Costello’s plan to slash Queensland debt
By Kym Agius, AAPUpdated March 1, 2013, 6:23 pm
AAP © Enlarge photo
Queensland’s assets could again be up for sale under major reforms that could wipe out almost half of the state’s debt.
The executive summary of the final independent Commission of Audit, headed by former federal treasurer Peter Costello, recommends selling electricity assets to raise the $25 billion needed to return Queensland to a triple-A credit rating.
It also recommends the sale of the Gladstone and North Queensland port corporations.
Government services should be pitted against what value for money could be achieved in the private sector, the audit report says.
It suggests health, bus, rail, child safety, mental health, corrective services and public housing services could be outsourced.
Treasurer Tim Nicholls will release the full 1000-plus-page report, as well as the government’s response, within two months.
He promised there would not be any major asset sales until the government was given a mandate by voters, but the same could not be said for outsourcing services.
“There are opportunities for the government to be an enabler, to procure those services, rather than be the doer of those services,” Mr Nicholls said.
He promised there would be no more job losses, after 14,000 last year.
Public servants, however, should expect to be shifted onto private payrolls if services are outsourced.
Mr Costello warned the government needs to improve service productivity by one per cent a year.
“The government either does something now in an ordered and planned way or if it doesn’t, in three years or 10 years, the change will be forced upon it and it will be much tougher and harsher,” he said.
Mr Costello said it was a bad time to sell electricity assets.
He said the sale of generators should be delayed until there was certainty about the carbon tax and renewable energy targets, and a decision about distributors should be made after 2015 when new price regulations come in.
Big businesses has been one of the few supporters of electricity asset sales.
Australian Industry Group state director Matthew Martyn-Jones says privatisation wouldn’t lead to price hikes, and blamed top tier infrastructure for rises suffered in the state.
Secretary of public service union Together, Alex Scott, says the audit benefits LNP donors instead of improving services.
“We will see a tidal wave of privatisation which will destroy the structure and fabric of Queensland society,” Mr Scott said.
Queensland Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk says the opposition opposes any asset sales and the party has suffered the wrath of the public for its decisions.
She said under the recommendations no public servant’s job was safe, public transport fares could rise and profits would be put before people.
The role of government was to deliver core services but the Liberal National Party (LNP) was shirking its responsibilities.
“Today the LNP has put Queensland up for sale,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
The Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) says it will launch a well-resourced campaign against privatisation from now through to the next election and beyond.