The Guardian 30 March, 2005

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Fed-state show returns

The fed-state show has returned yet again for another season. It is touring the states with a grand finale set for Canberra. You’ve probably seen it before. It hits town on a regular basis. The media become hysterical. It fills page after page in the print media, night after night on TV and gives talk-back shows hours of fodder to fill the time and divert people from the real issues. The performers change from time to time but the acts are pretty standard.

The feds are chasing budget surpluses and tax cuts while feeding huge, expanding military budgets, wars and occupations. They cry poor and use this to justify further attacks on health, education, social welfare and anything else that benefits the people and doesn’t make a quick buck for their mates.

The state governments are cutting, cutting, cutting. Hospitals are in crisis, schools are depleted of resources, public transport is chaotic, roads are jammed with cars and disability groups desperately lobby hard-hearted governments.

They cry poor too — the feds are paying short and not giving them their fair share.

The GST snake oil was going to give states an abundance of riches to improve services and abolish state taxes. No more fed-state performances.

We are all digging deeper and deeper into our pockets to pay that iniquitous tax that was forced on us. So where is that money now?

Maybe it’s getting to the stage when the feds will come up with another bright idea or two to keep the states happy?

The idea of extending the GST to fresh food has been floated. Is that any more likely to be used to employ more teachers and nurses or be used to run an efficient public transport system? Don’t think so.

Or maybe it’s time to do a comparison of world’s worst practices to discover that a GST of 10 percent is low by international standards. Why not increase the GST? What a great idea! That would give the states enough money? Don’t think so!

It might buy some more weapons, fund conscription, and provide the means for a reduction in the highest marginal rate of taxation on personal income to 30 percent. Could even be used to reduce capital gains tax.

The problem is not money. It is policies and priorities. As long as governments pursue privatisation and put the interests of Uncle Sam, big business and their rich friends first, there will not be enough money for the people’s essential needs.

June Hamilton
Sydney, NSW

Taken for a ride

On February 21, 2005 Melbourne airport was in chaos because of some as yet unknown gas leak. Thousands of people had their travel plans disrupted and more than 50 people were treated for vomiting, shortness of breath and other unpleasant symptoms. All those in the airport building were evacuated and in essence, it was a public emergency situation.

Some people had to be taken to hospitals in ambulances. A necessary and reasonable measure considering that nobody knew what they were dealing with.

Now we find out that even in a public emergency the user-pays system operates. Those people who had no insurance had to pay for their ambulance emergency trip. They are charged about $700 dollars! If this is not crazy I don’t know what is.

People were in a public place and were not responsible for what had happened to them. If anything, they should be paid compensation for what had occurred.

There is a lot of talk about “terrorism” but as this sad event shows nobody seems to know what to do at first and to charge the public for something they did not cause is a bit too rich.

S Costa
Adelaide, SA

Definition of casual work

I have just received the latest report from the House of Repre­sent­atives Standing Committee on Em­ploy­ment, Workplace Relations and Workforce Participation. It makes interesting reading!

A casual employee is defined by the ABS as: “someone who is not entitled to either paid recreation leave, sick leave or public holidays but who often receives a loading in lieu”. There is also a perception that casual work refers to short-term, irregular and uncertain employment.

A significant proportion (over 60%) of casual employment is part time, which is less than 35 hours a week of work (in one or more jobs).

Considering mostly women, young people and retrenched mature workers work casual up to 35 hours a week without any benefits at all! Who stands to gain from all this casual work? Certainly not the workers! No wonder employers fight for casualisation of the workforce, or else they would have to pay all the benefits.

Mary Jenkins
Australian National Organisation of the Un(der)employed
Perth, WA

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