The Guardian March 1, 2000

High price of a government's criminal activities

Further evidence of the criminal activities of the former Kennett 
Government has come to light in contracts they entered into when 
privatising tram and train services. As a result, new rolling stock which 
could be manufactured in Australia, may be purchased from overseas.

For 100 years local manufacturers have been supplying Victoria's public 
transport system with its major requirements  but no more. One of the new 
private owners proposes to have rolling stock manufactured overseas.

"It's criminal", said Leigh Hubbard, Secretary of the Victorian Trades Hall 
Council, "that Kennett and Stockdale have left a legacy of industry closure 
and job losses in the mad scramble to sell-off Victoria's public assets.

"The contracts they drew up to privatise the public transport system 
contained no local content requirements. Six thousand Victorian workers and 
their families now face unemployment as a result."

The Victorian trade union movement intends to put pressure on all private 
transport operators to "do the right thing".

A group of local manufacturers has called upon the new Labor Government to 
offer incentives to the rail and tram operators and reduce their 
performance penalties to force them to use local manufacturers to fill 
about $1.1 billion of rolling stock orders.

This, however, only continues to penalise Victoria taxpayers.

Why should the people's money be used to bail out what is nothing less than 
criminal activity by the former government?

It is scandalous that such agreements should have ever been implemented and 
that privatisation of public transport should have been allowed to occur.

Such agreements should be summarily torn up and decisive working class 
action backed up by the mobilisation of the people to protect the 
government from the undoubted attacks that would follow such an action.

The private owners are almost certainly tied up with overseas manufacturers 
and unless the contracts are revoked they are likely to thumb their noses 
at the attempts to persuade them to "do the right thing".

The Victorian Trade Hall Council has joined with employers, local 
government and public transport users to form a "Rollingstock Alliance". 
The Alliance has called on the Victorian Government to intervene to save 
local industry.

This episode is yet another example of the scurrilous conduct of leading 
Liberal Party politicians in cooperation with sections of big business.

If ordinary people robbed others of their wealth and property they would 
end up in jail. Kennett and Stockdale should be tried as ordinary criminals 
who have robbed the people of Victoria and destroyed industries that have 
been built up by hard work over many years.

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