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Who will bring the good news after the sale of Australia Post?

I SPRANG to the stirrup, and Joris, and he;
I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three;
‘Good speed!’ cried the watch, as the gate-bolts undrew;
‘Speed!’ echoed the wall to us galloping through;
Behind shut the postern, the lights sank to rest,
And into the midnight we galloped abreast.
Robert Browning “How they Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix

One option being explored by the incoming federal coalition government is the sale of Medibank but more will be required to put the budget into surplus (the deficit is 2013/14 is running at $18 billion).

The Plan
Coalition Treasurer Joe Hockey left scope for future asset sales (of Australia Post) and made it clear that the Coalition’s current plan was to privatise health insurer Medibank Private, a policy first floated by Labor. Medibank will only fetch about $4 billion so, do the math, it will take a substantial sale to recoup the $18 billion required to balance the budget.

There is a lot of public land to sell but Australia Post will be required to get in the billions required. The sale of Telecom was begun by the Hawke Keating Labor government in the 1980s; first by corporatising and then with sale of the first tranche in 1996 at the end of Labor’s 13 year term of government.

Telecom was originally part of the Post Master General’s Department (PMG) and it too was corporatised by being split away from Telstra.

The mail must go through!
Some may argue that Australia Post can’t be sold because that would mean there can no longer be a crown guarantee of the delivery of the mail – i.e. public ownership has been a cornerstone of security of the mail. However the mail is but a small part of the business at Australia Post with parcel sales bringing in big profits because of the surge of online sales and delivery by mail (anything from groceries to dishwashers and drugs) is already delivered by the private sector and you can be sure these companies would love to get their hands on Australia Post.

History
On 1 July 1975, under the Whitlam Labor government, separate government commissions were created to undertake the operational responsibilities of the PMG. One of these was the Australian Postal Commission, trading as Australia Post. Till then the PMG was responsible for telegraph and domestic telephone operations as well as postal mail. Telecom took over these responsibilities, it became the largest government owned enterprise after the Commonwealth Bank.

It boasted one of the largest unions which brought it into the red by closing down processing of receipts at its office in Barry Parade Fortitude Valley. 13 Data Processing Operators shut themseleves into their office and stopped processing payments. It was the end of the Fraser government. 13 years later the Keating Labor government began privatising Telstra … and the Howard government that followed finished the job.

Opposition
And so the only sizeable public owned business remaining from the PMG is Australia Post. And Abbott means to sell it! This is wrong. the reason his party wants to sell Australia Post is that they have no answer to the global crisis of capitalism which began in the financial markets of New York and spread throughout the world. Neither party at the 2013 federal election discussed that aspect of the economy. Selling public assets is not popular however both parties have managed to do so. Bligh lost government in Queensland because she sold Queensland Rail. To make things worse for her government Bligh amalgamated shire councils under the pretext of financial efficiency. Her treasurer, Andrew Fraser,  lost his seat as result of the deal. Opposition to this move is widespread and across all political lines. Look at the petition being presented to the parliament:

Queensland residents draws to the attention of the House the injustices of the undemocratic forced local government amalgamations of the Queensland government in 2007, the flawed undemocratic process for de-merger by the LNP government in 2012 and the inherent denial of natural justice for the people.

As a result of this disastrous policy decision by Fraser, 20 jobs were lost in each shire, often in the same town. That is a lot of wages to be lost by people already on the edge. Services were reduced and some shire became insolvent. So her replacement Annastacia Palaszczuk has said that Labor has learnt a lesson and now wishes to focus on “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” but people feel insecure in their jobs. And proposed strike actions from teachers and building workers is a reflection of this. Nevertheless it is likely that Abbott will be successful in selling off public assets because workers in Australia have not turned against capitalism in the way workers have in Syria, Greece, Egypt, and so on. Workers in Australia still have jobs, unlike countries in revolt.

Analysis
Difficulties faced by the right in Australia to mobilise public opinion in favour of a sale of public assets are considerable. People just won’t buy the spin anymore, they know it means less security in their jobs, lower conditions.

