residential tenants, but also that of many Owners’ Corporation entities (Bodies Corporate) who either occupy as owner occupiers or lease out their property to tenants; as well as those of shop-owners and many others who are apparently frequently exploited by practices and policies adopted by market participants, either licenced or unlicenced, including “metering data service providers” (MDS), property developers and others who see room in the marketplace for practices that should not be condoned.

The national energy laws and rules have failed to appropriately clarify matters that will continue to facilitate rorts and misinterpretations as well as unacceptable conduct. The AER is on the brink of further facilitating the granting of exemption licences in the on-selling associated with alleged sale and supply of gas and electricity. Water meters are effectively posing as gas and electricity meters, whilst licenced and unlicenced providers normally known as “Metering Data Providers” are purporting to sell energy in caloric value, where for sale of goods , generic and energy laws the term energy means either gas or electricity.

Many States mimicked Victoria’s inappropriate ‘bulk hot water policies” policies adopted in 2007, with Queensland adopting these discrepantly to most others, but in all cases the practices are unacceptable in terms of policy, consumer and business protection and compliance with various laws.

Refer to Arrow Asset Management Case reported by Gary Bugden, Barrister

I repeat: Queensland needs a new Leader for the Labour Party. When can the public expect at least that - and beyond that more responsible public policies generally?

Madeleine Kinston

Concerned Australian Voter

Well it's verified now. I wrote the above blog. I have also posted in numerous places on same topic including TWITTER as skylark100

Please see Professor Ross Fitzgerald excellent article of 11 September 2010 "Bounty Wasted on Bligh"

to which I responded, starting with:

"Thank you Professor Fitzgerald for this article describing the state in Queensland and the sense of betrayal that so many Queenslanders feel, albeit that there are a few loyal supporters. As to the contribution of the Treasury – that too is referred to in the your article, which reflects my own concerns. I have brought your analysis directly to the attention of the Prime Minister Julia Gillard as worthy of her immediate attention, receiving an automated response. I have written already on several occasions about disillusionment with Anna Bligh’s Leadership and the contribution of the Queensland Treasury and its approaches."

I have had no response yet from the Prime Minister or her staff, but I am not holding my breath. There are so very many things to attend to.

Neither major party has much to gloat about.

Madeleine Kingston

This comment was posted to Ross Fitzgerald's blog

Whilst I heartily agree with Ross Fitzgerald's opposition to privatisation, I think the article is too kind to former Premier Peter Beattie and even to Premier Anna Bligh.

I think that privatisation in Queensland, consistently opposed by well over 70% of Queenslanders, is one of many examples of how Australian democracy has been hijacked by those serving corporate interests, including Anna Bligh and Peter Beattie, in the last three decades. Whilst such policies may harm the Labor Party as a whole and make it far less electorally appealing, they are hardly likely to be personally harmful to those leading the Labor Party. Whatever happens to Labor at the state level, Peter Beattie, Andrew Fraser and Anna Bligh can be assured of financial reward for what they have done.

If Ross Fitzgerald has been too kind in his article entitled Bounty Wasted on Bligh The Weekend-Australian, September 11-12, and if there is a risk of financial reward for the detriments caused to Queensland and the damage inflicted on the reputation of the Labour, then I for one would like to lodge my personal protest.

I agree with you, James, that the hijacking of democracy appears to have characterized privatization policies in Queensland in particular, but also in NSW and Victoria.

Anna Bligh is currently the President of the Labour Party, and in her role as a State Premier, also a member of the Council of Australian Governments. I vigorously object to that. Her apparently manic approaches with sale of assets in attempts to replenish the Treasury coffers.

The surest way to damage economy is to lose the trust of the people. The trust of the people has been betrayed midst games and ill-conceived decision-making.

The accountability shuffle has been played to perfection, and it is time that this is reversed. People are looking for integrity, commitment, true democracy, sixth sense for what the people want

I have publicly called for the resignation or removal of Anna Bligh and examination of the input she has received from the Treasury and all those who have contributed steadily to erosion of confidence, rights and faith in governance.

On 31 August Anna Bligh is reported to have declared she wasn't a liability for Labor before the Caucus meeting, that her leadership had not been a factor and that she enjoyed total support among MPs.

See Courier Mail article

Judy Spence contradicts Anna Bligh saying leadership was an issue at Caucus meeting

see also:

Anna Bligh attacked over government-owned corporation

"THE Bligh Government has been accused of peddling commercial-in-confidence as an excuse to hide the real performance of its corporations.

Queensland Auditor-General Glen Poole has lambasted the lack of openness of government-owned corporations in his latest report, tabled in State Parliament yesterday.

The report found that recommendations from 2006 to provide the public with more information about the performance of government-owned corporations had been ignored."


Is Anna Bligh toxic for the ALP? 21/07/2010 12:11:00 PM, Spencer Jolly - Political Editor

Ms Bligh either lacks insight or is determined to ignore the feedback regarding perceptions of her governance. Either way it is time for that leadership to be scrutinized in the light of the long-range implications for the people of Queensland, as well as for the nation as a whole. I have asked the Prime Minister to consider impacts on the reputation of the Labour Party as a whole.

I support your attempts James to call attention to these matters.

Madeleine Kingston (SKYLARK100 Twitter)