Queensland Investment Corp chief talks up privatisation
THE head of Queensland's chief investment body would consider bidding for the Gladstone Port and Sunwater if the government-owned assets were put up for sale.
Queensland Investment Corporation chief Damien Frawley said he would also consider the Surat Basin rail line if coal prices rose again and was already looking at other resource related assets.
Electricity companies could be in QIC's sights too with Mr Frawley noting privatisation could actually be better for consumers in the long run.
He said research showed privately owned distribution companies had increased consumer prices 2.4% a year on average since 2007 which was significantly less than the 10.1% increase of government-owned companies over the same period.
QIC - which runs shopping centres all over the world including in Noosa, Toowoomba and on the Gold Coast - has been looking to asset purchases as a way of diversifying investment for its 90 clients worldwide.
Mr Frawley said QIC was a strong asset buyer but only after assessing whether an asset suited the corporation's portfolio.
"We are and have bid and acquired assets that were owned by government," Mr Frawley said.
"Like every asset that comes on the market, we'll look at them case by case, ensure the right due diligence, make sure it makes sense for the buyer and the client."
When asked specifically about the Gladstone Port and SunWater if the LNP gets the green light for asset sales at the next election, Mr Frawley said: "We'd consider them, absolutely".
"We're just like any other infrastructure manger; we'll assess them on their merit and apply for the ones we really want and bid for the ones we want," he said.
"Infrastructure that resides around resources and the resources sector is something we have looked at and we've bid on a couple of times," he said of the Surat Bain rail line.
Mr Frawley said the privatisation of Port Botany and Port Kembla in NSW, which delivered $5.07 billion to the NSW government, was reinvested in infrastructure projects such as the planned WestConnex motorway and a Pacific Highway upgrade.
He said NSW residents could "touch and feel" the result of those asset sales which would make their lives easier.
As Treasurer Tim Nicholls was spruiking his asset sales proposal to Central Queensland, Mr Frawley suggested fears of privatisation were perhaps unfounded, especially when it came to superannuation investors.
He said most private companies were motivated to maintain strong stewardship of the asset because "in many cases their members are the principle users of the assets and derive significant utility from them".
"While some members of the public may have an emotional attachment to state-owned assets going under the hammer, claims that sales to private investors result in worse service aren't necessarily borne out by the facts," he said.
Mr Frawley said research showed government-owned power distribution companies significantly over-invested in their assets which had driven up prices to end users.
"Experienced investors have been able to achieve significant efficiency gains," he said.
Mr Frawley said healthcare was expanding as an industry with more investment opportunities and car parks were an increasingly attractive investment.
But he said he thought casinos on Queensland's horizon would be too "edgy" to benefit QIC's clients.