So many Labor leaders have nailed themselves to the cross of privatisation — Keating; Costa; Iemma; Roozendaal; Keneally; Bligh; Andrew Fraser — that one is tempted to ask if some component of their decision is a lurid passion for self-harm; self-slaughter; suicide.
For no sold-off railway, ferry, ambulance service, hospital, road tunnel or bank has ever gained Labor one vote, and in Queensland alone four days ago it lost them half a million votes. Why did they do it? Why did they do it?
They apparently think Lachlan or James or James or Jodie or Alan or Ziggy or Gina are better at running things than Nugget Coombs or David Hill or Michael Knight; and these dim greedy philistines deserve the billions they get in pocket money for trashing OneTel and Telecom and Medibank and making planes fall out of the sky. Why privatise anything? Why do it?
They need the money, they allege. They need the money more than they need public office. They’ll balance a budget even if, by God, it means thirty years out of power.
Mike Rann ran a ‘No More Privatisations’ campaign in 2002 and his party is still in power. Jim Bacon ran a ‘Don’t Sell The Hydro’ campaign in 1998 and his party is still in power albeit in coalition. Clare Martin gained power in 2001 and never privatised anything and her party is still in power albeit in coalition. Keneally and Bligh, against party policy, privatised things and lost astonished party faithful in aggrieved and shrieking avalanches.
Why privatise anything? Need the money, do you? Two percent on the GST will pick up, oh, twenty billion a year. A ‘temporary levy’ you could call it, as Lincoln did when he invented income tax to pay for his war, a measure that continues. And nobody would ever notice. Put a dollar tax on cinema tickets. That’s a billion for a start. On every tank of petrol. That’s a hundred million. On every parking station ticket. That’s twenty million.
But … well … oh dear … it’s too late, isn’t it? We’ve sold off the farm, and the family silver, and the old horse Josh, and we’ve shot the red dog Meggsy and strangled every goose. And nobody likes us any more. So what do we do?
A few suggestions.
Enact emergency measures to bring down rents by a third. This will be favoured by about 92 percent of the voters. Unfloat the dollar and bring it down to 82 cents. This will preserve our few surviving industries and resurrect a few more. And bring back tariffs to where they were in 1987, under Hawke and Keating, a roaring success.
It’s a Labor version of Hewson’s Fightback! No-one but fourteen thousand vulture capitalists and jackal share traders would oppose it. And a ratings agency or two.
Fuck the rating agencies. They had Lehman’s on a triple-A the day before the crash.
And, oh yes, put Beattie, Bracks, Rann, Gallop and Martin in the Senate. They won from opposition and know what works in government, and would be wonderful tactical policy wonks on the necessary Senate committees.
And do what I said about old people’s teeth, and Qantas, below.
You think you’d lose votes by doing this? Do you? Do you?
You make me so tired.
Prove that I lie.