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Issue #1642      June 11, 2014

Budget impact sinking in

The full impact of the Federal Budget on public services and public sector jobs is still sinking into the awareness of Australian workers. The government’s intention to throw the unemployed and students to the wolves has sparked an angry reaction, moving many who had never protested before to take to the streets in growing protests. Other significant changes to the way of life taken for granted in Australia will become obvious pretty quickly after the axe starts to fall on what’s left of the public sector.

The Budget has given ample warning – more than 70 agencies will be merged, scrapped or sold off by 2015. Roughly 16,500 jobs are on the chopping block with over 7,300 set to go straight away.

“The Budget is a con job,” Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) national secretary Nadine Flood said at the time of the release of the now-notorious Budget. “Step one, they pretend the public service is bigger than it is; step two they run down the public service through cuts, step three they sell it off to their big business mates. The only real winners in this Budget are multinational corporations who will be lining up to run public services for a profit.”

The “run it down and sell it off” strategy is in its advanced stages at Australia Post. Post-Budget, the organisation is planning 900 job cuts mostly in Melbourne and Sydney and a reduction in the delivery of mail to two or three days a week. The measures will not help Australia Post as it adjusts to changes in the ways people communicate. It will, however, lead to a marked downgrading of services to low income and older people.

The ABC and SBS have been attacked. While programming and commentary on the public broadcasters generally fits into the spectrum of opinion acceptable to the minders of the capitalist state, the occasional dissenting voice can be heard. That will now be further limited and eventually stopped. The ABC, in particular, has been the object of a lot of hate-filled columns in the corporate press for quite a while. Lately, it has put up an unwelcome ratings challenge to commercial outlets with its extra digital channels. And the Budget seeks to settle the score for Murdoch’s Sky News, which tendered unsuccessfully for the regional broadcasting contract in 2011.

Cuts to the CSIRO are causing consternation. For many years, Australians have taken justifiable pride over the achievements of the scientific research organisation operating in the public interest. It has been under attack for some time but now the organisation is facing its most serious threat with hundreds more job losses, site closures and big cuts to areas of research. The attack is having the same effect on the staff of the CSIRO as can be seen elsewhere throughout the public sector and the community. It is mobilising them. The Staff Association is planning two days of protest on Tuesday June 24 and Thursday June 26.

Changes to iconic institutions will be obvious and devastating but so will the death by a thousand cuts of other services. Ten regional tax offices are to close, underscoring the actual lack of interest in the bush on the part of the Coalition. The Australian Tax Office is losing another 3,000 jobs. More will be expected from fewer staff. And people in the Port Macquarie, Sale, Mackay, Bendigo, Rockhampton, Launceston, Cairns, Orange, Toowoomba and Grafton districts will simply have to get on the end of the call centre queue to sort out their tax issues.

Senior public servants are occasionally breaking the officially-imposed code of silence to say that the functions of government are at risk of collapsing. Limits to the zeal of the government might be reached as delays and other inefficiencies creep over the system. Abbott mentors, such as UK Prime Minister David Cameron, have found out the hard way that a lot of the “bureaucracy” and “red tape” so dreaded by conservative politicians actually serves a necessary function.

Of Cameron’s list of 3,095 “red tape” cuts, his government will proceed to scrap 100. Only 33 have been scrapped so far. Most of the regulatory “red tape” was inactive or was already in line for a spring clean. The top three on the list of 33 alleged deterrents to hiring British workers are: removing the requirement to fortify margarine, revoking strict requirements on where “no smoking” signs should be placed in business premises, remove two regulations governing how lost property left on public transport should be treated!

The major limit to the privatising and public sector slashing madness of governments of leaders like David Cameron and Tony Abbott, however, is mobilisation by the people; unity in action by members of unions and the community. More and more Australians are thinking of ways to bust this Budget and their initial efforts have been having effect.

Next article – CPA CC Executive statement on the attacks on the Communists of Ukraine

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