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Issue #1736      June 22, 2016

Editorial

Put this govt last

The Turnbull/Abbott government has set out to gut social welfare and services, demolish the public service, deregulate the operations of big business and privatise what remains of public assets.

The Liberal-National Coalition lied its way into office. They promised no cuts to education or health, no forced redundancies in the public service; no change to pensions; no increase in university fees; no increased taxes and more accountable government. They tore it all up in their first budget.

Each broken promise, each attack on pensioners, students, workers, unemployed, families, Indigenous Australians, or the public sector is accompanied by neo-liberal spin, outright lies and deception.

A survey by the Salvation Army found that about 25 percent of Australian welfare recipients can’t pay for medical treatment and more than 33 percent can’t afford prescription medicine. Some 29 percent don’t have a secure or decent home, and 25 percent can’t afford at least one substantial meal a day.

Another study from the Sydney University of Technology found that 25 percent of people on the dole for more than a year in Sydney had to beg on the street. Sixty percent relied on charity to survive, more than 40 percent could not afford medicine, 50 percent could not buy new clothes, 80 percent could not afford dental treatment and most had gone without heating or good quality food.

Responsibility is being shifted; the government agenda involves shifting responsibility from the state to the private sector. Included among these in particular:

  • contracting out services provided by government to civil society (read church, philanthropic and corporate sectors)
  • handing over total control of service provision to the private providers
  • “less onerous reporting requirements” – meaning little or no accountability of how government funding is spent
  • public schools to become “independent” by 2017 – with principals and boards (including business reps) given same powers as private schools to hire and fire staff, determine pay and conditions, etc
  • slashing both corporate taxes and higher marginal rates for individuals.

Control and critical service provision and pricing decisions are being handed over to the corporate sector and large corporate charities.

The government also wants to freeze benefits associated with pensions, and to alter the pension indexation method. The pension is to continue to rise, but only in conjunction with the Consumer Price Index, rather than average male earnings and the associated benefits would rapidly lose their value as a result of inflation.

The government is trying to change the public attitude so that welfare, pensions and other entitlements are not seen as a matter of human rights but simply as a now unsustainable drain on the national economy.

But the nation is now far more productive than it was when the proportion of pensioners and welfare recipients was lower. The essence of the problem is not the cost of supporting the aged and welfare recipients, it’s the government’s budget priorities.

The Turnbull/Abbott budget priorities include unsustainable support for big business, particularly mining, and for armaments purchases, at the expense of welfare, pensions and other areas of government expenditure.

This is essentially a drive against what neo-liberalism labels Big Government, part of the ideological warfare that has been waged by the capitalist media. We are constantly being told that governments should butt out, that the private sector can do better.

The Turnbull/Abbott government has served the interests of business by pledging to cut welfare and pension budget allocations, while eliminating the carbon and mining taxes and cutting the current rate of business tax. It has also attempted to muzzle its critics, for example by reducing funding for the national broadcaster, the ABC.

At the July 2 election put the Liberal-National Coalition last – it’s where they put you.

Next article – West Bank – Israel cuts off water

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