Toot toot! All aboard! From Connex to MTR…


From The People Who Brought You Right-Wing Christian Fundamentalist Family First Senator Steve Fielding:

The brains trust at ‘Another Liberal Party’ Victorian HQ — after having paid private consultants $25 million for the privilege of their sterling advice — has awarded the contract to manage Melbourne’s train system to ‘Metro Trains Melbourne’, a mob whose CEO, Andrew Lezala, presided over the fantastically-inefficient — and, not-coincidentally, massively-profitable — British rail maintenance company Metronet (City’s new train chief ran insolvent rail firm, Clay Lucas, The Age, June 27, 2009; see also New train boss ran bust UK rail company, Australian Associated Press, The Australian, June 27, 2009). Despite his term @ Metronet being a less-than-total success for the travelling public in London (Metronet itself collapsed in July 2007), Lezala received a £500,000 payout for his two years of back-breaking labour in the Underground. Metronet’s tenure over the London Underground, then, had its ups and downs: the ‘ups’ including fat payouts to its management, the ‘downs’ its failure to sack union activist Andy Littlechild.

The winners in the battle to profit from the public is, as noted, a consortium known as mtm, or ‘metro trains melbourne’, the new ruling triumvirate being composed of MTR Corporation (Hong Kong), United Group Limited (UGL) Rail and John Holland Pty Ltd (Australia). MTR was formerly a government-owned company, privatised in 2000; UGL Rail is one branch of a Perth-based engineering firm which now ranks among some of Australia’s largest corporations, while John Holland Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of Leighton Holdings, is a company notorious for its hostility to unions (apart from lapdogs such as the AWU — ‘Australia’s Worst Union’, and a fiefdom of the ALP Right).

Unlike British Labor following the Metronet debacle, the Victorian ALP, under John Brumby, has elected not to ‘re-nationalise’ (place under state control) the public transport system privatised by the previous Tory Government (under the hugely depressing Jeff Kennett, 1992–1999.) (Note that there is an intense rivalry between the Tory Kennett and the horny-handed son-of-toil Brumby, which extends back to when the boys were in short pants, Kennett at Scotch College and Brumby at Melbourne Grammar). Rather, the blame for the craptastic state of the public transport sector has been successfully sheeted home to Connex, and a new corporation given the opportunity to make further profits by doing exactly the same as the French-based TNC.

Roots, Bloody Roots

As in London, the privatisation of the Victorian public transport industry proceeded with only token opposition from the trade union bureaucracy, which was assigned the role of destroying attempts by rank-and-file militants to take direct action against the industry’s degradation. In late 1989/early 1990, tram workers even managed for a brief period to place the system under workers’ control, this outbreak of workers’ power requiring the Victorian government, then under the control of the ALP, to cut the power to the system, thus averting their worst nightmare: the provision of a free public service under workers’ self-management. (It’s worth noting that anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists played a significant role in this dispute. See : Melbourne Tram Dispute and Lockout, January–February 1990: Anarcho-Syndicalism in Practice, Dick Curlewis (1917–2002) (Jura Media Publications, 1997.) Having effectively broken the back of this movement, the subsequent Tory government experienced little opposition to its further privatisation, and the extension of this project to the rail sector.


Following the triumph that has been the privatisation of the Melbourne (Victorian) public transport system, the Queensland Working Families Government has also elected to go down the same track (not, of course, that it was elected on that platform). According to Wikipedia (citing ‘Out of left field’, Jamie Walker, QWeekend Magazine, June 3, 2006) Queensland Premier Anna Bligh “traces her politicisation to her first year at University, observing a right-to-march rally in King George Square where people were being hit over the head by the police”. Sadly for Captain Bligh, in the unlikely event a militant campaign against the privatisation effort is launched, more people will be hit over the head by police (see also The Silver Bodgie’s role in the SEQEB dispute).

An uppity SEQEB worker learns his place.

See also : P-P-Privatising the underground, and ‘opposition’, Daniel O’Rourke, libcom, January 4, 2006: “As London Underground (LU) workers strike once again, Daniel O’Rourke looks at Labour’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) scheme which is largely behind the recent problems.” | A tangled transport web, Kenneth Davidson, The Age, October 6, 2005 | it takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry…

“If popularity won pay rises, then nurses would be millionaires and politicians would be begging on street corners!”
~ Support The Tube Strikers

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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