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Issue #1793      September 6, 2017

Dingo

Asylum seekers brought to Australia for medical treatment, thrown out of their accommodation and left to fend for themselves, are expected to abide by “Australian values”, to quote Immigration Minister Peter Dutton. These values apparently include being thrown onto the street if you are seeking safety from war and persecution. We now can boast that we lead the world in the wilful mistreatment of asylum seekers. In fact setting a benchmark. Remember former PM Tony Abbott imploring European countries to follow Australia’s example?

Secessionism has been a recurring feature of Western Australia’s political landscape since shortly after British colonisation of WA in 1829. The idea of self-governance or secession has often been discussed through local newspaper articles and editorials and on a number of occasions has surfaced as very public events including a State referendum in 1933. An argument in favour of secession is based on the assumption a federal government will favour the business and popular interests of the larger population centres. A common complaint is that Western Australia is a forgotten or Cinderella state, which contributes more to federal funds than it gets back, and is discriminated against by the more populous states. The Constitution describes the union as “one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth” and makes no provision for states to secede from the union. Nonetheless, recall the 2014 Abbott government budget which cut $80 billion of education and health funding to the states, with then Treasurer Joe Hockey telling the states that they could “sink or swim” as “sovereign entities”. In this light the current threats from the WA government about secession carries added weight.

An ongoing ideological war has seen opposition to privatisation whittled down. The barriers between private and public have been blurred by the gradual phasing in of private sector involvement. The process of privatising education began at the tertiary level, then TAFE, with the introduction of fees and the extension of government subsidies including HECS to the private sector. The aim of the federal government’s current “education revolution” is to put public and private schools on an identical footing in relation to governance, hiring of staff, determination of salaries and working conditions and state funding. Public schools would be independent, free to charge fees and state governments will be able to sell them to private corporations. A similar process is taking place in the public hospital system. The government is working towards an “output” (procedures and tests carried out) model as the basis of funding which could be extended to all hospitals – public and private. Its hospital reforms are also setting up public hospitals to fail and mechanisms are being put in place to measure performance. Their “failure” will be addressed by privatisation. The privatisation process, so far by stealth, is becoming increasingly more open when schools or hospitals are sold off. The promoters of this agenda provide the “justification” for the state to withdraw from these areas.

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