To grasp the real consequence Barnaby Joyce's choice on the Telstra privatisation, we need to count in billions of dollars, unused to that as we ordinary folk are.
The August 25 Australian's triumphant headlines about BHP Billiton's record-breaking $8.6 billion annual profit (Australia's largest company profit) should make us look at the next biggest Australian-based corporate profit earner this year and last — Telstra.
BHP Billiton: 2005 profit — $8.6billion; 2004 profit — $4.94billion
Telstra: 2005 profit — $4.45billion; 2004 profit — $4.12billion
If you take into account the exceptional boost to BHP Billiton's profit line from exceptionally high commodity prices, the relative value of the privatisation of the remaining half of Telstra is underlined. That privatisation is so big that the market cannot swallow it in the near future. So the sale, while it may soon be approved with Barnaby's Choice, after much public um-ing and ah-ing, will have to be delayed. The shares may be parked in the special $3.1billion Bribe Fund the Howard government set up to buy the National's vote, against the wishes of its ranks and support base.
The hoped for price for selling off the remaining half of Telstra in public ownership is $30billion, but the way things are it might go for less. But if you think that's bad news you are forgetting in whose interest the Howard government is governing. If you are a government of those who seek to plunder public assets through privatisation, a lower price is not a bad outcome, is it?
This privatisation game is clouded in ideological bullshit and economic claptrap.
The bottom line is that another half of the second most profitable company based in Australia is to be sold off cheap. And what a nice earner the plunderers will take away. Calculating roughly, the plunderers of T3 (final stage Telstra privatisation) get for less than $30billion something that will bring them at least $2.5billion in profits a year — the fruit for years of public investment.
And what is the company with the third biggest profit this year (so far)?
Why, what a surprise. It's another privatised company — the Commonwealth Bank. Its 2005 profit is $3.99billion.
But BHP too has been the recipient of years and years of more than $500 million in "steel deal" government subsidies in the 1980s, ostensibly to keep its steel-making facilities in NSW open. It took the money for ten years and then ran. More like a Steal Deal.