Notorious union-basher buys rail network:
Rail workers beware!
With the acquisition of FreightCorp and National Rail by Toll and Lang Corp, Chris Corrigan, one of Australia's best known anti-worker, anti-union zealots, will be set to wreak his brand of terror over rail workers. The man responsible for the unleashing of savage dogs and balaclava-clad goons onto them in 1998 is set to "reform" these rail operations. The Federal, NSW and Victorian Governments announced on August 24, 2001, that the "best outcome for profitable freight carriage" was a sale of their assets to one private owner. The three governments are stakeholders of the main interstate freight rail carrier National Rail Corporation (NRC) and the NSW freight rail carrier FreightCorp. FreightCorp and National Rail hold up to 70 percent of the standard/broad gauge rail freight rolling stock in Australia. In Sydney they hold the monopoly at Port Botany terminal, where FreightCorp runs the PortLink service and is the major container operator into Port Botany. Lang Corp and Toll will pay $1.17 billion for the assets, except the tracks that are owned by the state governments. Other bidders for the public assets included Rail America and the consortium of Wesfarmers/Genesee and Wyoming (US) joint owners of the Australian Railroad Group. On September 5 last year Toll and Lang announced they would form a consortium for the combined rail freight sale. Toll, a major Australian transport and logistics company, is the main customer for National Rail. Toll has a substantial trucking fleet in which the majority has been contracted out to small operators. It would be no trouble to alter these contracts so as to cater for an increase in rail freight. Lang Corporation is the parent company to major stevedoring company Patrick Stevedores. Chris Corrigan is the managing director in Australia. Lang Corp can now improve rail links to the ports for a continuous service in import and export. Control of the terminals will increase their profits and could be used to Lang's advantage against competitors using rail services. National Rail profits The Commonwealth injected $680 million into NRC over the last eight years to upgrade terminals, replace the locomotive fleet, introduce information technology, which saw it increase its rail freight (predominantly from road to rail) at 16 billion net tonne/kilometre in 1996/97 to 17.1 billion net tonne/kilometre in 2000/01. National Rail Corporation began operations in 1991 when freight was running at a loss of $321 million annually. The announced sale of National Rail came at a time when it was headed toward its first profit, $2.3 million before tax. Federal Minister for Finance Nick Minchin gave his support for the sale by saying NRC never made a profit. The ALP and Liberals are up to the same old tricks. Use public ownership to make an efficient operation then sell it to their mates. Events like the takeover of these two rail bodies highlight the utter corruption, greed and allegiance of these political parties to the bosses. Making a profit for your mates comes before the possible expenditure of revenue on services so badly needed by the people, including health and education. The sale of FreightCorp and National Rail is nothing but theft from the people as is the case with all privatisation. The NSW Government sold both its FreightCorp and the NRC shares for $809 million, of which $439 million went to pay off debts. The Commonwealth made $220 million on the NRC sale, which will be used to maintain the tracks used by Corrigan and Toll and to pay off outstanding debt. The prized rail assets are now controlled by the anti-worker union basher Chris Corrigan and Toll's Paul Little. Since Corrigan's infamous attack on the MUA four years ago, Lang's shares rose from $1.43 each to $13.50, with expectations that they will reach $15 within the year. Toll shares have also experienced a similar rise from $3.50 three years ago to $30, with expectations of hitting $40 within the year. Union bashing, cuts to workers' wages and conditions and good deals from governments certainly swelled profits. RailCorp and NRC were recorded jointly as earning $25 million last financial year, after tax and depreciation. Within a few years Paul Little reckons he wants this new business to be making $250 million in earnings. Other big earners from this sale were the consultants who will get a substantial cut of public assets. The NSW Government is being advised by Credit Suisse First Boston and the Federal Government has retained Macquarie Bank. Public is best Australia needs a publicly owned, integrated transport system. Rail, sea, road and air transport are all suffering because they are in the process of being broken up and sold off, being underfunded by government or have already been privatised in part or whole. Instead of a system of moving goods and people across the continent, with each mode of transport complimenting and supporting the other, we have a mish-mash of competing interests. Governments, both state and federal, sell off transport systems (and at bargain basement prices) and subsidise the non-profit parts, such as track maintenance and non-profit airports. Services to the public are cut while taxpayers bail out bankruptcies caused by the incompetent and short-sighted private owners. At the same time the rate of exploitation of workers in the various branches of the transport industry has been increased. Victoria's privatised rail and bus systems are an example of a government-subsidised, for-profit failure, with the conditions and wages of its workers being eroded, services taken away and fares increased, all to maintain profit levels. The Howard Government's massive reduction in funding is killing Australian shipping. The use of foreign ships in Australia has grown by 293 percent since 1994, with only around 45 major Australian flagged and crewed vessels still operating in Australian waters. In aviation, Australia's national airline Qantas is in private hands. The Ansett debacle continues and the sell-off of Sydney Airport is near the top of the Howard Government's priorities. All this is the planlessness and chaos of the private sector in action. Privatisation of Australia's transport system is against the public good and a burden on the economy, and the Toll and Lang Corp takeover confirms its anti-worker nature.
* * *Acknowledgements: Railway Bulletin, produced by the Maritime and Transport Branch, CPA: http://www.geocities.com/cpamaritime