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Queensland Government has no mandate to privatise

In response to the Queensland state Government's threat to conduct a "Shock Doctrine" style asset fire sale, James Sinnamon, who stood as an independent anti-privatisation candidate in the recent Queensland state elections wrote the following e-mail to the Murdoch-owned Courier Mail newspaper, which pointed out the Queensland Government had not gained any mandate to sell any publicly owned assets. Copies were sent to every state member of Parliament including Treasurer Andrew Fraser and Premier Anna Bligh.

Dear Editor,

In your editorial "Asset sales welcome but timing poor" (26 May) you wrote, "Predictably, (Premier Anna Bligh and Treasurer Andrew Fraser) made no mention of (their plans to sell off publicly owned assets) during the recent election campaign."

I stood as an independent candidate against my local member and State Treasurer precisely because I believed that the electors of Queensland were entitled to express their opposition to privatisation at the ballot box.

In fact, even before the elections were announced, I sent an e-mail on 17 February to both the Premier and Treasurer asking that any planned privatisations be put to the public at forthcoming elections. My letter was ignored.

My repeated challenges to Anna Bligh, Andrew Fraser as well as Opposition Leader Lawrence Springborg to defend privatisation in a public debate during the subsequent campaign were also ignored.

I consider this treatment of myself and the Queensland electorate, whom they know full well to be overwhelmingly opposed to privatisation, unacceptable.

They must either immediately abandon these plans, or else call new elections so that the issue can be properly decided by the Queensland public.

At the very least they must be forced to properly justify the case for asset sales in a comprehensive televised public debate.

James Sinnamon,

Independent pro-democracy candidate
Mount Coot-tha electorate
Queensland State elections, March 2009

Update: (27 May 09) A Courier Mail online poll, published on 27 May had 91% of respondents answer 'No' to the question, "Should the state Government sell public assets to help the Budget?", with only 9% in favour. However, if past experience is anything to go by, the expressed wishes of even its own readership will scarcely cause the Courier Mail editors to bat an eyelid in pushing their pro-privatisation ideological barrow.

Update: (27 May 09) Although the Courier Mail published a number of letters concerning privatisation, all opposed, mine was not included. The letters are:

Air of panic in a cash-strapped state

THE discussion by Treasurer Andrew Fraser and Premier Anna Bligh about the possible sale of public assets illustrated that they are in panic mode about the state's finances.

Off-loading assets, through the short-sighted polices of the Government, would leave a financial hole to trouble future generations of Queenslanders.

My comment: A good letter, but it may be possible to draw the implication from the letter, as it has been published, that the writer would not mind so much if assets when the price is better. This is what Andrew Fraser is claiming that he intends to do.

WHY would anyone think that getting rid of our stockpile of resources in an economic crisis is a good idea?

Did we not learn anything from the privatisation of Telstra? Gee, know, let's sell all of our assets, even though they are profitable and some of the only bargaining power we have left, federally, so we can continue spending money on fruitless pursuits and living in debt. Be realistic. We are not going to have improved health, transport, or education systems because we sell public assets. It's another short-term solution to save face in the public's eye. The Government does not have our interests at heart.

My comment: The Courier Mail and all the Murdoch newsmedia fully supported the Telstra privatisation and virtually every other privatisation. It clearly cares little for the wishes of even its own readership, who overwhelming oppose privatisation. It's online poll, published on 27 May had 91% of respondents answer 'No' to the question "Should the state Government sell public assets to help the Budget?"

NOT long ago the State Government was talking about borrowing massive amounts of money for infrastructure. Now Bligh and Fraser are talking of selling off assets to fund infrastructure. Why the sudden change of strategy?

They both should be honest and tell the public of Queensland the reason is not because it is a better strategy but that they can no longer borrow the money because of the drop in the state's credit rating. This means that they now have to pay an additional 2 per cent interest and even then no-one wants to lend them the cash.

The people of Queensland have a right what is going to appear in the Budget when those running the state are getting so desperate.

My comment: Whilst this writer is clearly opposes privatisation, he/she seems to accept because of the financial crisis, that there is no alternative but to sell. In fact, if corporations invariable borrow to buy publicly owned assets, why should a state government be any less able to borrow in order to prevent the sale of assets? A still better solution would be for the government to create its own bank and use it to lend it the necessary money. This is what the US state of North Dakota does. As a consequence, that state has a budget surplus and an economy that is much healthier than the economies of most other states.

HOW dare Bligh and Fraser even talk of selling state assets without asking the people of Queensland.

They are merely the temporary custodians of assets which we, a taxpayers, have spent years paying for. If they want to leave the future of our essential services to the whim of some corporate profiteer, they should ask the people, the real owners of the assets if they agree to the sale. Let's have a referendum.

My comment: My letter called for new elections, but a referendum would not be a bad idea.

IF the State Budget deficit id funded by the sale of public assets such as power stations, highways, water supplies and ports, how does the Government propose to fund future budget deficits once these public assets are gone?

Surely the time has arrived for a bit of belt-tightening instead.

My comment: Belt-tightening is always preferable to selling off them farm, but let's make those profiteers who got us into this mess tighten their belts the hardest.

THAT Premier Anna Bligh would consider a sales of some of Queensland's assets shows that not only has she run out of money, but also ideas. The only certain outcome is that the cost of income will increase significantly.

See also: "Open letter to Anna Bligh and Andrew Fraser asking that any planned privatisations be put to the public at forthcoming elections" of 17 Feb 09, "Brisbane's local ABC radio fails to hold Anna Bligh to account over privatisation" of 28 May 09, "Brisbane ABC suppresses alternative candidates in state elections despite listener dismay with major parties" of 30 Apr 09.

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