Tuesday 15 December 2009

Queensland Labor selling off the family jewels

It's Queensland Rail, but not as we know it.

The old girl's days are numbered, following the announcement that a staged public float will happen by end of next year.

The Labor State Government has said they will create of a new nationally-focused transport company that can grow, as they put it, "in the hands of Queensland mums and dads."

"It will give every Queenslander a chance to have their own piece of a Queensland icon," the propaganda statement said this week.

"This announcement recognises the valuable work of QR employees through $1000 worth of shares for every employee who transfers across to the floated company and $4,000 worth of shares available at a discount rate."

However a prominent Cairns-based Queensland Rail employee says the sell off will almost certainly see a loss of rail services to regional Queensland.

"There are already signs that regional freight depots will be shut in the north," says Queensland Rail employee Richie Bates, who is the Queensland Rail Tram and Bus Union northern delegate, and member of the ALP.

"This will see a job cuts as well not to mention the heavy impact on road traffic with an increase in trucks on our roads the announced sell off goes well beyond Bligh's original proposal discussed earlier this year," Bates says. "This again highlights her Government's lack of transparency in the sale process, with no mandate sought for the sell off at the March poll, when clearly matters such as this had been discussed at an executive level."

Richie Bates says that the Queensland State Government has failed to recognise the benefits of supporting rail - the cost of which, reduces our expenditure on our burdened road network and reduces the huge social and financial impost of the spiralling road toll.

"Unfortunately, the rail privatisation experiment has not worked anywhere in the world with governments continually bailing out and buying back previously owned railways that our now asset stripped service failures - Tasrail, this year," Bates says.

"However, what is particular disturbing is the failure of this government to see the writing on the wall. QR is Australia's leading operator in rail, based in every state. It achieved this through its success as a whole and integrated company network with each business group supporting the other - regrettably, this is now about to change, where a fractured company will elevate profit to be the dominate force over service," Richie Bates says.

Another prominent Labor party member, Stuart Traill of the Electrical Trades Union, says that local MPs Steve Wettenhall of Barron River and Jason O'Brien of Cook are going to "totally support the Premier."

"These guys, and Neil Roberts, are members of the ETU," Traill says. Neil Roberts, is member for Nudgee.

Stuart Traill says he is not going to back down on getting the Government to change its position on the asset sale programme.

"Wettenhall wonders why I'm even running this campaign. Why is the ETU getting involved, he said to me," Traill said. "We're doing this to win. For a start, we have a 1,000 members in Queensland Rail, and we're doing this because it's right."

Wettenhall asked Stuart Traill if he was in this just to "shit stir." "This is about Queensland, it's the bigger picture, our future," Traill told Wettenhall. "This demonstrates that the Unions can't be dictated to by any political party."

He says that local Labor MPs will simply follow the party line, and not represent the views of their local constituents about assets sales.

"Even Federal Labour MP for Leichhardt, Jim Turnour, was a member of the Public Sector Union, and when the Federal election campaign was heating up, Turnour joined the ETU, that supported his bid for election in 2007," Stuart Traill says. "However as soon as he got elected, two weeks after the election, he resigned from the QPSU," Trail says.

"They contributed a significant of resources into his campaign," Traill says. "I've tried to engage Jim in a number of issues that affect our members. In the construction industry, we still have the Australia Building and Construction Commission that sees us subject to coercive powers. Jim won't do anything about this."

"There's a mandatory six-month qualifying period, like a probationary period, however as soon as someone puts their hand up to be a union delegate, they get sacked," Traill says. "Then there's no grounds for us to put a case for an unfair dismissal."

"Of all the politicians, Turnour is the one who has a huge amount of people in this region to thank getting him elected. He has let so many people down," Stuart Traill says. "I know a member of the local ALP that will not come back to the party, because he asked for a meeting with Jim after the election about the pension. Jim said he didn't have time to talk about it."

Stuart Traill has also taken aim at Cook MP Jason O'Brien. "He doesn't understand. The other day he was carring on about 'his office'. I told him he's lost the plot. It's not his office, it's our office. It's every constituent in Cook has a share in that office. Every ALP member and every volunteer, and every Union that gave him a hand," Trail says. "He doesn't remember that. He doesn't understand that."

Traill says that whenever you take on a role of leadership, doesn't matter what it is, whether it's a sporting club, PYC or whatever, you're just a custodian of that role.

"You've just been given the opportunity to do your very best and leave it in a better position for the next person. These people don't. They see it as a career," Stuart Traill says.

Traill said in May, when they first heard about the back flip on asset sales, that he was "extremely disturbed" following comments by State Treasurer. "Obviously we will not sit by and watch public assets Ergon, Energex or generators be sold for sort term gain without a hell of a fight," Traill said at the time.

"Anna Bligh and her four MP’s in this region continue to espouse privatisation in the face of growing community opposition and growing evidence to support the Unions claim that this is flawed policy," Stuart Traill told CairnsBlog yesterday.

