Land titles privatisation: winners and losers

by | Mar 20, 2017 | Despatch

How superb is the plan by the NSW government to privatise the state’s land titles office in order to fund the upgrade of two footy stadiums.

Its critics claim that hiving off the NSW Land and Property Information Office (LPI) puts at risk the security of land titles. They say it will increase costs for every land transaction in the state.

It will unleash a rash of litigation, they say, for mistakes arising from the split of the profitable bit of the titling system from the other, deeply interconnected parts. They ask what will be done with the Titles Assurance Fund which compensates people after fraud or error.

They even say that this is an exercise in privatising profits and socialising losses.

They may be right about all this but just check out the amazing value in this deal; a mooted sale price of $2 billion for an asset with annual profit of $130 million.

Yes, electors may give up billions in future cashflow to fund hospitals, schools and roads but with this $2 billion upfront, the government, on behalf of its electors, will rebuild not one but two whole footy stadiums!

The other thing neglected in this privatisation debate? The myriad winners from the deal. There is only one group of losers but many groups of winners. This is what makes the deal so compelling. Here they are, the winners and the losers:

WINNERS

KPMG for kindly providing tax and business optimisation advice.
Willis Towers Watson for insurance advice.
BIS Shrapnel for economic advice.
Gilbert and Tobin for legal advice.
JP Morgan for investment banking advice (fees $4.3 million so far).

The Parramatta Eels Rugby League Club.
The many stakeholders of ANZ stadium.

LOSERS:

The people of NSW.

CONCLUSION

As you can see, winners outnumber losers by seven to one. It is only fair therefore that taxpayers should reward the people working on deals like this.

And indeed taxpayers have dug deeply, so deeply that senior executives of NSW Treasury have experienced a combined pay rise of 22.6 per cent (ten times the rate of inflation) while the government has been making government “leaner and more efficient”.

Between 2014 and 2015, numbers of top executives at NSW Treasury rose by 16 per cent to 144, along with the jump in salaries to a combined $30 million.

Tomorrow: the privatisation of LPI. A serious look at how selling a government monopoly defies logic, how selling a monopoly essential service is even worse, and how selling it to an opaque buyer with tax haven arrangements is worse again.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael West

Michael West

Michael West established michaelwest.com.au to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. Formerly a journalist and editor at Fairfax newspapers and a columnist at News Corp, West was appointed Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Social and Political Sciences. You can follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelWestBiz.

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