Issue # 1399 18 February 2009
End privatisation, build the public sector
The Rudd government’s $42 billion stimulus package
passed through the Senate last Friday, with the support of the five Greens
senators, South Australian independent Nick Xenophon and Family First Steve
Fielding. The Coalition were politically left out in the cold.
When Senator Xenophon indicated that he was voting against
the package on Thursday night, the government was forced back to the negotiating
table. Without opposition support, the government needed the support of
the other seven Senators.
The government agreed to accelerate the buy-back of water
licences in the Murray-Darling basin and other water policy measures. This
involves bringing forward $500 million of spending already scheduled for
2012 and 2013.
The deal also includes funding for stormwater harvesting
and commits $200 million to community water planning. “This is a first for
Australia. We hope this will support community planning projects in some
of the hardest hit areas of the Murray Darling Basin – bringing expertise
in planning, water management and sustainable agriculture together to support
local communities to weigh up their options and develop a shared vision
for the future,” said Greens Senator Rachel Siewert. Ten million dollars
of new money will be provided for a bioremediation program to rescue South
Australia’s Lower Lakes and create more than 100 local jobs there.
“The Greens have secured a commitment that the $14 billion
schools infrastructure spending and the $6 billion for social housing will
result in buildings designed for energy efficiency, helping the most needy
Australians save money as well as reduce their impact on the climate,” said
Greens deputy leader Senator Christine Milne.
The government agreed to an additional $435 million Local
Green Jobs package to create over 10,000 new jobs for local unemployed people.
Councils will be able to apply for one-off grants for the construction of
local infrastructure to improve community amenity. Some $550 million has
been won for the reopening of the Local Community Infrastructure Program
due to the efforts of the Greens and Senator Fielding.
An initial $40 million has been agreed to for cycleways
in Australia’s major cities, with the aim of reducing traffic congestion
and cutting pollution. This is to be followed by further investment through
Apart from the Murray-Darling basin projects, the additional
commitments will be funded by reducing the tax payments for individuals
and one income families by $50. As a result, tax payers with an annual income
of up to $80,000 will receive $900 each, for incomes between $80,000 and
$90,000 it will be $600 and then up to $100,000 the sum of $250.
Cash payments to farmers, the back-to-school child bonus
and training payments will be $950.
The stimulus package is similar to those being introduced
in Europe and the USA and is in line with calls by the International Monetary
Fund for temporary, timely and targeted measures. Temporary is the major
weakness in the package.
This package will not save Australia from recession or make
serious inroads into unemployment. The government itself is predicting the
creation of 90,000 short-term jobs. Although of great value to local communities
and the environment, the additional green and job-creating measures negotiated
by the Greens and other senators, will not make any indent into overall
In addition to an immediate stimulus, medium and long-term
measures are required to assist in sustaining the purchasing power of the
community and for job creation on a large scale.
The question of purchasing power can be addressed by giving
age pensioners, carers, unemployed and other welfare recipients an immediate,
ongoing increase in their benefits. Their needs are great, struggling for
survival on a day-to-day basis below the poverty line, and they will spend
every cent they receive and continue to do so in coming years.
As for job creation, the public sector is the most efficient
and socially beneficial area for allocating funds. The for-profit private
sector has proven time and time again to be more costly, less efficient,
less reliable and offering poorer quality of services.
Government departments should not be treated as businesses.
They exist to provide services to people and business, and to assist government
in its affairs. The old public works departments that built roads, schools,
hospitals, public housing, etc, have been quietly wound back and dismantled,
and their work handed over to the private sector at great cost and wastage
to the taxpayer and community. The public sector was once a major employer
of apprentices. The private sector employs fewer people for the same dollar
A 10 percent cut in Australia’s military spending, which
is over $60 million a day, redirected to hospitals and schools and pension
increases would provide greater security and many more jobs than it does
now. The bulk of these cuts could be achieved by cutting spending on fighter
planes, weapons and other military purchases from the US and withdrawing
all Australian military forces from Afghanistan and Iraq.
Job creation should be centred around rebuilding the public
sector, and restoring the public sector as a provider of public facilities,
infrastructure and services. That is where the public funds in the Future
Fund should be directed, and where superannuation funds should be mandated
to direct some of the savings they hold.
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— Attack on Sydney Ferry workers