"Economists, business and the community have been stating that selling assets that generate State revenue during a financial downturn is ludicrous."

Traill says that polling has consistently showed that 80%-90% of Queenslanders oppose privatization.

"This is due to failed previous examples that have seen a reduction in maintenance, loss of jobs, loss of services at an increased cost to the consumers, All in the name of returning a dividend to the shareholders. Every Queenslander currently owns a share of Queensland Rail, why float it and offer the shares to the minority that can afford it."

"The ETU will escalate the Campaign for as long as it takes to ensure that we as a region get a voice in decisions that are made in Brisbane instead of us being continually dictated to by an out of touch and arrogant Government," Stuart Traill says.

"If Pitt, Boyle, Wettenhall and O’Brien continue to tow the party line instead of listening to their constituents it will be at their own peril."

The $80 billion debt-ridden Queensland State Government says that QR National is set to be a top 50 ASX company, and is a key part of their plan to drive down debt and stay ahead of population growth.


Nikkiwi said...

Hmmm...It seems the Qld State Govt. wants to emulate the NZ Labour Govt. of the 80's in flogging off all the family silver. But don't worry too much about losing the railway, after all the People of QLD will get it back soon enough. Once the corporate owners have come in, bought it for a song, cut all the "unprofitable" services (i.e. all those to small remote locations), asset stripped it to within an inch of its life, and run the remains into the ground, they'll then flog the corpse back to the Govt. for an over inflated sum.

Just as they did over here.

Miss Chief. said...

The QR is a Public Asset...right?
Well I'm a member of he public and I don't remember anyone asking me if they could sell it off.
Not only that, I'm going to be given the chance to buy shares in something that I used to be part owner of anyway.
Someone's blowing smoke again.

Stuey Traill said...

The only problem is that we as taxpayers then have to spend massive amounts to get the network back up to scratch and unfortunately depots and rail lines have disappeared forever.
I heard a rumour that the NZ Govt bought the rail network back for $1 but need huge amounts to get it back to scratch

Oliver Redlynch said...

Ask anyone in the UK whether they think privatisation of the Railways benefited the customer or the nation or the shareholders?

I really don't understand this at all, we should be encouraging rail services for the transportation of freight, and services to rural communities, and the only way thats going to happen is in public hands. Doesn't Australia suffer at the hands of enough monopolies already? If essential services are turned over to profiting shareholders - that is what will happen (look at Telstra), only the shareholders benefit, not the people requiring the service. Doesn't ANYONE learn from history. When petrol hits $10 a litre, we'll rue the day we got rid of train services and didn't invest in an integrated public transport system.

Bryan Law said...

In the late 1990s Pauline Hanson developed a proposal to improve Australian politics by voting out of office every incumbent Party until someone good got elected.

In our present circumstances it’s not a bad idea.

Jim Turnour exemplifies a lot that is wrong with the ALP. I’ve been admiring the union campaign against privatisation, and I have been asking “Why do we have a local member who is spineless, does what he is told by middle management, and doesn’t have time for stupid things like principal, and accountability”?

Leichhardt is a funny seat, and I keep asking how can we use it in our ongoing efforts to build democracy? Cairns and Cape York Communities are the twin beating hearts of Leichhardt. (No-one cares about a few cow cockies and slaves of the soil out back).

So who could we find that would stand up and advocate for a 21st century program of advancement and achievement for Cairns and Cape York? In Leichhardt.

(In my dreams its Noel Pearson, standing as an independent).

Warren Entsch seems a long way from that, but dammit Pauline Hanson was right!

If we can’t find a candidate good enough to get the job done, then let’s just turf Jim Turnour out of office because he deserves it.

Peter Senior said...

This article covers the currently debated issues well.

What it doesn't cover is the vital issue that should be discussed and agreed BEFORE any asset is sold: Why should the Queensland State own ANY assets? And if so, what and why?

Politicians treat State assets as though they own them - they don't; we taxpayers and citizens do. Worse still, most Government-owned departments have proven to be very poor managers with political aspects overriding normal sound management such as efficiency and delivering benefits to all stakeholders. Competent staff don't stand a chance when political agendas apply.

If the Labour Government had not done a poor job for the last decade, the State budget would not be in such bad shape that asset sale would even be considered.

As usual most media fail to analyse the situation in any depth. They report the shrill views of those who have personal agendas such as some (not all) Union officials who know Government Departments are far easier to manipulate than private or public companies.

If the State Government wants to subsidise uneconomic infractructure, they should explain why, and pay an economic and transparant price for it that we taxpayers will support - not hide it in with the rest of the complex accounts.

Some infrastructure are 'natural monopolies' that should be subjected to regulation to prevent monopolistic exploitation. That is a proper Government role.

So will we be presented with a reasoned long term plan for State assets? Will pigs fly?

Warren Entsch said...

Don't even try to think about stuff like this in any rational sense unless you know what is actually going on.

