Campbell Newman slashes, burns but fightback looming

In the lead up to its first budget next month, Queensland’s Liberal National Party (LNP) government has intensified its slash-and-burn approach to public and community services. In its first 100 days in office, it axed 7000 public service jobs. Premier Campbell Newman says a further 13,000 job cuts are to come.

Newman has wielded his axe indiscriminately. School cleaners, teachers’ aides, child safety, paramedics, firefighters, local courts, QBuild tradesmen and apprentices are all in the firing line.

Several government departments and workplaces, including teachers and public service clerical staff, are negotiating new enterprise agreements. Workers are being threatened with the removal of conditions and pay rises under inflation levels.

The government has also introduced a new law to override the job security provisions of certified agreements. This would pave the way for forced redundancies. The initial job cuts had been largely achieved by shedding casual and contract staff. Future job cuts place forced redundancies squarely on the agenda.

More cuts to come

However, Newman’s figure of up to 20,000 sackings is set to balloon following a redefinition of what constitutes “front line” staff.

The Courier Mail reported on August 14 that “an extra 25,000 public servants had been declared non-frontline staff and now face the Newman government’s cost-cutting axe.

“After promising to protect those on the front line, the government has tinkered with the long standing definition and classified 12% more workers as pen-pushers as it continues to slash thousands of ‘backroom’ jobs.”

A recent government audit of the public service ruled that 65,025 workers were “non front line”. This represents 32% of the 204,400 public servants.

More than 7000 workers (or four out of five staff) in the Department of Transport and Main Roads are now classified as non-front line. On July 31, Newman announced that 2000 jobs in this Department were to go. In Queensland Health, the number of non-front line workers has almost doubled to 17,414. An expected 4000 jobs are to go, including in areas such as preventative health.

The Courier Mail spoke to a senior project worker who has worked for Queensland Health for 17 years and whose job is now on the line. He said axing health prevention programs would have a big impact on hospitals within a decade: “We’ve got to get away from this notion that health is just what happens in hospitals; we’ve got to keep people healthy so they stay out of hospitals.”

Social impacts

As well as slashing jobs in the public service, the Newman government has cut funding to many not-for-profit agencies in the community sector that provide services for the most marginalised and vulnerable.

The cuts have hit Sisters Inside, which gives support to female ex-prisoners. Their programs have proved cost-effective and have helped women start new lives.

Agencies providing support and advocacy for women in situations of domestic violence have also been hit with funding cuts, as have those servicing the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGTBI) community, young people, Aboriginal people, people with disabilities, the unemployed and the homeless.

Margaret Gleeson, a community-housing worker and delegate for The Services Union, told Green Left Weekly: “It is hard to ignore that the cuts to the community sector are essentially ideologically driven.

“While the defunding will not significantly affect the dollar bottom line of the state budget, it will have a significant impact on community services at a time when demand for these services will be growing, due to the multiplier effects of the LNP government’s austerity drive.

“The government is selling off caravan parks and at the same time abolishing the state-wide network of Tenants Advice and Advocacy Services (TAAS), effective from October. The 90 workers who are set to lose their jobs will not be saving the government a huge amount of money. It will, however, make it easier for landlords to evict tenants who may fall behind in rent, having just lost their job in the job-axing frenzy which we are now seeing.”

Gleeson said another problem with the abolition of the local TAAS services, “is that in many cases they provide the skeleton of local Neighbourhood Centres, many of whom will be forced to reduce their days of operation, and may even face ultimate demise.

“Campbell Newman might not think community development services are ‘front line’ but I experienced first hand the critical role that my local Neighbourhood Centre at New Farm played during the Brisbane floods in January last year. The centre stayed open throughout the emergency, coordinating volunteers, contacting older residents who were in danger of isolation, and organised the community recovery effort and celebration. They produced a very professional evaluation report of the community response to the flood emergency, which will inform the response to future emergencies.”

In a state where the basic social structures in regional centres such as Gladstone and Rockhampton have been distorted by the impact of the job growth in the mineral and extractive industries, the impact of the LNP job cuts is already being felt.

On August 9, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released figures that showed Queensland’s jobless rate had jumped from 5.3% to 5.8% — the highest rate in mainland Australia.

Queensland Council of Unions president John Battams said: “The LNP is only part way through the 20,000 jobs it wants to cut from the Queensland public sector.

“Queensland is falling well behind the national jobless rate of 5.1%. The LNP government’s indiscriminate slashing of jobs and services is leading to an unemployment black hole that is dragging down confidence and investment.

“There are another 13,000 jobs to go, according to the LNP. That could push the number of jobless Queenslanders up to 160,000 — that’s a city the size of Cairns. It’s time for the premier to stop the cuts, and sit down and talk with public sector workers and their unions to address their worries.

“There’s no evidence of any considered plan that takes into account the current economic
situation in Queensland.”

Union, community plan response

Big rallies have taken place in Brisbane in the past few months and these will build as the date for the state budget draws near.

The first protests in April took place in response to the axing of the Premier’s Literary Awards. This was followed by a 2000 strong rally in June protesting against the defunding of Healthy Communities — the state’s only LGTBI-specific health service — as well as the government’s restriction on civil unions legislation and its ban on same-sex couples accessing reproductive services such as surrogacy.

Thousands of public servants rallied outside Parliament on July 15, and teachers rallied there again two weeks later. School cleaners — members of the United Voice union — led an occupation of Newman’s office in protest against the planned outsourcing of their jobs. The Queensland Teachers Union has called another rally outside state parliament on August 21. Ambulance workers are also rallying the same day.

Two thousand delegates from 34 unions representing 370,000 workers across Queensland met in Brisbane and via Skype on August 1. Delegates condemned the LNP government’s actions and endorsed a statewide day of action for September 12.

