Queensland’s Liberal National Party government has unanimously voted to take its plan for long-term leases of state assets to the next election.
Queensland’s next state election will be a referendum on leasing state assets for half a century to pay down debt.
Treasurer Tim Nicholls is beaming after Liberal National Party MPs unanimously voted for his plan to reduce $80 billion in debt.
If the LNP government wins the election it will lease two ports, water pipelines, two electricity generators and three power distribution firms for at least 50 years.
The electricity generators and power distribution companies have only been included in recent weeks.
The government will also give lessees an option to extend for another 49 years after the original period of leasing expires.
In return the government hopes to receive up to $37 billion in upfront payments.
Mr Nicholls insists strict conditions and the promise of returning assets to state control in 2064 makes leases a far better option than sales.
“You get the asset back at the end of the day,” he told reporters at parliament.
“If you lease your house out for a year, you get it back at the end of the day, it’s the same with these businesses as well.”
The conditions include ensuring ongoing investment in infrastructure upgrades and maintenance, and ensuring power prices remain uniform for consumers across the state.
The government would have the power to take back control of assets from lessees who fail to comply with contractual conditions.
About $25 billion from the leases would go towards lowering debt, $8.6 billion would be spent on infrastructure and $3.4 billion would go into a special fund to reduce cost of living pressures.
Neither the treasurer nor the premier would talk about the cost of living fund, but told reporters to “watch this space” with a smile.
The opposition and unions said leases would put the assets in private hands for decades and deprive the state of valuable income.
“In (Treasurer) Tim Nicholls own words a sale is the same as a lease and it is selling off the farm,” Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
“There is no difference – a lease is an asset sale pure and simple.”
In the end voters will have the final say, with the LNP saying next year’s election will be a kind of referendum on the leases.
THE QUEENSLAND GOVERNMENT’S ASSET LEASING PLAN:
* WHAT’S UP FOR LEASE
– Power generators Stanwell Corporation and CS Energy Ltd
– Power transmission and distribution companies Energex, Ergon and Powerlink
– Port of Gladstone
– Port of Townsville
– Mount Isa Railway
– Commercial water pipelines of SunWater
– A range of non-core business activities now run by state corporations
* HOW LONG ARE THE LEASES
– 50 years, with an option of extending for another 49 years
* HOW MUCH MONEY WILL BE MADE?
– $37 billion
* HOW WILL IT BE SPENT?
– $25 billion on paying off state debt
– $8.6 billion on infrastructure
– $3.4 billion on reducing cost of living pressure.
(Source: Queensland government)