Archive for March, 2012

Selling Australia’s future

March 23, 2012


I have written about the sale of our farms, real-estate and water, so here is an ideal of what else is being sold off at bargain basement prices to fund election promises.

In South Australia we all know the basic list, but maybe not the huge long term costs of short sighted easy money, sought by governments who ideal of the long term future, is the term between elections.

SGIC, AIDC, TAB, Forestry, Our Ports, Public transport, TAFE, Travel centre, Jails, Torrens Island, Hospitals, electricity, State bank, Work cover, SA Gas company, ETSA, Power connectors, SA Water, Adelaide airport and many more, all sold, attempted sale with what little that is left on the agenda of supposed privatisation.

Every one of these sales, has meant we the people have to make up for the loss of profits these State owned organisations used to bring in, on top of the uncontrolled increases in the supply of essential services.

Here is a brief Federal list of privatisations, Water, Farms and Manufacturing that have been sold off, is hard to attain, for instance sales of Australian farming land received no scrutiny unless the sale exceeds 244 million, allowing the ability for whole states to be brought up by foreign investment, while no one is watching, along with it our food security.

“Here is a list of some of the privatisation deals in Australia over the past 20 years”.



Australian Industry Development Corporation: public float that raised $25 million for the Hawke Government.

NSW Investment Corporation: trade sale that raised $60 million for the Greiner Government. 


State Bank of Victoria: sold to the Commonwealth Bank for $1.3 billion after taxpayers absorbed about $1.7 billion in loan losses.

Commonwealth bank: Keating government floated the first 30% at the bargain basement price of $5.40 a share, collecting just $1.3 billion for taxpayers. (Check the values now)


Loy Yang B power station: the Kennett government picks up the Kirner Government’s tortuous privatisation process of the Loy Yang B power station and sells 49 per cent to Mission Energy for $1.3 billion with an over-priced power purchase contract under-pinning the sale price.

Portland Smelter Unit Trust: trade sale that raised $171 million for the Victorian Government with Alcoa and the Chinese Government major investors.

: trade sale to telecommunications provider Optus that raised $504 million for the Federal Government.

: trade sale that raised $665 million from British Airways with a further $1.3 billion collected in a public float two years later.

: raised $1.26 billion in a public float at $2.40 a share for the NSW Government and was then disastrously taken over by AMP before being sold to Suncorp.

State Insurance Office: one of the few assets sold by the Kirner Government in Victoria which fetched $125 million from GIO.


Heatane Gas: the bottled gas division of Victoria’s Gas & Fuel Corporation which was sold to Elgas for a big price of $129.5 million.

NSW Grain Corporation
: trade sale that raised $96 million for the NSW Liberal Government.

SAGASCO: trade sale to Boral that raised $417 million for the South Australian government, and established Boral as one of the major players in Australia’s gas industry.


Gladstone Power Station: Queensland’s biggest, was sold by the Goss government to Comalco, NRG and a group of aluminium traders. At the time it was the largest private power acquisition in the world but had the safety of a long-term power supply deal back to the government.

NSW State bank
: sold to Colonial for a net price of about $250 million in 1994 in what then Colonial CEO Paul Batchelor described privately as “the greatest bank robbery in history”. The bank was valued at $2 billion when CBA took over Colonial in 2000.

Moomba to Sydney gas pipeline: Keating government collected $500 million from the sale of the Moomba to Sydney gas pipeline to AGL with 51 per cent and Gasinvest with 49 per cent.

CSL: floated for $2.30 a share or $300 million. Now worth more than $20 billion as the original investors enjoy making 50-fold returns in 15 years.

Tabcorp: floated for $2.25 a share or $675 million. Shares are now around $12, the company is worth $6 billion and more than $10 has been returned to shareholders through dividends.

Grain Elevators Board
: trade sale to Vicgrain Operations that raised $52 million for the Kennett Government.


Collinsville power station: the Queensland Government awarded a $130 million contract to NRG and Transfield to refurbish and recommission the Collinsville coal-fired power station.

Pipelines Authority of South Australia
: Texas-based Tenneco joined with Santos to buy the Pipelines Authority of South Australia from the SA government for $304 million.

United Energy: Kansas City-based Utilicorp, AMP and NSW State Super buy Victorian electricity distributor and retailer United Energy for $1.553 billion from the Kennett Government.

GFE Resources: Kennett Government sold gas exploration division GFE Resources for $56.2 million to Cultus Petroleum. Most of the territory is now owned by Origin Energy.

