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No asset sales until after an election: Nicholls

Treasurer Tim Nicholls said the document listed 155 recommendations, including an overhaul of the public service and the selling of government-owned companies.
Treasurer Tim Nicholls said the document listed 155 recommendations, including an overhaul of the public service and the selling of government-owned companies.

QUEENSLAND Treasurer Tim Nicholls has guaranteed there will be no firesale or rush to sell state assets and voters will get a say on inplementing recommendations in the final report of the Queensland Commission of Audit.

The commission, headed by former treasurer Peter Costello, has told the state government to offload its businesses or face decades of debt repayments to regain top credit rating.

The report pushed for the state to sell its government-owned corporations of CS Energy, Stanwell, Powerlink, Energex and Ergon. The ports of Gladstone and Townsville are also prime targets for the market.

Mr Costello's report suggested it could be decades before the government paid down between $25 billion and $30 billion of debt.

It was this figure, he said, that was keeping the state's credit rating at the lower AA instead of AAA.

Both he and State Treasurer Tim Nicholls agreed the private sector was more flexible, more efficient and better suited to running these major corporations.

The report found there is no "universal rule" on what should be publicly or privately owned or managed.

"Everything from defence, courts, police, prisons, health, education and transport infrastructure could be ably handled - at least in part - by private operators," the report said.

Mr Nicholls stressed that any decision to sell government-owned assets would not happen before at least the second term of government, after it takes the plan to voters.

The money could then be used on flood prevention, repairs and essential services like health and education.

While the government has the entire 1000-page report, the executive summary alone was released to media on Friday.

The government will now take two months to consider its findings.

Labor Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said the government needed to release this "secret report" in full, not hide it.

She said the threat of privatisation should make every public servant in the state scared for their job security.

Ms Palaszczuk referred to the 2009 sale of QR National, the coal and freight arm of Queensland Rail, saying the ALP was opposed to the sales after voters sent a clear message to the then-government by kicking it out of office.

"If this commission of audit is truly independent, why should only LNP politicians have exclusive access to it for the next six weeks?"

The executive summary is available at commissionofaudit.qld.gov.au.

 

Ports could be prime choices for privatisation

THE STATE has been told to cut up to $30billion from its debt accounts if it ever wants to restore Queensland's AAA credit rating.

To do that, it will not be just state-owned energy firms that could be available to the highest bidder.

The ports of Gladstone and Townsville are considered prime choices for privatisation, as are government-owned energy firms including CS Energy, Stanwell, Powerlink, Energex and Ergon.

In the final report from the Queensland Commission of Audit, headed by ex-Federal Treasurer Peter Costello, the government has been told to offload its businesses or face decades of debt repayments if it is to restore health to its accounts.

While the government has the entire 1000-page report, the executive summary alone was released to media on Friday.

The report found, "There is no universal rule on what should be publicly or privately owned or managed".

To illustrate the point, the report featured a diagram showing only advice on legislation and policy must remain in government control.

Everything from defence, courts, police, prisons, health, education and transport infrastructure could be ably handled -- at least in part -- by private operators.

The Commission found policing, public safety, emergency and justice services would still likely remain in the hands of the State as they had "a strong public good element".

However, social services, including public education, public transport, health, housing and community support could be largely handled by "non-government providers".

According to the report, the private sector "can move faster and with more agility to deal with emerging risks and exploit opportunities".

"There is substantial international evidence that privatise government enterprises operate more cost effectively when they are allowed to operate without government interference in the commercial decision process".

 

Report into Qld's financials pushes for company sell-offs

ASSET sales are now firmly on the agenda for the Newman Government after a report into Queensland's financials came out today pushing for the sell-off of government-owned corporations.

The Costello Commission of Audit - created to examine state financials after the LNP won power and chaired by former Federal Coalition treasurer Peter Costello - has handed in its final report.

The government is scheduled to release just the executive summary of the report this morning.

Treasurer Tim Nicholls said the 1200-page document listed 155 recommendations, including an overhaul of the public service and the selling of government-owned companies.

These companies are believed to include Ergon Energy, Energex and potentially Queensland Investment Corporation and SunWater.

"It says we still need to fix up the way those companies are operated to make sure they're running efficiently and effectively," Mr Nicholls told ABC.

The State Opposition hit back swiftly with treasury spokesman Curtis Pitt describing it as a another example of the LNP "looking after their mates".

"This Government is hell-bent on privatisation," Mr Pitt said.

The Electrical Trades Union reacted by saying battlelines were now drawn on asset sales.

ETU state secretary Peter Simpson said the report was shonky and was simply a way of justifying a sell-off.

"We will oppose this aggressive attack on essential services and we will leave no stone unturned to expose this Government's failings, any movement towards privatisation of electricity assets will be met with resistance," he said.

The former Labor Government headed by Anna Bligh was terminally haunted by negativity after offloading Queensland Rail's coal and freight arm QR National in 2009.

One newspaper report suggested the report told government to choose between offloading these assets or face decades of debt repayments.

In the report, Mr Nicholls is quoted as saying the sales were unlikely to occur in this term of government, with the LNP keen to garner support for the plan before the next election.

Topics:  asset sales campbell newman peter costello tim nicholls



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