Threat of foreign ownership real after One Nation – Liberal preference deal

Friday 17 Feb 2017

This week’s revelation that Pauline Hanson has done a preference deal with Colin Barnett to exchange preferences at the upcoming election comes as a surprise.

It’s an abrupt reversal for Colin Barnett, who warned voters not to vote for One Nation as recently as last week. Now the Liberals are even talking about handing out One Nation how to vote cards.

Mr Barnett was at least honest for once about what motivated this decision: keeping himself in power: “It is unusual but it is a practical pragmatic decision by the Liberal Party because what we're out to do is to retain government.”

What the Liberals are being less honest about is the very real prospect of public assets and utilities ending up in the hands of foreign owners if they are returned to power.

Mr Barnett and Treasurer Mike Nahan have been pedaling the fiction that if the proposed float of 51% of Western Power goes ahead, it will be sold to Australian owned superfunds and local ‘mum and dad investors’.

It sounds more palatable when you picture retirees in your community as the shareholders of our vital energy infrastructure, instead of foreign-based multinationals. But that’s the most likely outcome facing WA if Western Power is sold.

Mr Barnett has form here: as Energy Minister and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party in the Court Liberal Government, Colin Barnett privatised Alinta Gas, saying in 2000 “I expect 75 per cent of the shares will be owned by Western Australians.”

By 2007, the company was acquired by an overseas consortium and is now owned by US private equity firm TPG.

The fact is that Colin Barnett can’t guarantee who will own the essential public infrastructure we rely on to run our state if Western Power is privatised. Once the shares are sold, there’s no controlling who owns them. Instead of putting the best interests of the people of Western Australia first, Western Power will be compelled to make the profits of its shareholders as its top priority. 

It doesn’t stop with Western Power either. This week Mr Nahan outlined a vision for selling off more publicly owned assets and forcing Western Australians to rely on more private hospitals and prisons in order to tackle the record deficit they’ve made. They’re offering a platform of selling off our state and making us the tenants of foreign corporate landlords. 

Pauline Hanson and One Nation were supposedly against the sale of Western Power. This preference deal shatters that illusion. They’ve lost any legitimacy they had as a place for voters to protest the policies and actions of the Barnett Government. Now they’re lining up to help him stay in power and push through with their privatisation agenda.

A vote for Pauline Hanson and One Nation is a vote for more of the same.