Officials are responding to the economic crisis by selling off state assets and discontinuing an expensive tax-supported subsidy of industry.
Only two months after winning an early election on a platform of financial management, Ms Bligh yesterday confirmed five government-owned corporations would be sold over the next five years and the 8.35 per cent fuel subsidy abolished from July 1.
Queensland Motorways Limited, the Port of Brisbane, Forest Plantations Queensland, and the Abbot Point Coal Terminal will be privatised, as will Queensland Rail’s coal business and possibly even its freight arm and regional network.
Ms Bligh – who had not canvassed such drastic measures during the campaign and briefed caucus and selected union leaders only on Monday night – said the Government expected to raise $15 billion from the sales and save $2.4billion over four years on the fuel subsidy.
While the state will lose about $280million in annual dividends from the GOCs, the decision to reduce the scope of the public sector means it will no longer have to fund $12 billion in envisaged capital works over the next five years, and realise insurance savings of about $750 million a year. [...]
But Queensland Labor Party president and Australian Manufacturing Workers Union state secretary Andrew Dettmer yesterday said the decisions were “tragic for Queensland”.
Queensland Council of Unions boss and former party president Ron Monaghan – who admitted being “gobsmacked” at the scale of the revenue-raising measures being undertaken – predicted a heated state conference at the weekend.
While in NSW an ALP revolt over planned electricity privatisation brought down former premier Morris Iemma, in Queensland the Labor Government routinely ignores party policy and it is understood only two of the 51 caucus members opposed the measures on Monday.
Nonetheless, Ms Bligh will still face hostile delegates on Sunday – she will miss the Saturday session in order to host Queensland’s 150th birthday celebrations – and possibly even strike action in the coming months.
“There is no doubt that a number of trade unionists feel very passionate about this issue and oppose the government view,” Ms Bligh said. “My job is to govern for all Queenslanders and to do the right thing by those Queenslanders, to put us in a position where we can keep growing, in our services like schools and hospitals that people need.”