Saturday 26 March 2011

Holding the Labor bastards accountable about privatisation - the stealing of Queensland Rail

Labor is on the nose everywhere.

This weekend it is likely that the NSW Labor government will be served a sharp lesson and will be kicked out of office.

Last week, the Queensland Labor party expelled two of their more vocal members: Cairns Electrical Trades Union organiser Stuey Traill and state secretary, Peter Simpson. Both Traill and Simpson had often been the face of a large number of members who were incensed at the party ignoring the party platform – to reject any move to privatise state assets – a move the Bligh Government needed to address a debt mountain in excess of $80 billion – higher than all other States combined.

Labor across the country is no longer a party of the people. It is arrogant, confused and disloyal to its core values. This doesn’t mean that the primary alternative is the natural choice. In Cairns, the LNP chosen a disreputable former Councillor, Paul Freebody who believes bullying and death threats are the way to gain respect, and a federal member Warren Entsch who didn’t even use a local IT company to construct his website because his media chick owes a quarter of a million bucks to local media businesses. What an effing mess.

However, this story is about Labor.

Let’s state the bleeding obvious: Privatisation of state-owned assets is against Labor Party platform and principles. But we all know this, don't we? Even Barron River MP Steve Wettenhall agreed but has since bent over and let Bligh use a strap on.

Bligh and her cronies surprised unions on the left with her privatisation plans at the Labor state conference, and then rigged the vote by encouraging certain members to abstain from voting.

The road to privatisation was being paved well and truly before the last state election. The then Beattie government appointed Lance Hockridge as CEO of Queensland Rail specifically to rationalize and break up the company for sale. Hockridge has a rather interesting corporate track record. Many say he’s not the sort of CEO you would expect a Labor government to employ.

Prior to the last state election, Hockridge offered QR employees $10,000 each to sell out their no-forced redundancies and relocations policy contained in the EBA's. This was a deliberate attempt to downsize the company, and would have resulted in a loss of rail services over time. Bligh saw this as being potentially damaging for her election chances, and vetoed the payments before they could be made. The rail unions were understandably grateful and continued their support throughout the election process.

Once elected, Bligh, and Hockridge wasted no time in continuing their privatisation plans.

Once privatisation of QR was ratified, Hockridge and upper QR management embarked on a revolting propaganda campaign, constantly telling employees that the sale entailed "exciting times" and "new opportunities" for QR and its employees. What bullshit. Staff morale was utterly destroyed and many employees justifiably feared for their jobs. Even today, the level of depression and defeatism in staff is alarming.

Shortly after the election, Bligh's chief of staff, the electoral fraudster Mike Kaiser, quit his post and was subsequently awarded a $450,000 a year job with the National Broadband Network. Kaiser had previously been a disastrous chief of staff for NSW Premier Morris Iemma. He was also heavily involved in the Goss government’s failed plans to privatise QR in the mid- nineties.
In order to sell off QR's coal freight arm, it was decided to split the company into two new entities. QR National would be mostly sold off and Queensland Rail would run purely passenger services and remain state owned.

QR National carries much more than coal though, but Hockridge made it quite clear that he was only interested in carrying bulk coal and mineral freight. To date we have seen much of the grocery and general freight consigned to the road, and hence the disgusting state of the Bruce Highway. Heavy road transport is rapidly destroying our major roads.

Employees were sent out forms to sign. They could either accept placement by management in either of the two "new" companies or, as they say "hit the road Jack". The CEO and upper management positions were announced, and surprise, surprise, Hockridge was made CEO of the profitable QR National, with a massive salary increase.

He has stacked this company with former colleagues from his previous corporate crusades. Paul Scurrah was named as Queensland Rail CEO, and interestingly, his wife is none other than Nicole Scurrah, Bligh's chief of staff. Hockridge and Scurrah had their fingers burned when their companies were taken to court by the rail unions for failing to properly consult with their employees during the sale process. The unions won this case but it has made little difference. You can understand why so many employees are filled with suspicion and fear for their jobs.

