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Profits before People the NSW business model

Written by: Jed J. on 6 April 2020


Since coming to power the present NSW state government has sold off practically all the public assets it inherited. Their wholesale destruction of the public sector has been a bonanza for private companies which are making mega profits from what they bought at bargain basement prices.

For the people of NSW this privatisation frenzy has resulted in huge increases in the cost of basic needs such as electricity, gas and water, while workers are being forced to accept lower levels of pay and conditions.

Even education is not immune from this rush to privatise. Vocational education which was once available to all is now treated as a commodity to be bought at such a high price that students have to take out loans to pay for it.

Public housing stocks in the inner city were flogged off. Even government services like the lands and titles office have been sold.

Un-privatisation roundabout

Years ago, when a previous state government privatised the Port Macquarie public hospital, there was such an outcry about the sacrifice of health services as the private “partners” went all out for profits, that a later government had to “un-privatise” it.

Unfortunately, this government doesn’t seem to care about the problems associated with privatising health services. It went ahead and privatised the running of a new hospital on the northern beaches with the same result as in Port Macquarie.

When bus services in the inner west were privatised, the public outcry about the drop in the quality of service led to the conclusion that as far as the public was concerned the move was an abject failure. That unfortunately was ignored as the government is now pressing ahead with the privatisation of all the other public bus services.

New public transport infrastructure, now being built with the proceeds of flogged-off public assets, is to be run by private companies. Again and again, public funds are used to provide opportunities for private companies to make profits.

The government obviously cares more about creating opportunities for businesses to make profits than they care about the quality of services the public receives or the pay and conditions that workers are forced to accept. 

More to come

And there is more pain for the people of NSW to come. This can be seen most clearly in the projects to build two new motorway tunnels: the Western Harbour Tunnel and the Beaches Link.

The Western Harbour Tunnel is to stretch from Rozelle in the inner west to the Warringah freeway in North Sydney. The beaches’ tunnel is planned to link up with the Warringah Freeway at Cammeray and the Gore Hill freeway at Artarmon. It will pass under Middle Harbour to Seaforth and North Balgowlah.

The cost of the two tunnels is estimated to be at least $14bn, but if it follows the trend of other major infrastructure projects, it’s likely to cost much more. When it comes to spending public money, the government can be very secretive. In this case they refuse to release the business case for the project so it is difficult to evaluate.

To help pay for all this, tolls will apply in both directions on the Harbour Bridge and Tunnel. So the road users, who already pay thousands of dollars a year for the privilege of using the existing roads, are now expected to subsidise the construction of new ones.

The government has also announced the sale of a 51per cent stake in Sydney Motorways Corporation – which is the publicly owned builder and operator of the motorways – to private interests. The sale for little more than $9bn guarantees an increase in tolls chargeable to motorists of 4 per cent each year, or the inflation rate, whichever is higher.

Future generations to bear the cost

For the owners and operators of the new infrastructures there is a guarantee of ever-increasing profit margins. For the people there is air pollution from unfiltered stacks particularly in the North Sydney local government area which has the highest concentration of schools and child-care centres anywhere in Australia.

There will also be permanent environmental damage and at least five years disruption due to the disposal of excavated sediment and rock which is to be stored or dumped at sites in the inner west, North Sydney, The Spit and Balgowlah. Thousands of trees will be removed to make way for the construction work.

The cost of these policies will have to be borne by future generations, as sources of government revenue are sold off and the people of NSW pay more and more for basic needs and services.

Meanwhile, the few who are profiting laugh all the way to the bank.


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