The Federal Government is selling off some of Australia’s most controversial infrastructure projects, including the $4.8 billion Repossessed Construction Equipment (RCE) project, to a consortium that is already paying off its debts.
The Federal Infrastructure Facility, which is run by the Treasurer, said it had sold $3.2 billion worth of RCE construction equipment to a new consortium, which will now use it to build more than 6,000 houses.
It is the second-largest asset sale of RAE in two years, after the Government sold $4 billion worth in September.
The Government also sold $2.2 million of its own RCE equipment to the consortium in October.
The RCE project has sparked criticism in Canberra, with opposition MPs and a cross-bench senator questioning the Government’s decision to sell RCE assets, particularly as they have not been paid off.
The new consortium is building homes on the former Commonwealth Bank site in Melbourne’s north, which had been slated for redevelopment.
It includes the Australian Construction and Construction Union (ACAU), the National Union of Construction Contractors (NCCT), and the Australian Building and Construction Trades Union (ABCTU).
“We don’t believe the Government has any business in this project,” Senator Penny Wong said.
“It’s a private company with no real relation to the public interest.”
Senator Wong said she believed the government was buying the equipment for a profit.
“I do not believe the Minister has any legal obligations to pay it off,” she said.
“[The] Government has no financial interest in this.”
The Opposition has accused the Government of taking a financial risk by selling the equipment, and said it would not be taking the same approach in repossessing homes.
“If we’re going to repossess property, that should be done in a fair and transparent manner and the public should be able to see what they are getting for their money,” Senator Wong told ABC Radio.
“That’s not the case with this transaction.”
The Federal Opposition said the sale of the RCE would allow the Commonwealth to save $3 billion.
“The Government’s repossession scheme is designed to provide an incentive to buy and sell RAE to private corporations, rather than taxpayers,” Senator Jacqui Lambie said.
Ms Lambie also criticised the Government for not making any mention of the project in its 2016 budget.
“Why are the Coalition so keen to privatise RCE when it has not done the same for the National Broadband Network (NBN)?
Why did the Government not address this issue in its 2017 budget, instead of cutting funding for it?
Why are the Government delaying making a decision on the project?”
Ms Lambies comments came as Senator Wong was speaking to reporters in Canberra.
The Commonwealth has made no public comment on the repossessions.
However, Senator Wong has been speaking out against the sale since November, when she warned that the Government could not afford to lose RCE if it was not to lose money.
“We have got to get these houses built and this is not going to be possible without these projects,” Senator Lambie told ABC radio.