05-12-2016 – Make no mistake, Brisbane is being privatised before our very eyes. Huge slabs of public land are being sloughed off the public asset register by Labor and Liberal governments alike. The massive Queens Wharf Mega-Casino is just the latest instalment of a drive to enrich pathological corporations, at the expense of working people – the people who built this city. In the middle of Brisbane, public land will be handed to the Orwellian titled “Destination Brisbane Consortium” on a 99 year lease – in effect, permanent privatisation. The entire political establishment, from the Liberal Brisbane City Council to the Labor State Government, remain oblivious to the decimation of the heritage of the city, to the privatisation of public space, to the plight of the homeless, and to the situation of working people whose taxes they funnel to private business.
Despite our strong political disagreements with the Australian Greens on other issues, we applaud the work of Greens Councillor Jonathon Sri, who is seeking to organise a much- needed campaign against the Queens Wharf Casino. Councillor Sri’s website points out just a few of the many reasons why the Queens Wharf Casino is an affront to the working people of Brisbane, and indeed the world. For one thing, 66 000 square metres of office space formerly owned by the state government for public service staff, will be demolished to make way for the Casino development. It was the former Liberal National Party (LNP) Premier Campbell Newman which began the privatisation of CBD buildings formerly owned by the state government, but this has continued under the ALP Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk.
Public servants, formerly working in a number of buildings in the CBD, will be crammed like sardines into the “Tower of Power”, the cosy deal Campbell Newman signed for a 45 storey tower at 1 William Street. Above them, will sit the Cabinet and the Ministers in much more spaciously accounted floors at the top. For the first time in Queensland’s history, the Premier and Cabinet will “work” from offices owned by the private sector! Several government departments will be located there, while paying rent to the private sector – to the tune of $10.5 million dollars per year. That is, 10 million odd dollars from the taxpayer, will be going directly into the bank accounts of the private sector – each year. None of that money will ever be spent on public amenities, public housing, schools or hospitals.
The 2 billion dollar contract handed to Echo Entertainment to build the Queens Wharf monstrosity will fill the troughs of corporate developers, and the politicians and councillors who “approve” it, but will privatise 7.8 hectares of the Brisbane CBD, which will be welcoming for those high rollers who can afford to gamble, but will likely lock out poor and working class people who cannot afford gambling and stays in 5 star resorts. Some architects have severely criticised the proposal. Richard Kirk, the President of the Australian Institute of Architects Queensland, has berated the plan which will build gaming floors over the top of public streets, plunging them into darkness. The one piece of the proposal which may be genuinely accessible to the non-paying public is an alleged bridge to South Bank. But this has not been budgeted for, and so will probably not happen.
There has been no public consultation whatsoever, on anything to do with the mega-casino development. This is probably because where casinos have been built, dramatic social problems like poverty and mental illness increase. Not only that, the Queens Wharf “development” will not even go through the already corporate developer friendly laws that usually apply to such developments. It will not be assessed against the Sustainable Planning Act of 2009, nor the Brisbane City Plan of 2014. It’s a virtual green light before any nominations have even been received.
“Developments” such as these should be enough to shake, if not shatter, any faith that working people hold in governments which are beholden to the corporate elite. The cardinal lesson for working people is that capitalist governments, at whatever level, are not, and never will be, “our” governments, no matter how much we lobby them, or indeed protest against them. All capitalist governments are governments imposed on working people against their will, and are set up to prevent working people from taking part in any decision which seriously affects their living conditions. Behind capitalist governments lie the capitalist state – the police, the courts, the prisons and the armed forces – whose job it is to force working people to accept the further accumulation of private capital at their expense. The capitalist state enforces nothing less than private wealth built on public squalor.
All efforts should be extended to stop the Queens Wharf casino, the privatisation of public land, public housing and indeed public services themselves. At the same time, we need to be aware that it is only a workers’ government, at the head of a socialist state, which can truly act in the interests of the public. A socialist state begins with the seizure of state power by the organised working class, led by a workers’ party. Such a party urgently needs to be formed, and we can begin to build such a party by replacing class-collaborationist Union officials with a class struggle leadership. Then the potential to unleash the real social power of the working class can be breached. As we struggle for decent social living conditions, the socialist objective must remain foremost in our minds. Down with Queens Wharf !
PO Box 66 Nundah QLD 4012
Ph: 0421 408 692