Premier Campbell Newman stressed that no decisions had yet been made.
Premier Campbell Newman stressed that no decisions had yet been made. Brenda Strong

Audit shows push for Qld to climb back to a AAA rating

A PUSH for Queensland to regain its credit rating within 10 years is driving widespread Queensland Government reform, including the potential sale of ports in Gladstone.

The findings of the Commission of Audit, headed by former Federal Treasurer Peter Costello and released publicly on Tuesday, was paired with a government response backing or considering all but six of the 155 suggestions.

Among the rejected suggestions was selling off of Ergon, Energex and PowerLink.

While Premier Campbell Newman and Treasurer Tim Nicholls stressed that no decisions had yet been made and that no major sales would occur before its second term in power, some services could be outsourced before then.

The report focused on the premise of "contestability" - putting up government services or departments for consideration by the market as a way of benchmarking performance.

Beyond the market appraisal, the practice doubles as a way of unearthing would-be buyers.

The accepted suggestions from the report included a plan to outsource the maintenance of QR rail lines in metropolitan and regional areas and the option to sell government-owned companies including power generators CS Energy, Stanwell and the Port of Gladstone.

The major coal port may follow in the footsteps of its northern counterparts near Mackay, with the government acting as overseer while the private sector does the heavy lifting financially.

"That's one of the options, there are a number of options," Treasurer Nicholls said.

"We could have partial leases, so we could lease to the person who wants to lease the RG Tanner Coal Terminal.

"But we could have another lease if another person wanted to operate Barney Point."

Among the chorus of criticism from various unions, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland said the latest sell-off plans meant a better credit rating was decades away.

Asked if it would take longer than 10 years for Queensland to climb back to a AAA rating, the Treasurer was more optimistic.

"I think if we hadn't done things in the last budget and the things we're doing here, we'd get a downgrade," he said.

"We're trying to climb back to a AAA but I don't have a crystal ball."

When considering if or when to offload assets and services, Mr Nicholls said the need to ensure jobs would not be a major consideration - the focus would be on value for money.

"We're not talking about a Soviet-era make-work program," he said.

"We're talking about delivery of services for a price they are prepared to pay."

The alternative, he said, was a bloated public service and a higher cost to the taxpayer.

 

Commission of Audit recommendations + government response:

  • Issue long-term leases to the private sector for the Ports of Gladstone and Townsville - further consideration
  • Sell electricity assets - Ergon, Energex and Powerlink - not accepted
  • Consider selling electricity generators CS Energy and Stanwell - accepted
  • Allow competitive tendering for long distance and tourist passenger rail services - accepted
  • Outsource maintenance for the regional rail network - accepted
  • The Government seek expressions of interest for QBuild, Project Services and RoadTek provided in regional areas - accepted


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