Solaris Power: AGL and US company GPU pay $950 million for Solaris Power, the smallest of the five Victorian electricity distributors based in Melbourne’s western suburbs.

the largest Victorian electricity distributor covering the western half of the state, sold to US utility PacifiCorp for $2.15 billion.

Eastern Energy
: Texas Utilities pays the Victorian Government $2.08 billion for the electricity distributor covering the east of the state.

Citipower: the geographically smallest of Victoria’s five electricity distributors was bought by New Orleans-based utility Entergy for $1.57 billion.

Aerospace Technologies of Australia: trade sale to Boeing that raised $40 million for the Keating Government.

Port of Geelong
: trade sale that raised $51 million for the Kennett Government with TNT leading the purchase.

Port of Portland: trade sale to an Australian consortium that holds equal interests – 50% each holding for the Australian Infrastructure Fund and the Utilities Trust of Australia. This sale raised $30 million for the Kennett Government.

State Government Insurance Commission: trade sale to the NRMA that raised $175 million for the South Australian government.


Transurban: Kennett Government awards Transurban the contract to build own and operate the $1.3 billion City Link project connecting Melbourne’s major freeways.

Bank West: $900 million trade sale by the WA Government to British bank HBOS ahead of a public float.

Commonwealth Bank: Howard government floats remaining 51% at $10.40 a share.

Commonwealth Funds Management: trade sale that raised $63 million.

Suncorp-Metway: with the merger of 100% owned Suncorp and QIDC entities with the publicly listed Metway Bank, this gave the Queensland Government a majority shareholding of 68%. They indicated a sell-down to more than 15% but by 2000 they had relinquished all holdings through a public float. The business is now worth more than $12 billion.

Yallourn power station
: PowerGen of Britain leads a consortium including Itochu, AMP, Hastings and NSW State Super which paid $2.43 billion to the Kennett Government for the 1800mW Yallourn power station in the Latrobe Valley.

Hazelwood Power station
: Britain’s National Power and its US partners Destec and Pacific Corp paid the Kennett Government a ridiculous $2.3 billion for the 30-year old Hazelwood Power station in the Latrobe Valley.

Bank SA: the good part of the old State Bank of South Australia was sold to Advance for $720 million and now sits inside St George Bank.

Axiom Funds Management: trade sale to Deutsche Bank that raised $240 million for the Carr Government.

Forwood Products: trade sale that raised $123 million for the South Australian government.

World Trade Centre
: trade sale to a Malaysian Syndicate that raised $103 million. They on-sold it to a joint-venture Asset for $112 million.

Victorian Plantations Corp: trade sale to Hancock Victorian Plantations that raised $550 million.


Loy Yang B power station: Edison Mission Energy renegotiates long term power sale deal done with Kirner and Kennett governments and takes over a $1.1 billion liability and 100% ownership of the 1000mW Loy Yang B power station in the Latrobe Valley.

Powernet Victoria
: US utility GPU pays an excessive $2.55 billion to the Kennett Government for the monopoly electricity transmission company.

Airports: with the sale of separate long-term leasehold interests in Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth airports generating gross proceeds of $3.31 billion.

Australian National Rail
: trade sale that raised $95 million.

Brisbane Airport: trade sale that raised nearly $1.4 billion for the Howard Government.

Melbourne Airport: trade sale that raised $1.3 billion for the Howard Government with AMP, NSW State Super and BAA leading the buyout group.

Perth Airport: trade sale that raised $643 million.

: initial public float that raised $14.3 billion at the knockdown price of $3.30 a share.

State Gas Pipeline: trade sale that raised $163 million.


Adelaide Airport: sold to Parafield & Adelaide Airport Ltd for $467 million.

Darwin & Alice Springs airport
: sold to Alice Springs & Darwin International Airport Pty Ltd for $108 million.

Canberra airport: 
sold to consortium led by the Snow brothers for $65 million.

Hobart airport
: sold to Hobart International Airport Pty Ltd for $35 million.

Dampier-to-Bunbury natural gas pipeline
: Epic Energy, a consortium including American power giants El Paso and Consolidated Natural Gas, along with AMP, NSW State Super and Hastings, pay the WA Government a ridiculous $2.47 billion for the Dampier-to-Bunbury natural gas pipeline and eventually lose all their equity.

Australian Industry Development Corporation: trade sale that raised $200 million for the Howard Government.


Ecogen Energy: owner of Victoria’s two small gas-fired power stations, sold by Kennett Government to US utility AES for $350 million.

Queensland TAB
: floated for $2 a share or $268 million in 1999 and then taken over by Tabcorp in 2004 as investors enjoyed returns of almost 1000%, including a solid dividend flow.

