By Tony Iltis
CANBERRA — Proceedings at the ACT Legislative Assembly were disrupted on September 22 by public sector workers angry at the large job losses and cuts to community services in the first budget of Kate Carnell's minority Liberal government. That morning, Canberra's buses were off the road for two hours as ACTION drivers held a stop-work meeting. Officials from the Transport Workers Union gave the government two weeks to guarantee that ACTION will not be corporatised or privatised.
About 50 delegates from the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) attended an open session of the Legislative Assembly's Estimates Committee. After half an hour listening to Carnell and ALP leaders hurl jargon at each other, the CPSU members left the room, one at a time, shouting "No more cuts!". They then congregated in the corridor outside, chanting noisily.
Features of the budget include: 3000 jobs to be shed over three years; $20 million cut from health; $12 million cut from ACTION buses; $6.9 million cut from education; Charnwood High School threatened with closure; Kippax and Melba health centres to be sold; Kaleen Youth Shelter to be privatised.
Before the budget, the government had already closed Jindalee Nursing Home and moved to corporatise ACT Electricity and Water.
Handouts to the corporate sector and the wealthy include $13.5 million in tax cuts for business, a $10 million grant to the tourism industry and funding increases for private schools.
Because this is a minority government, Green and independent MLAs have the power to block the budget. Whether they will is still unclear.