Strong Choices was never persuasive – similarities with Fightback

After yesterday’s extraordinary swing against the Queensland Government, which will likely deliver the Opposition to power, it’s now clear that the Government’s privatisation plan was too ambitious and, as Sir Humphrey would have said, courageous. Strong Choices will join John Hewson’s Fightback as an example of why you shouldn’t take a comprehensive economic reform package to an election. The Queensland public were obviously concerned about the proposed privatisations and were worried about what would happen to electricity prices, jobs, and the State Budget, among other things.

As I’ve commented previously, the Government failed to present a convincing case for its privatisation plan. I think there was one to be made, but the Government went wrong from the outset when it didn’t engage seriously with the public on the pros and cons of privatisation. And, by failing to produce a comprehensive economic and fiscal analysis of its plan, it couldn’t effectively respond to obvious questions about economic and fiscal impacts.

Relevant previous posts of mine include:

Failure of Strong Choices now obvious – missed chance to persuade on asset sales

Strong Choices poorly received by public – Treasury needs to do a lot more work

Brisbane Times article on asset sales

4BC Drive interview on election costings – problems with economic plans from both major parties

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9 Responses to Strong Choices was never persuasive – similarities with Fightback

  1. KT says:

    agreed (as we have discussed) and now it is off the agenda, Sadly the lease funds would funded some really good infrastructure (and boosted the economy)

  2. Mark Beath says:

    Perhaps we should get an opinion from Gruen Transfer on the marketing of any economic reform pachage around a big slogan. The irony of “fightback” was that many key planks (or should that be pillars?) were subsequently implemented. Similarly I would argue we have been done a disfavour by both parties with the privatisation debate reduced to all or nothing. Sort of similar to the Qld electoral system. Privatisation was always going to be a key issue after the 2012 election. Before Mr Strong Choices it was actually Campbell Newman who articulated the monopoly nature of transmission assets and why this should be considered. Given the controversy around electricity prices it’s a no-brainer that this would cause concern. While he obviously has a very strong preference even John Quiggin has always said that the assets need to be considered on an individual basis and circumstances. Well that all went missing. I understand Local Gov’t Minister Crisafulli conceded in Mundingburra this morning so selling the Port of Townsville for a football stadium didn’t seem to work with a whitewash there. I predict that it will be the electricity generation assets which will be first to return to the agenda but may take a few terms. Different risk profiles for these assets has been completely ignored.

    • Gene Tunny says:

      Great points, Mark. Thanks for the comment. It never made much sense to link leases of assets in one region with the funding of new infrastructure in that region I thought.

      • Mark Beath says:

        Thanks Gene. I should in bipartisan fairness point out here that the linkage between sale and funding of new infrastructure in a region was most profoundly made back in about 2008 by the then ALP Gov’t when they explicitly linked privatisation of Cairns Airport with funding for an essential expansion of Cairns Hospital. This never made sense regardless of any merit for both.

  3. Katrina Drake says:

    Surprising result indeed.

    Voters may not fully understand the economy, who does after all ? But they all know the rules of Monopoly . If one “utility” is owned rent is 4 times the amount shown on the dice, if both “utilities” are owned rent is x10 times the amount shown on the dice.

    Seems like the voters won that round of the game.

    Queenslanders with assets are borrowing against equity while interest rates are low, and building portfolios, and paying down debt. Prices for assets might be inflated because of this – but we are accumulating against hard times ahead, not selling assets. Voters will think think like home economists unless they are convinced otherwise.

  4. Jim says:

    “Strong Choices will join John Hewson’s Fightback as an example of why you shouldn’t take a comprehensive economic reform package to an election.”

    That is a bit harsh on Fightback. It is like saying TV Week (a brochure for the week’s TV and a bit of fluff in the side) end the Economist (substance and transparency of analysis) are the same.

    But in all seriousness, if the LNP was more transparent in releasing business cases etc., perhaps the privatisation agenda would have been a lot more acceptable to the general public.

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