We've already seen the sell-off of major government services like Telstra, the Commonwealth Bank, our energy services, Medibank and even Qantas. Now, the Australian government is considering the privatisation of human services.
Treasurer Scott Morrison has asked the Productivity Commission to investigate if privatising key human services would help save delivery costs, increase competition and provide more choice for clients.
The preliminary findings of the Productivity Commission’s Inquiry provide clues about the services that could be reformed. These include social housing, public hospitals, dental services, aged care, services for remote Indigenous communities and family and community services.
Public Service International, a trade union that represents over 500 member unions, says privatisation of government services is a global movement.
They believe privatisation doesn't necessarily produce quality public services. Instead, they say it leads to corporate profits undermining the public interest as the driving force. They argue it’s a dangerous trend that must be reversed.
David Hetherington, executive director of Per Capita, an Australian-based think tank, is at the helm of a ‘People's Inquiry into Privatisation’, which aims to give the public an opportunity to explain how privatisation of essential public assets and services have affected them, their families and local communities.
“There are always new ways of looking at the problems facing communities. But the main thing that we are asking is how changes that affect remote communities actually affect individual’s lives.”
Per Capita is inviting community members to present their experiences of privatisation and offer advice on better ways to run our public services to an independent panel at the Novotel on Collins in Melbourne this week.
“The Government is looking to the Productivity Commission report to work out what it needs to do. We want to counter this with our own report, which will come out early next year. But our aim is to harness public pressure here and use it to call on the government to listen and to take seriously our report, which will propose alternatives to what the commission outlines”, he explains.
Mr Hetherington believes the quality of human services would decrease if private enterprise were to take over.
“They have to squeeze out a profit from the services that they run, so we really want to have a proper debate on the problems that this may create,” he says.
Even though the free market theory states that private businesses encourage more competition and more services, this just doesn’t happen in remote communities.
Mr Hetherington told NITV: “What actually happens is that there ends up only being one service delivered and no range of choice, because it’s such a small town. The pressures to have a profit are high, but the reality of a profit is quite low.
“Privatising is designed to improve things, but it’s often nonsense. It’s actually proved to be too hard. Many people also depend on the government in these communities to provide disability care or housing, but you can’t rely on services that are supposed to be providing this good service when private companies are looking for a health profit margin.”
The 12-month Human Services Inquiry is calling for public opinions by the 27th of October and the final report is due to be released one month later in November.