PUBLIC ASSETS & UTILITIES
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Australian governments should ensure an adequate level of public ownership of assets, utilities and services in order to serve the broader public interest.(1)
Policy Methods (Federal & State)
To help achieve this Australia should:
- Retain, and where appropriate regain, public ownership of essential utilities including electricity, natural gas and water assets.
- Retain, and where appropriate regain, public ownership of natural monopolies that significantly impact on national security such as ports and airports.
- Set clear public asset, utilities and services ownership and operation criteria that enhances financial management efficiency, the ongoing quality of service delivery (particularly in relation to public schools, hospitals and transport), environmental sustainability and the public good.
- Also see FOREIGN INVESTMENT policy.
- Public ownership can often better provide for decisions to be taken in the broader public interest, including the prioritisation of environmental sustainability and the better directing of technological innovation. Examples would be transitions from fossil fuels to renewable energy, road to rail freight, and slower depletion of non-renewable resources. Furthermore, public ownership can, where required, be equally or more efficient than private ownership if properly managed and resourced. Privatisations often increase the cost to citizens of accessing the services of essential utilities due to a greater push for profit. Generally only profitable entities are privatised, which means either that the loss of future revenue to government is greater than the sale price, or the future revenue must be escalated by putting up fees to customers. Public asset ownership does not necessarily need to build in profit margins for shareholders, and may therefore provide consumers with products at lower prices.
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