Privatisation fails

Alan Menadue writes: Re. “Is privatisation next in Labor’s tattered playbook?” (yesterday). Bernard Keane writes: “Privatisations are ostensibly for the benefit of voters, who obtain better services provided more efficiently by the private sector, and indirectly via greater economic efficiency.” Please explain why all of these great sales of services monopoly infrastructure have increased real costs, decreased real service value and in every instance  have weakened the relative strength of the infrastructure to the tune of $40 billion in unfunded infrastructure debt in Victoria alone. You appear to be an economic apologist for increasing cost to increase profits and not to increase services. Shame on you, Crikey. Shame for printing such a piece espousing the extreme right-wing attitude of theft of public assets to fund an elite class of thieves in the continually failed “trickle-down theory” so loved by irrelevant and untruthful economists.

Rebecca Barnett writes: It is certainly not just Qantas and Telstra that I look at when I make the political decision to be against privatisation, I look at the UK and the negative effects of privatising the railways, hospital cleaning and the Royal Mail, to give just a few examples, and to the US and its healthcare system. From the experience of history most, if not all, of the benefits of privatisation flow to private companies; of course otherwise they probably would not consider providing services. It is the public’s taxes that have allowed successive governments to build-up and run these services to a high enough standard for corporations to want to buy them, making it seem even more unfair that a private group should get to profit from them, especially when that profit could have been returned to government. When these companies do run in to trouble they are frequently given a helping hand by government, whether it’s through subsidies, tax breaks or another method. I dread to think of the impact of privatising the Australian healthcare system and hate the thought of living in a state that outsources community services and child safety, putting some of our most vulnerable even more at risk. Some aspects of society need to be kept in the care of government. Granted, they need to be run properly, but it’s hard to see how the privatisation of government services like these can provide anything but very short-term gain.

Labor in vain in WA

Peter Nevin writes: Re. “Toxic Labor brand cost WA’s Mark McGowan his chance” (yesterday). As much as it suits the likes of Noel Crichton-Browne (now there’s a blast from the past for the locals) to trumpet the “Labor’s brand is toxic” line in the media, something that I think is being overlooked in the wash-up from the WA election is the role advertising spending may have played in the final result. Put simply, in roughly 25 years of experiencing WA state campaigns as a voter, I have never seen a disparity of advertising between the two major parties like I saw at this election. The blue signs were everywhere. Even in my own safe Labor seat (Victoria Park, held by leadership aspirant Ben Wyatt), Liberal signs outnumbered Labor by 10 to one, and I didn’t see a Labor sign at all until the day of the election. It’s intriguing. Were the federal Libs that terrified of a swing in WA that they cashed up the locals, or were the mining companies stuffing money into the local party like they were producing foie gras?

John Slade writes: The Libs in WA are able to argue similar issues to Labor federally — namely, good growth, low unemployment and good fiscal outlook. Nevertheless, they played the federal card effectively with the campaign mantra “don’t let Canberra *—-* with WA”. A couple of other observations: former Victorian premier John Brumby did not deserve to lose in Victoria, but the media decided he should. Victorians are now kicking themselves for reading the wrong papers and watching the wrong TV stations. Very similar in Queensland, where Labor deserved to lose but nowhere as badly as it did, once again a media-led campaign. The real tragedy is, eastern seaboard states no longer have an effective opposition, and sadly we can’t rely on the media to embrace that role.