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International Handbook on Privatization

Edited by David Parker and David Saal

Privatization has dominated industrial restructuring programs since the 1980s and continues to do so. This authoritative and accessible Handbook considers all aspects of this key issue, including: the theory of privatization; privatization in transition, developed and developing economies; as well the economic regulation of privatized industries.
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Chapter 8: Privatization: The Australian Experience

Graeme A. Hodge


Graeme A. Hodge Introduction In this chapter some of the Australian experiences of privatization are reviewed. With a land mass a little below that of the United States of America, Australia has a population of around 20 million people concentrated mainly along the eastern coast. The national political system is based on the United Kingdom’s Westminster tradition, but a federal system of government has been grafted onto it. Thus the federal government, based in Canberra, and several state governments and territories share power. This has left some privatization and regulation matters in the hands of the federal government, and some in the hands of the various states, each of which has adopted quite a different stance. Australia has had an interesting record in the area of privatization from several perspectives. First, we might note that a wide range of ownership and regulatory structures have been employed in the past. The nation has enjoyed a large state-owned enterprise (SOE) sector, and while not ever forming part of any party platform for state socialism, public enterprise was largely created by deliberate action in the context of both market and private sector failures. Looking at the beginnings of several of the stateowned enterprises in Victoria is instructive. Being poorly run by private companies, the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce requested in the late nineteenth century that the government take over telephony services. Private coal mining operations also failed to provide the state’s primary energy needs, with a Royal Commission in 1905 finding the...

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