Attempts by the incoming Coalition government to sell public assets raises questions about the outgoing Labor government.

  • Is a defeat of Labour a defeat of the class? What does the election mean for the class on a whole?
    – Loss of the election was related to uncertainty about jobs. Regardless of the failings of labor and its disunity, this feeling of uncertainty contributed to Labor’s defeat
  • Will further structural change mean wage cuts or attempts to push productivity? How does this play out in individual workplaces? Which unions will respond and how?
  • Loss of workers compensation in Queensland is the first move against workers since the federal election. This move by the State government was camouflaged by the anti-bikie and sexual offenders laws in Queensland.
  • Further Sale of public assets make workers job security even less certain

Opposition to the sale must come from the organised working class, people not in the union will be sidelined by this move to privatise assets. It is non-unionised labor that will lose their jobs first. But this may barely be noticed as workers try to work around the changes in their lives.

The structural change in work and what it means under capitalism is causing more stress for workers. How long can they stand it in Australia before it reaches the proportions of Greece, Spain and Portugal? What form will the revolt that follows take? These are unknowns, workers individually will try to escape the difficulties faced, but better organisation is needed for a collective response.

Reference
See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/policy/medibank-sale-the-first-budget-fix/story-fn59nsif-1226744873439?from=public_rss&utm_source=The%20Australian&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=editorial&net_sub_uid=17157279#sthash.N2aSqfCh.dpuf

2 responses to “Who will bring the good news after the sale of Australia Post?

  1. 'Property sale'

    NEARLY $2 billion worth of Queensland government properties could be broken down into bite-size portfolios and offered to the market from next year as Premier Campbell Newman moves to drive down the state’s debt, according to market sources.

    The government is understood to have about 300 properties, including $1bn worth of office buildings mostly in the Brisbane CBD and suburbs. There are also about $500 million worth of industrial buildings and another $500m of mixed-use property assets.

    One of the government’s most valuable properties is the police headquarters at Roma Street, believed to be worth about $250m, sources said
    – See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/property/campbell-newman-plans-massive-sale/story-fn9656lz-1226741255244#sthash.PcaaCcZ9.dpuf

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  2. New­man close to U-turn on sell-offs

    by AN­DREW FRASER
    The Weekend Australian
    26 October 2013

    THE Newman government is moving towards privatising two of its largest corporations after appointing two merchant banks to conduct scoping studies on energy transmitter Powerlink and water operator Sunwater.

    Privatisation is a sensitive subject in Queensland, where the previous government lost office partly because of a public backlash against its $15 billion asset sell-off program, and the Liberal National Party promised before it won office that there would not be any more privatisations unless it was given a mandate for such sales in an election campaign.

    The Newman government has seen its budget and debt position get worse, and a commission of audit raised the possibility of substantial privatisation, but Premier Campbell Newman said he would not be selling what he called ‘‘the poles and wires’’.

    But Powerlink, which transports bulk electricity to retail distributors through a network of high-voltage transmission lines, would appear to come into this category, and Treasurer Tim Nicholls yesterday confirmed reports that merchant bank Rothschild will undertake a scoping study on Powerlink — a necessary precursor to privatisation.

    The Macquarie Group will undertake a scoping study on SunWater, which operates most of the large dams in Queensland and is a major supplier for both irrigation and industry.

    An Infrastructure Partnerships Australia report released two weeks ago puts the value of Powerlink at $10 billion, while Sunwater’s assets alone are valued at $1bn. Sunwater also operates a series of water pipelines and is probably the more politically sensitive of the two, given most of its customers are either farmers who use irrigation or industrial users.

    A spokesman for Mr Nicholls said the government’s policy had not changed. After the release of the commission of audit last year it said it would ‘‘investigate ways to finance capital expenditure into the future, without increasing the debt and ultimately the burden on Queensland taxpayers’’.

    ‘‘Queenslanders clearly understand the legacy left by the previous Labor government, which allowed spending to get out of control and allowed debt to increase to unsustainable levels,’’ he said.

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