Communist Party of Australia

We acknowledge the Sovereignty of the First Nations’ Peoples.

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Issue #1592      May 8, 2013


The coming storm

Workers and their unions across the public sector, both federal and state, are being hit with job cuts and privatisations. As the economy goes deeper into crisis, the Gillard government is taking the scalpel to everything that can be cut away. Though the government isn’t giving much detail, reading what they and the corporate sector and its think tanks are saying, the net will be wide in this month’s budget.

In line with this objective, federal public servants who seek workers’ compensation are about to be hit by cuts to their $1.2 billion Comcare insurance scheme. A government review has made 147 recommendations to rewrite the legislation on Commonwealth public sector compensation claims to address what it calls “passive reliance” on compensation.

The report also calls for a shift from a “payout-oriented” scheme to an emphasis on rehabilitation and return to work. In other words a punitive system that will force affected public sector workers off payments.

The propaganda against the public service takes various forms, including claims that it is “top heavy” with managers.

In a speech last month, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said there were “far more significant reductions in tax money” and that there would be “decisions to spend less [read: more cuts] to raise more in revenue in some areas…”

Among the targets are family benefits, with a push to cut tax benefit part B which is paid to single income households. There is also a focus on federal health and education department staff. As right-wing think tank Centre for Independent Studies makes clear: “Productivity and efficiency gains are also needed in professions such as nursing, teaching and within the broader public service.”

Over the last 20 years privatisation has resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs. It has been used to reduce wages, increase hours of work, break down award conditions and enforce the casualisation and de-unionisation of workplaces.

The main aim of privatisation is to increase the domination and power of the transnational corporations. Already, strategic services and industries such as telecommunications (Telstra), water, electricity, and banking (Commonwealth Bank), airline (Qantas) have been sold to the private-for-profit sector.

Privatisation also involves a loss of public control and accountability of essential services: previously open decisions are now shrouded in secrecy.

Democratic control and accountability and sovereignty are at issue here: privatisation must be opposed on political and ideological grounds as well as economic ones.

Whatever the outcome of September’s election, unions need to be prepared for the coming storm; a growing austerity program characterised in large part by an attack on the public sector.

The momentum generated by the greater turn out for this year's May Day events must be maintained in the lead up to the election and beyond.

Care for carers

Carers have the lowest collective wellbeing of any group, according to the findings from Carers Australia, Australian Unity and Deakin University. For this report, researchers examined the plight of carers of people with severe vision loss. It turned out that two-thirds of the carers whose circumstances were investigated have chronic health conditions themselves and nearly 10 percent have nobody to look after them when they are sick.

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in Australia and generally affects older people. Macular Disease Foundation of Australia’s chief executive, Julie Heraghty, said a million people older than 50 showed symptoms of the disease.

She said carers tended not to complain. “The carers are often older and they feel that strong duty of care,” she said. Ms Heraghty said that the 24/7 nature of caring for a person with severe vision loss was a constant pressure. No wonder that carers have multiple health problems of their own, including depression and stress and no place to go to for respite. If policy makers in the big two parties are sincere about the plight of people with disabilities, they could spend more time addressing the hardship facing the the army of undervalued carers across the country.

Next article – Action to close Northam Refugee Detention Centre

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