Divestment of Commonwealth public enterprises in Australia: The cupboard is bare

Chris Aulich, Stephen Jones, Brian Head

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Public enterprises have played a major role in the national development of Australia since the early years of European settlement. More recently, especially since the 1980s, Australian governments at national and state levels, involving political parties of both the left and right, have undertaken a program of major reform of their public sectors. The relentless pace of reform has been driven by a variety of motives from pragmatic through to ideological, within a broad consensus that private delivery of services should be privileged over public. As a result, discourse about public enterprises in Australia has tended to focus on divestment and windfall revenues to assist governments to balance their budgets. The analysis in this paper will detail the major players at the national level, their governance arrangements and some consideration of how these enterprises have performed. We will also outline how the public mission of public enterprises has transformed in recent decades from a role as nation builder to one as enabler of services. In conclusion we will consider the long-term outlook including the loss of public value with declining standards of service and the reduced opportunities for further divestments with pressure on governments to seek alternative savings and revenue arrangements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-490
Number of pages16
JournalAnnals of Public and Cooperative Economics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


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