28 July 2020

Osmond Chiu: “[T]he biggest open secret in Australian public policy [is] that Australian governments have regularly reversed privatisation over the past 20 years. … In the last year alone, the Queensland government has taken back two prisons from the private sector, the Western Australian government has reversed the privatisation of the operation and maintenance of Perth’s Water Corporation and the ACT government has brought school cleaning back in-house to the public sector. These examples challenge the assumption that once privatisation occurs, it does not get reversed. The failure to recognise how common it is has made our public policy discussion poorer. This flawed assumption that privatisation does not get reversed has prevented public ownership from being seriously considered as a realistic option by political leaders when privatised services fail. … These case studies demonstrate the reversal of privatisation is far from radical and an understandable response by governments both on the left and right to meet policy objectives and address market failures. It shows that if we genuinely want to improve our public services and deliver better outcomes for all Australians, taking back privatised functions needs to part of the policy discussion.”

Oz has been cataloguing these case studies as part of the Transnational Institute’s Public Futures Global Database of remunicipalisation.