Daniel Andrews has announced one of the biggest privatisations of publicly owned land in recent history.
The Andrews Labor government is putting 151 sites, totaling 2600 hectares of land, on the market. This is five times more than all public land sold off in Victoria in the last ten years combined!
This selling frenzy comes at a time when there is a burning need for more public housing. There are around 87,000 people in Victoria on the waiting list for public housing, which has been severely underfunded in recent decades. The worsening crisis of housing affordability has lead to a spike in homelessness.
Instead of using this available land, and the state’s budget surplus, to build enough housing to meet the shortage, Labor has chosen to sell it to developers, speculators, and other private interests.
This land is the latest asset to be devoured as part of Labor’s privatisation agenda. It follows the Port of Melbourne and the Land Titles Registry, as well as an ongoing push to sell public housing estates in a number of areas. VicRoads, or parts of it, is next in line.
Andrews’ rush to privatise so much land at once reflects unease about the state of the Victorian government’s finances. Falling property prices means the government is taking in less income through land taxes and stamp duty. The government is trying to shore up its budget with these short-term sales.
However, there is no reason the budget could not be boosted by other means – such as increasing taxes on the largest and most profitable businesses. The fact that Labor would rather sell off public assets shows its true character as a right-wing, pro-capitalist party.
Privatisation is a disaster everywhere it is implemented. We need to fight not just to keep existing public assets in public hands, but to take over all the main levers of the economy for democratic public use and planning.
By Jeremy Trott