Hockridge is now offering 3,500 job redundancies within QR National. This means only one thing: he is planning to reduce regional freight services to increase profits.

This will mean yet more trucks on our roads, with resultant crash deaths, injuries, and massively expensive road damage. Convenient though, that much of the Bruce Highway is federally funded. People simply do not know how their freight and groceriies get up here from southern centres. All you hear about is road closures stopping the trucks getting through. It would be far cheaper, easier, and much less inconvenient to the public, to flood proof the rail line than it would be to upgrade the Bruce Highway. Sure rail transport can be slower, but look at the distance freight has to be transported to get here.

In fact, freight rail prices have increased at alarming rates in the last 18 months, even in the build up to the QR float. It was a deliberate measure to encourage less-profitable freight onto roads and off rail, small freight and grocery stock, destined for Cairns supermarkets. Have you noticed how much prices have gone up in the last two years? Well, now you know why. People need to realise that rail freight transport was never meant to be profitable, but it was meant to provide a service to the people of Queensland. Privatisation is taking this service away.

The irony of this is that Labor is all for a carbon tax, yet they're forcing more and more freight onto the roads. Between 30 and 40 truck loads could be transported in just one train journey.

Keneally looks like being wiped out at today's election, after a disastrous privatisation of power assets in NSW.

Both Bligh and Keneally should have realised by now that those who voted for them did not vote for privatisation, but to uphold Labor platform and principles.

Labor should not be surprised that they are under fire from the unions, as the unions represent the very same people that Labor is supposed to represent. Bligh's popularity may have been boosted by disasters and a revolting womens' magazine spread, but this will be short lived.

We can't forget that her financially-inept government has wiped the fuel subsidy, massively increased vehicle registration to the highest in Australia - maybe to pay for the damage caused by heavy trucks, and the tripling of our electricity prices. Truth be known, modern Labor is probably the most conservative party in Australia's history.

So, who you gunna support?


Bryan Law said...

The ALP is not conservative Mike. It's rigjht wing reactionary. Ditch 'em.

KitchenSlut said...

Bollocks! From start to finish!

Vaughn said...

It seems that the same party that is so concerned about carbon emissions, is allowing these emissions to be massively increased in Queensland, by reducing rail freight services in favour of road transport.

knrhill said...

Vaughan, that is not to mention the human cost of increased potential for road fatalities, increased potential for damage to already woefull roads especially in regional Queensland and the cost on families that have or are about to loose their jobs due to Privatisation. I can not believe the arrogance of these people to believe that the general public should just swallow hard and accept that even though these politicians have squandered Billions of tax payer money in the South East corner over many years it is in our best interests ignore party platform and sell our assets to pay down debt. It is amazing to think some Unions have done their dirty deals to facilitate this sale ignoring the best interest of the collective and their own members. It is downright disgraceful that the party would find it necessary to discipline two working class champions of a decent Union that have had the spine to speak out against the injustices.

Vaughn said...

KitchenSlut, your blue blood is clouding your judgement on this one. This story contains no untruths. This is exactly what has happened, albeit without quite a few more grotty details. You may be a fan of economic rationalism, corporatisation, privatisation, million dollar CEO salaries etc, but that does not make your opinion valid. I bet you still fantasise over Maggie Thatcher, the pin-up girl for privatisation, but then again who needs Thatcher when you've got Bligh right here.

DAEVID88 said...

You can't take any notice of Party Platforms in this Zeitgeist.

Politicians are all Liars and Thieves and only there for what they can Rip from the Public Purse.

Democracy is a Farse, and has headed that way ever since DUELLING was outlawed.

Only the threat of Cold Steel @ Dawn, or a 1/2 inch lead Ball between the eyes, keeps Liars / Thieves / Spin Doctors / Cowards etc out of Parliaments.

How Sad we are heading towards Purgatory, Regards! DÄVID PALMER.