The increasing role of the private sector in the provision of public services is a clear result of Australia's declining economic position. The prime objective of this project is to develop a suitable model for greater participation of the private sector in the development of public works. In so doing, it will be necessary to review the various forms of privatisation and to determine which areas lend themselves to private participation.
There is an abundance of material available on privatisation. The term, however, has recently been linked primarily to the sale of public enterprises, as extensively used in Britain. A number of other forms of privatisation have had mixed success in the past, both in Australia and overseas, and these will be considered in developing a model for the future. As far back as the depression years of the 1930s the private sector has participated in the development of public works. For example, the Hornibrook highway linking Redcliffe to Brighton was privately funded and was the first bridge for which a toll was collected in Queensland. A more recent example, the Gateway Bridge will be studied in detail as a case where the private sector has provided a facility that may not have been built for some time if left to the availability of public funds.
The development of a suitable model for the greater participation of the private sector in the provision of public goods must consider the issues of asset ownership, competition, the role of regulation and social equity. Unless these issues are adequately addressed at the outset, it is likely that special interest groups will gain an advantage over others. Above all else, the elements of competition must prevail throughout.