People’s Inquiry into Privatisation visits Sydney

The public will have an opportunity to explain how the privatisation of essential public assets and services has affected them, their families and local communities when hearings into the People’s Inquiry into Privatisation visit Sydney on Thursday.

Community members are invited to present experiences of privatisation and offer advice on better ways to run our public services to an independent panel at the Mercure Hotel from 4pm to 7pm.

Plans to privatise Ausgrid, ASIC’s corporate registry and Medicare’s payment systems as well as more recent sales of Port Botany and Medibank are likely to be a strong focus at the Sydney hearing, which is the third of 13 public hearings making their way across the country during September and October. Public private partnerships at health facilities, such as Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, Maitland and Northern Beaches hospitals may also be topics of concern for the community. Written submissions are open to organisations and individuals via the website: peoplesinquiry.org.au.

The People’s Inquiry aims to start a national conversation around privatisation and develop an alternate vision for Australia’s public services: one that serves the needs of the community and makes them accessible to everyone who needs them, not just those who can afford them. The Inquiry’s Chair, David Hetherington, states, “This is a rare opportunity for an alternative look at privatisation, from the perspective of people and communities, rather than through the cost minimisation prism frequently adopted by governments.”

Concerns around equity of access and delivering social good will be addressed to determine if privatisation is in the public’s interest or simply a way for governments to bolster short-term state and federal budgets. Key considerations include alternatives to the privatisation models of service delivery, user choice, voucher systems, public-private partnerships, commissioning, social impact investment and mutualisation.

The inquiry is particularly interested to hear from the community about the impact of privatisation on the quality, efficacy, capacity and capability of public service delivery; transparency in the provisions of contracts, supply chain details, company ownership, employment and tax practices; wages and conditions of ‘privatised’ workers; costs to government, compared with publicly-owned services; and relevant international human rights and labour standards.

Information presented during the public hearings will assist the independent panel in reporting issues relating to the sale of public assets, outsourcing of service delivery.

To coordinate the inquiry, Public Services International (PSI) united with community organisations and public sector unions representing workers from health, social and community services, energy and power, as well as federal, state and local government workers.

The People’s Inquiry into Privatisation will commence hearings in Newcastle on 5 September and conclude in Canberra on 27 October. See the website for more details and submissions.

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