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Queensland Government to seek advice on privatisation from companies bailed out by US and UK taxpayers

In a media release on behalf of the Queensland branch of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), branch secretary Peter Simpson questioned the Queensland's decision to pay as much as AU$200 million to two companies Merrill Lynch and the Royal Bank of Scotland, who recently went bankrupt for advice on privatisation, for advice on its privatisation fire sale.

Media release, 23 July 2009: ETU's "Light on the Hill" campaign against privatisation of State Govt assets - update Second billboard goes up in the Premier's electorate Choice of advice consortium raises more questions

The Electrical Trades Union's second billboard attacking the State Government's decision to sell a number of State Government assets has been erected on Gladstone Rd, Highgate Hill, in Premier Anna Bligh's electorate of South Brisbane.

The first billboard was erected earlier this week in Transport Minister Rachel Nolan's electorate of Ipswich. The next one will be erected in Rockhampton in the next few weeks.

The billboard advertising is part of the second phase of the ETU's statewide Light on the Hill campaign and comes as the State Government announced the advisory group for the sale of the assets.

ETU secretary, Peter Simpson, said yesterday's announcement that companies such as Merrill Lynch and the Royal Bank of Scotland will advise the State Government on the sale is a further blow to the credibility of the decision.

"I mean, what a team. A couple of companies that had to be bailed out recently by governments are now back advising Queensland on privatisation. The Royal Bank of Scotland has effectively been nationalised in recent times with the United Kingdom Government announcing it would move towards a 70 per cent ownership stake. In January this year the RBS announced the biggest corporate losses in British history.

"Merrill Lynch in the USA basically went broke in 2008, due to debt risk from the US sub-prime collapse, and was bailed out by a merger with Bank of America, which I am told then had to go to the US Federal Treasury asking for US$20b in public money.

"The appointment of these companies to advise on the privatisation raises even more questions about this unpopular and unnecessary plan. The people of Queensland are entitled to a detailed outline of their recent performance and their role in the global financial crisis.

"The people of Queensland are also entitled to know just what fees these companies will be paid. There is speculation it could be as much as $200 million, the majority of which could go overseas. Surely the State Government is kidding?

"That is good money that could be used on stimulating the Queensland economy and funding Queensland services.

"The appointment of advisers also suggests the State Government is trying to tough it out on this issue, which regrettably means we will be campaigning against these asset sales right up to the next State election by the looks of it.

"Given the negative public reaction to the proposal, that is not good news for the State Government and many Labor MPs," Mr Simpson said.

Research of voting intentions in five State electorates, conducted by UMR Research for the ETU, shows an average nine per cent swing against the Bligh Government with the decision to sell a number of State Government corporations the main reason for the swing. UMR Research has done a lot of research for the ALP itself.

The Light on the Hill campaign is being run until, at least, the next State election to stop State Government plans to sell a number of State Government entities, including most of the profitable sections of Queensland Rail and massive State forests, which contribute to national and international sustainable logging practices.

Media inquiries: Peter Simpson 0419-721 041
John Moran 07-3366 9010; 0410-603 278

The Electrical Trades Union (Qld & NT)
Communications Electrical Plumbing Union
Electrical Division - Qld & NT BRANCH
Secretary: Peter Simpson
41 Peel St South Brisbane Ph: 07-3846 2477