Commission Calls for Re-Think on Queensland Public Asset Sale

Monday 22 June 2009

Brisbane’s Catholic Justice and Peace Commission urged the Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh, to reconsider her plan to sell a number of publicly owned assets in Queensland.

The public assets will be sold within 3 to 5 years after the Queensland Government rushed a vote on the sale through the Parliament last week.

The Commission’s Executive Officer, Peter Arndt, said that many Queenslanders are angry and upset about the decision because the Premier did not reveal her plan during the March State election campaign.

“When Premier Bligh told the Parliament of the asset sales earlier this month, she repeatedly said that she had been frank with the people of Queensland, but her failure to say a word about this action during the election campaign shows anything but frankness or respect for the people,” Mr Arndt said.

“This is a major decision with significant implications for many Queenslanders and such a proposal needs to be given a thorough examination,” he said.

“Using the Government’s numbers to rush the legislation for the sale through the Parliament has only made matters worse,” he said.

“There are so many questions which should have been carefully considered with a thorough enquiry so that we could all be sure that the proposal was the best one to deal with Queensland’s financial problems and ,most importantly, so that the interests of people on low and middle incomes could be protected,” he said.

“Some of the questions we think deserve answers include:

  • Are there any other options for dealing with our State’s financial problems?
  • Will these asset sales actually solve the problem?
  • Will we get the sort of sale prices the Government estimates?
  • What guarantees will be in place to ensure that the level of services provided by the entities when sold will be adequate?
  • What guarantees will there be that the prices charged by the privatized entities will be fair and reasonable?
  • What guarantees are there in terms of employment provided by the privatized entities?
  • Will some regional communities be negatively affected by any of the asset sales?
  • Will we be forced to sell more public assets when the next down turn occurs?” he said.

“We have heard these sorts of questions from  unions, businesses, regional communities and many individual Queenslanders and they deserve proper answers,” he said.

The Premier has given us some information on the reasons for the asset sale, how the sale will help us financially and why particular assets were chosen for sale,” he said.

“But we have not had any time to look at the proposal in detail, to hear from a broad range of experts and to listen to concerns of community groups and ordinary Queenslanders,” he said.

“This proposal was announced and voted on within the space of a couple of weeks and this does not give Parliamentarians or Queenslanders the chance to make informed judgments about it,” he said.

“It is clear that the Government has lost a lot of respect within the community because it has not treated the people with respect in its unholy haste to get this proposal approved,” he said.

We urge the Premier to show the courage to admit that she was not totally frank with Queenslanders and that she rushed the process,” he said.

“Considering that the sales are not due to happen for a couple of years, there is time to hold a proper inquiry into the proposal,” he said.

“Our principal concern is to ensure that the people with little power will not have to pay a high price for this hasty decision,” he said.

“The Government told us that its electricity retail competition model would deliver lower electricity prices to ordinary Queenslanders and this prediction has proved very wrong,” he said.

“The haste of this decision and the Government’s lack of honesty does not give us confidence that its predictions about the current asset sale are any more reliable,” he said.

“We would feel more secure about the value of these sales if the proposal was examined in great detail with contributions from a broad range of experts and community groups,” he said.

For further information, please contact Peter Arndt on (07) 3336 9173 or 0409 265 476.

NB  This release is issued with the approval of the Commission or its Executive under the provision of its Charter which enables it to speak in its own right.  The views expressed in it do not necessarily represent the views of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.

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