In this NSW election Morris Iemma and the ALP are posing as big defenders of public services and public sector jobs.
That's not a hard act when Peter Debnam is promising to cut 20,000 "backroom bureaucrats" and hand over NSW industrial relations powers to John Howard.
But don't be fooled. The difference between Iemma and Debnam isn't as big as it looks. Both are committed to downsizing the public sector, except that Iemma's approach is softly, softly.
The Iemma government's February 2006 Economic and Financial Statement declared NSW "open for business" and marked down 5000 public service jobs for the axe.
Labor, like Liberal, thinks that the public sector is inherently less efficient than private business. Treasurer Michael Costa let the cat out of the bag back in March last year when he told union delegates defending Pacific Power jobs that 20% of the 340,000 public sector workforce were "surplus to requirement".
The treasurer was simply blurting out the inner thoughts of the Iemma government, even if he has been gagged while the election is on.
Where does the myth about public sector inefficiency and the pressure for "downsizing", "outsourcing", "corporatisation", public-private partnerships and outright privatisation comes from?
Simple. From those who have most to gain from these policies—not the average service user but from the corporate powers-that-be and their representatives (like the NSW Business Chamber).
The Socialist Alliance says that the argument for cutting back the public sector in Australia and NSW is nonsense — it is already one of the smallest in the advanced industrial countries and sorely needs to be expanded.
How else can:
Hospital waiting lists be cut back and decent health services extended in rural and regional NSW?
We even begin to construct a public transport system that addresses the urgent need to attract car users?
The 60,000-long public housing waiting list and the $640 million of public housing maintenance be eliminated?
The Department of Environment and Conservation begin to do a decent job of mapping the "ecological footprint" of industry and agriculture in this state, and prepare practical proposals for reaching sustainability?
There simply isn't any other way to defend and improve our quality of life.
A vote for Socialist Alliance on March 24 is a vote for the public services and public sector jobs we all need.
A vote for Socialist Alliance candidates always flows to Labor before the Coalition. It is not a "wasted" vote.
[Susan Price is a Socialist Alliance candidate for the NSW Legislative Council in the March 24 elections.]