Gascor: the final Kennett Government privatisation saw Queensland’s controversial state-owned energy company Energex pay $29.25 million for the rights to buy 10 petejoules of gas from Gascor for the next four years until the market was fully contestible. This was Alan Stockdale’s way of trying to bring a fourth competitor into the gas market.

ETSA transmission
: Li Ka-Shing led Cheung Kong Infrastructure and Hong Kong Electric Holdings pays $3.5 billion to the South Australian government for ETSA transmission and distribution assets.

Westar/Kinetik: Texas Utilities buys the first of three Victoria gas retailers and distributors, Westar/Kinetik, for $1.62 billion.

: American group Utilicorp and its local partner AMP paid the Kennett Government $1.97 billion to snare the second of Victoria’s gas retailers and distributors.

Gasnet: Victoria’s monopoly gas transmission business, sold to GPU for $1.025 billion in the last of the Kennett sales.


Broadcast Australia: Howard Government sell the SBS and ABC transmission towers for $650 million to UK company NTL, which later sold them to Macquarie Bank which then jacked up the prices paid by taxpayers and doubled their money.

Torrens Island power station: Texas Utilities pays $295 million to the South Australian government for a 100 year lease to operate the 1280mW gas-fired Torrens Island power station.

Alinta Gas: Utilicorp (later Aquila) and AMP pay $4.38 a share for a cornerstone shareholding in WA gas utility Alinta Gas before it is floated by the Court government at the knockdown price of $2.25 a share. Singapore Power and the Babcock & Brown empire than bought the business for about $15 a share in 2007, so once again taxpayers were dudded. However, those who accepted all that Babcock paper only finished up with about $11 a share – still not a bad result after paying $2.25 in the float.

ElectraNet: Queensland’s Powerlink, ABB and Macquarie Bank form a consortium and pay $938 million for South Australia’s electricity transmission company ElectraNet.


Bell Bay power station
: the government-owned Tasmanian Hydro Electric Corporation hands 120mW Bell Bay power station to Duke Energy for conversion to natural gas, complete with a long term management contract.


National Rail Corporation and Freightcorp: Howard Government received $1.05 billion from Toll Holdings and Patrick Corp for its rail assets.


Millmerran power station
: the 840mW station is the largest “greenfield” private investment in electricity generation in Australia (as opposed to purchasing an existing facility from a government utility). It was built by a InterGen/Shell-Bechtel joint venture and is owned by a partnership made up of InterGen, Marubeni, GE Capital, Tohoku Electric and EIF.


Roaring 40s Renewable Energy: China Light & Power invests $110 million for a 50% stake in Hydro Tasmania’s Roaring 40s Renewable Energy business.


DirectLink: Australian Pipeline Trust (now APA Group) buys the DirectLink electricity transmission asset linking the NSW and Queensland power grids for $170 million from the NSW Government-owned Country Energy, Hydro Quebec International Group and Fonds de Solidarites des Travailleurs de Quebec.

Australian Railway Group: Queensland Government owned Queensland Rail teams up with Babcock & Brown to buy the partially government-owned Australian Railway Group in a $1 billion deal that covers three non-Queensland states.

Murraylink power connector
: Australian Pipeline Trust (now APA Group) buys the 180km underground Murraylink power connector linking the Victorian, South Australian and NSW power markets for $153 million. The asset was built by Hydro Quebec for $177 million.

Allgas energy: Australian Pipeline Trust, now renamed APA Group, pays $535 million to the Queensland Government for the Allgas energy distribution business.

Sun Retail
: Origin Energy pays $1.2 billion to the Queensland Government for Sun Retail, the major part of the old Energex retail operations. AGL pays $75 million for the smaller Sun Gas Retail business.


Powerdirect: AGL buys retailer Powerdirect from the Queensland government for an bargain of $1.2 billion.


Tatts Group: in a deal worth more than $1 billion, they purchased the state lotteries company from the NSW government. The NSW government will receive $850 million cash for the licence and purchase of the NSW Lotteries Corporation.


I will continue to add to the list, when time permits, if any would like to assist, please email me details on the many I have missed so far.


Mark Aldridge



Stop the SALE of Aussie land, farms and infrastructure

March 19, 2012



The world’s population set to hit 7 billion later this year and predicted to hit 10 billion by the end of the century, food production and top quality agricultural land has never been a more valuable asset for any countries long term future.

From many different countries in particular those with limited ability to feed their population, government-backed companies have begun buying up farmland around the world, with Australia’s vast tracts of top quality primary production land a prime target.

