Privatisation (or privatization, for my North American friends) – it’s one of my pet hates.
You cannot sell that which does not belong to you. But that simple little rule of life is chucked out the window when you’re a government looking for some quick cash.
In Australia, as elsewhere I’m sure, there has been a long list of companies and assets that belonged to the whole country, under the ‘management’ of the government of the time. From the poles and wires of our national electricity grid, to the power stations that fed them; to toll roads (another of my pet hates – I have a lot of them…), and beyond.
I recall when Telecom (Australia’s national telecommunications agency – original name, I know) became Telstra and was then prepared for partial-privatisation in the late 90’s. At the time, I was appalled that something that ‘belonged to everyone’ was being carved up and the shares being sold off for money. I figured that I already owned some of the shares in this (having been both a tax-payer and a bill-paying customer for some years), and fired off a letter to a crusty old politician, informing him of my claim to a small percentage of the shares being ‘offered’, and where he could send them. Of course, I received no reply… But I’m sure the old bastard, or his letter-reader, got a smug little chuckle out of it.
Australia is currently launching the privatisation of Medibank Private, formerly government-owned private health insurance provider. Soon it’ll probably be Australia Post. And then what? What’s left to sell?
There are many who support privatisation – citing increased competition and efficiency, and of course the ‘windfall’ from the sell-off. But I don’t buy it. I’ve yet to see competition lead to a real lowering of prices for customers, and I’ve yet to see the widespread social benefits often touted at the time of the sell-off. I just think it’s all bullshit.
In my eyes, privatisation is analogous to me dog-sitting your greyhound, for a fee, and then selling the greyhound for profit to go and race for someone else’s benefit, and then never giving you your greyhound back.
Anyway, if I was running the show, there would be a referendum on issues of privatisation. If the public wasn’t convinced that there was a benefit for the country as a whole, then they’d vote ‘no’, and it’d be business as usual. Then again, what would the fucking public know? – I mean, look at us.
But I’m not running anything, so…
It’s Shit. It’s Gotta Stop. But it probably won’t.
If anything I hope you enjoy the music video – it’s one of my favourite songs.
R.I.P. Edward Gough Whitlam