The point is politrickians won't get party endorsement if sale is not commenced because central banks demand privatization of public assets in order to lend governments money and up their borrowing status for cheaper loans that require billion dollar interest payments to service.

'Sovereignty' is actually a tool used by central banks to round up the cash for the bankers and has nothing to do with national identity. Our government is a front counter for bank profiteering. Jim Tumor and Anna Blight are fully aware of these FACTS.

The word 'governmental' is derived from 'govern' (control) and 'mental' (the mind) and as such means 'mind control'. Thus we are controlled by guns (police) to work to death for central bankers. No dissent allowed.

Where you gonna run where you gonna hide? Good cop bad cop? Ask aborigines. Outside the mission hunted and massacred as 'fauna' by police and friends or on the mission to be converted to 'Jesus' and become 'white' and 'get an education' to become a taxpayer for the bankers.

Noel (Bjelke-Petersen) Pearson is white as they come, so called 'Christian' as well, so a perfect lover for Bryan Law, KKKrud and Tony Abattoir and the wider public whites.

Become a free man in your grave or live as a puppet or a slave? Where you gonna run....?

Al said...

Asset sales: the greatest con of all, foisted upon docile electorates by lacklustre governments who have no interest beyond the next election. If you think selling monopoly state-owned assets is a good idea, just take a look at the nations airports. Every major airport has been now been sold to private enterprise and turned into cash cows by gouging the travelling public (if you think that is not true, have a look at the tax and charges component on you airline ticket - or the new car-parking regime at Cairns Airport). It should be a simple rule: Any major infrastructure which would constitute a monopoly if in the hands of private enterprise must remain in public ownership.

Smithfield Sam said...

Where is the democracy in this country? Why don't we have the right to "recall" the government, like in every other western democracy?

Idiot Jim "Howdy Doody" Turnour said on the radio today that six weeks of "consultation" to spend $2.5B on the southern access was enough, that the government knows best.

This is leaving disgruntled citizens with few choices to get the politicians to heel.

KitchenSlut said...

"The point is politrickians won't get party endorsement if sale is not commenced because central banks demand privatization of public assets in order to lend governments money and up their borrowing status for cheaper loans that require billion dollar interest payments to service."

Huh? The fruitloops are loose again! Premdas isn't a euphenism for Unda is it? The language and logic certainly resonates! Central banks have demanded privatisation? Really?

The unions are only interested because of QR. personally I disagree with the structure of this sale but not for any of the reasons here.

nocturnal congress said...

And how many working "Mums" and "Dads" have the spare cash to "invest" hey?????

Al said...

Just a thought: If you disagree with the actions or policies of a local leader, this blog is a fine place to attack their policy and offer alternatives. However, the derogatory and personally insulting names (such as that offered by Smithfield Sam against Jim Turnour) would be better left unsaid. Such decorum would give this blog much more credibility.

Rob Williams said...

Hey Folks,
QR was always going to go down the tube anyway. They closed the lines to Chillagoe, Herberton, Atherton and points West and drove a wedge into the tourism out there. There is no direct rail link between Queensland and New South Wales, or anywhere else for that matter.. Go by Bus, they are safer and quicker than a tilt train that runs on tracks that have a 3 foot 6 inch wheel base which is smaller than my little Mitsubishi. That’s why they cant go faster than 80kph and come unstuck a lot. Take heart, we will survive despite the politicians and look at the up-side. Let's all invest in more semi-trailers to haul the goods we need. They are faster and more convenient than QR.

Knob Williams said...

Hey Folks,

The yacht club was going down the tube anyway. There was only ever old people in it, and what about that crap jazz music they played!
Rap and Hip Hop are so much faster...
Take heart, we will survive without it, and there will be a shiny new building in its place.
Just as well we have trucks on our roads so the old dump could be taken away.

Jan from Kewarra said...

I agree with Rob William's last comments.

Makes a great mockery out of the "Smart state" badging.

Casey said...

Rail travel is safer than road.
3 foot 6 is not the impediment here, it is QR's failure to invest in maintenance and services in all but the most profitable areas.
Rail is a transport solution, it just needs to be given a chance to work.

Rail is the future said...

"Let's all invest in more semi-trailers to haul the goods we need." This is an unbelievable statement for anyone to make in the 21st century in a time of peak oil when carbon emission cuts are required and rail is one solution to that (quite apart from road congestion, noise pollution, accident rate etc associated with roads)

Smithfield Sam said...

What kind of dipshit country allows differing rail widths from one state to another?

Fix THIS problem and standardise with the world, and the cost of rail transport will plummet - BECAUSE WE CAN BY ROLLING STOCK ON THE OPEN MARKET INSTEAD OF MAKING IT ONE-OFF!

Rob Willilams said...

You nailed it Sam. Queenslanders dont deserve any better than what they get with Anna and her lot. Even the Territory got of its arse and developed a line that carries the country to the North. By the way Knob. I got over the Aquatic, I can still play and I drive a Semi. What can you do? Do you own one of the leaky units that are about to go under water, if so no wonder you have an attitude.