Qatar-based “Hassad Foods” has been a major player in the big local farmland buy-up, the company has invested more than $60 million in prime Australian sheep grazing land in the past year, with more properties in the company’s sights.  The Weekly Times reported Hassad were poised to snap up a further 8500 hectares of land in Victoria’s western district in a deal worth $35 million — about 20% above market price.

China state-owned conglomerate “Bright Foods” has also been desperately looking to acquire local agribusinesses because of the federal governments ideals making it easy for overseas investors. The Shanghai-controlled company have reported to be interested in Foster’s wine division, while last year they made a failed $1.7 billion tilt for sugar producer CSR. The company has also managed to get the backing of the NSW government to explore local wine, diary and sugar investment opportunities.

In the south-east of Australia, Brazilian beef giant JBS has been busy buying up abattoirs and meatworks, while Singapore-based “Olam International” now control almost 45% of Australian almonds, thanks to its purchase of “Timbercorp” and its 8096-hectare plant.

Ausbuy CEO Lynne Wilkinson made it clear the issue of food security is paramount to the rest of the world and should also be just as important to Australia.

Lynne also went on to say there have been many recent instances, including the sale of over 100,000 hectares of farmland in Western Australia to the Arab States, which show the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) and the ACCC are not looking after Australia’s long term security interests.

“When countries buy up our land, water and farms, it raises issues of sovereign risk”, our governments short sighted grab for cash, is seeing us lose the intellectual property of generations of Australian farmers.”

The sad fact is “We cannot guarantee the food grown on this land will stay in Australia or that the profits from exports will be here.”  What people don’t realise is that if someone buys prime agricultural land, we can’t force them to sell us the food from that land, they can ship the food from the land directly to their country, so what the hell are our government thinking?


Independent SA senator Nick Xenophon, agrees with my position, himself worrying that corporations who aren’t state-owned but are “effectively arms of foreign governments” are going under under the radar in purchasing farmland.

“We should be selling the food, not the farms,” is a statement being screamed by many, but not being heard by our supposed representatives.

Because the sale of agricultural land in Australia is exempt under Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) regulations, there is rarely much attention given to the overseas purchases of farmland unless the purchase of assets exceeds the $244 million threshold. Making it near impossible to even track how much has already been sold.

Not only are we not privy to the truth, we have no idea of exactly what land foreigners own, Australia has extensive arable land, but not all is ideal for crop production, so even if figures of say 10% were quoted, it could well in fact be 80% of the top 10% of productive land, the facts and figures are all over the place, near 10% of water is now part or wholly owned by overseas companies, a staggering figure in land known for its unreliable rain fall.

The figure for the NT account for a figure approaching 30% of Land ownership, but exactly how much of the NT land is productive? While studying ABS figures, we are confronted with grazing and grain farming lumped into one figure, yet the value of  Grain farming land is of higher value than that of grazing, so transparency simply is not on the agenda.

The fact that the foreign investment review board only open their eyes to land purchases exceeding 244 million dollars, foreign investors could viably buy up a whole state without review, a frighting fact that we the people should strongly oppose.

The indexed monetary thresholds for 2012 are $244 million and $1062 million. The developed non-residential commercial real estate (not heritage listed) is also now indexed and for 2012 is $53 million. For current monetary thresholds see monetary thresholds.

In any event ABS figures are only as reliable as those filling in the information, as facts and figures are arrived at from mail out surveys, begging the question, if the government don’t know, the ABS are somewhat guessing, exactly how much farm land is left, how much is being brought, and what quality is left for we as a nation to feed future generations?

When we study beyond farms, water and vital infrastructure to the residential issue, In December 2008, the Australian Federal Government announced policy and administrative changes to screening arrangements for foreign investors in Australian real estate, meaning it will be easier for overseas purchasers to buy property here from 2009.

The policy changes effective from 18 December 2008 combined with administrative changes introduced progressively since February 2009. The intention is to simplify the process and in doing so, streamline it, while reducing costs for foreign residents and foreign businesses.

The short term gain from foreign investment in local and community real-estate, will have long term consequences for our children’s ability to enter the real estate market, with even the government unable to compete, let alone the fact they are now also shying away from supplying affordable housing in favour of NGO running our housing trust.

There is no time to lose, we the people must demand our representative government immediately implement a moratorium on all land sales to foreign investors, until such time as “We the people” can make an informed decision.

I propose the immediate adoption of an Australia wide community consultation process to allow for an informed referendum to be held during the next federal election, for it is our land, our future and our sustainability on the line.


Mark M Aldridge

Community advocate and independent candidate

08 82847482/0403379500