There was a lot of sentiment from the floor for concerted industrial action on that day, however the final communique from Battams spoke of “support for a long-term campaign beginning with a day of community wide protests and action on September 12”.

Gleeson told GLW: “Many delegates I spoke to at the meeting thought that Battams’ call for a long campaign was in effect a call for the re-election of the ALP government … even though Battams wasn’t really game enough to say this outright.”

The first organising meeting of Queensland Uncut community group was held on August 2. The group had been launched at a public forum two weeks before. The organising meeting attracted more than 80 people and agreed to endorse the September 12 day of action and to take part in the rally.

Queensland Uncut also agreed to hold a march and rally against the cuts on August 23. Members of the group have taking to the streets almost daily to leaflet workplaces.

The Newman LNP government is increasing its attacks on the Queensland community, but it now looks like the attacks will be met by a fightback.


Comments

Whether it be Campbell Newman or any other leader in Queensland - if you spend more than you earn and it is impossible to save for the preverbal "Rainy Day" then you cut the cloth accordingly. If you borrow to pay bills then you face bankruptcy quick smart if a reverse situation doesn't appear on the horizon in short time.

It is obvious to me that the public service is overstaffed - the unions are so out of date and fees are outrageous when you consider that most of their members work hard for their pay and do not particularly appreciate the union fees part of it being used for legal reasons and donations to political parties, instead of assisting with everyday matters that their members may have.

I also believe that the Unions are so overstaffed themselves that they could reduce union fees by looking seriously internally at themselves.

The unions did a good job years ago and certainly were needed, but today they are lost and with more people choosing to work from home then conditions are different and the sooner the unions come to terms with that, then the better off we all will be.

I'm saying Queensland needs the broom put through it as too many persons seem to be doing the same job and in private business that just would not be tolerated.

Let our Overwhelmingly chosen Premier and his team get on with it and if he does what Captain Bligh did for Queensland then he's out - but I don't think that is going to happen. There's an old saying that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, well I'm saying Queenslands wheel is past squeaking it's breaking down for lack of correct maintenance.

Co-operation and consistency will see us right,

Thomas Bain

If we take privatisation to it's inevitable conclusion we will contract out our government to a global corporation and government will cease to exist at the local and national level.
Privatisation primarily serves the interests and ambitions of private stakeholders. Employees or the client and customer base are only of concern in terms of how they enhance the primary goal.

Without a balance between the public and private sector workforce and in terms of assets, wealth and productivity our way of life, workplace conditions, salaries and so on will become determined by this imbalance. The scales always seem to lean more heavily towards the private sector - because the government is a service organisation not a competing organisation. We want our government to assist the private sector to thrive. The private sector does not have the same need to keep the government sector thriving however.

When you hand over government and the public sector workplace you no longer have a vote or a say over any conditions....such as job security or maternity leave. As cumbersome as the wheels of elections, referendums, unions, public sector workforce, politicians and factions, and government are - the other option is to have no government or a puppet government.

And you can be sure that a puppet workforce that has increasingly limited say over workplace conditions is always a good indication of an imbalance towards increasing private sector ownership and power.

Co-operation and consistency will see us right - but my vision of what that will look and how that needs to be done doesn't involve spending lives and a bankruption of ethics.
Investment in the future or our state is a debt that we owe to future generations.

Campell Newman sees governing as 'pooper scoopering' and the government workforce as 'poo'.
How does someone like that get involved in government?
Wouldn't he be much happier as a CEO for a corporation that he valued and with workers that he could find less offensive?
And wouldn't a CEO be dropped immediately if he ever made the mistake of linking the company image with poo?

Could a private sector legislate against job protection overnight?
Do you think that private sector companies want the government to follow the law or legislate the law into non-existence overnight? How would corporations function and profit in a state of lawlessness?
What if nothing governed the government?

what drug are you on, public service workers are one of the most hard working group of people on the face of the planet. they get paid less to do the same job outsorcing does and in most cases work beyond the normal hours as set by any agreement. you have no idea how these cuts will affect people and in particular children, who may be in situations of sexual abuse..what do we tell them here, sorry the state is "Bankrupt" so you will just have to suck it up!!!

I take it your jobs not on the line then, Thomas Bain?...Yeah, didnt think so!

There is no excuse for these cuts to education, health, emergency and community services but the Liberals do what Liberals do I guess. What's happening in QLD is a warning to the rest of our country. It simply costs money to help those at the bottom end but it's just too easy for you and your kind to disassociate yourselves from your fellow QLDers that desperately need these workers to keep their jobs. Your kind never mention those less fortunate than yourselves. You go on about this debt, that was grosely over estimated by the Libs by the way, to justify the destruction of saftey nets that support people other than yourself. I don't need support so who cares about anyone else? That would be me and my kind buddy.

Campbell as with Tony is consumed with looking after the top end of town and will put all his energy into taking from the least fortunate and "freeing up" the market for all his rich mates. It has been proven time and time again that the market does not look after the most vulneable and there will be more poverty, more crime, more drug addiction, more domestic violence, more illness and the list goes on. This effects ALL of us and it will be left to us to pick up the pieces once this government has sold this state out once again.

I support families everyday in my work and things are hard enough as it is trust me. The cracks that these cuts will create in our community will only allow more people to fall through and I supposed the ignorant such as yourself Mr Bain will simply blame the victims for their place in life rather than the structure that creates the problems in the first place. So enjoy your steady job, your money, your private health care and your kids private education mate because the rest of us will stay connected with our community and fight the good fight without you. Co-operation and consistency will see YOU right you mean. At least in the short term anyway. We can always build more jails and sell a few more caravan parks ay?

Don't believe the hype

Jeremy Johnstone