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Quality Public Services vs Privatisation

Australian society, like many other societies throughout the world, has seen its governments pursue agendas of reduced spending on public services and infrastructure. Governments have also encouraged the pursuit of private sector participation in public services via privatisation, which has often not been in the interests of the Australians who use these services.

The ASU is linked to these public services through our membership and our Branches who are involved in the day to day activities of these services. Examples include ASU members who work in local government, electricity, water, child care, taxation, public transport, ambulance services and education to name a few - with ASU members and their families also being users of these services.


The People’s Inquiry into Privatisation is an initiative of the Public Services’ International (PSI) affiliated unions in Australia which, in addition to the ASU, include the CPSU, NSWNMA and ETU. In 2016 the Inquiry travelled to all states and territories of Australia to gather community testimony about the impact of privatisation on real people. Along with written submissions and research, the result is a comprehensive report released in October 2017: “Taking Back Control: A Community Response to Privatisation”. As the title amply conveys, the Australian people have had enough of the privatisation experiment unleashed on them since the 1990s and there is a strong appetite to return services and assets to public hands.

One of the keenest frustrations expressed by people participating was the failure of the promises given to the community at the time, that jobs would be maintained, that services would improve and costs would go down.

Read more here and download the report and summary: Changing the rules by taking back control: the community reaction to privatisation.

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In order to protect public services the ASU is involved in the global "Quality Public Services" campaign. Our involvement in the campaign seeks to get public services on the agenda of all governments in Australia, that those governments provide quality service to the community and not preside over a reduction of services through spending cuts and privatisation.

Governments should not see profit as the motive when making decisions about public services.

Themes within the ASU Quality Public Services campaign will include:

  1. Opposition to Private Public Partnerships (PPPs) where they are not in the public's best interest or are seen as a means of attacking ASU members and their families' standards of living.
  2. Argue against contracting out of services, particularly where the target is ASU members and their families' standards of living.
  3. Arguing against trade agreements where foreign companies will get an unfair advantage or be out of touch with the Australian community and/or seek to take the profits from the provision of public services in Australia to their shareholders in other communities and other societies throughout the world. Profits from Australian public services should stay in Australia for more public services to serve more Australians.
  4. The realisation by governments, in particular local government, that Australia has an ageing population, an increasing population and a population with an increased standard of living, that will require improved additional Quality Public Services.
  5. ASU campaigns on Quality Public Services link across a range of industries and regular news items reported in the ASU sectors and industries show that we are serious about campaigning for Quality Public Services.

The following is from the PSI "Workers' alternative"

Municipal workers' unions can help achieve the UN millennium development goals because quality public services are the best sustainable alternative to poverty. These services should be immune to privatisation.

Delegates learned about Norway's 'model municipality' experiment, which is based on a tripartite collaboration of politicians, administration and the unions. The key to this work is to develop good quality services based on ideas from the municipal workers themselves.

The experiment is a pro-active way of changing the balance in the municipalities by giving the employees more influence. They know what the needs of the inhabitants are, and they know better than anyone how to change services for the better.

This is in line with PSI's policy that all citizens should have access to personalised public welfare services of high quality, and that workers have valuable experience and knowledge.

Norwegian union NUMGE sees the model municipality experiment as an anti-privatisation strategy. It doesn't just oppose outsourcing, privatisation and commercialisation, but offers an alternative strategy. PSI is developing campaign materials to strengthen trade union capacity to promote municipal workers' rights and all citizens' access to quality public services.