Mark Dreyfus says Palaszczuk right to oppose fire sale
MARK Dreyfus understands the devastating impact the privatisation of the electricity industry can cause after seeing it first hand in his home state of Victoria.
That is why the Federal Shadow Attorney-General was impressed by the Labor Party campaign launch in Ipswich on Tuesday, where Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk made it clear a government she led would not sell off state assets.
That is in contrast to the LNP policy, which will fund new infrastructure from the sale or long term lease of assets.
Mr Dreyfus said the Victorian electricity industry was the most privatised of any state in Australia, and while privatisation may have produced some efficiencies it had also produced "massive gold plating" in terms of the building of transmission infrastructure.
Jeff Kennett's government in Victoria privatised the State Electricity Commission in the mid-1990s and the result was a steep rise in unemployment and an economic slump in areas such as the Latrobe Valley.
"It was done in a hurry and there were massive job losses in the Latrobe Valley that have taken a couple of decades to recover from," Mr Dreyfus said.
"I don't foresee anything in this asset sale policy of (Campbell) Newman's that suggest he has learned any of the lessons about timing or shock that might be learned from that experience in the Latrobe Valley of Victoria
"I don't accept that selling hard built Queensland assets is the only way in which to fund the Queensland budget."
Mr Dreyfus, the MP for Isaacs in Victoria, made the point that public assets and the public sector in general had been historically of high importance in Queensland, and that Mr Newman had not grasped that fact.
"I go right back to Queensland having had a free health system before the rest of the country to the importance of railways in Queensland, and the importance of ports right up and down the Queensland coast," he said.
"They were all built by successive Queensland state governments."
Mr Dreyfus insisted privatisation had not been established to deliver better outcomes for society as a whole.
"It is a real problem to be surrendering $2 billion a year, which is what these assets bring into the state," he said
"If they were all to go... you would remove at a stroke some of the capacity of the State Government to influence employment outcomes and influence trading outcomes, which I think are very important."
Mr Dreyfus said a 99-year-lease of assets was, in essence, no different to a sale.
"A 99-year lease is the longest possible lease recognised by Australian law and to all intents and purposes is ownership of the asset," he said.
"When you buy property from the Duke of Westminster in London, what you buy... is a 99-year-lease. I don't think anyone in inner London that owns one of those properties thinks they are not the owner.
"Look at it from the point of view of the buyer. They are not going to pay top dollar if they are not going to own an asset."