Seminar defends public sector
By Bill Mason
BRISBANE — State teachers' campaign to defend the public education system will be a "long-term struggle", Shane Groth, Queensland Teachers Union vice-president, told a seminar here on September 12.
The seminar, entitled "Defend Jobs! Defend the Public Sector!", also heard from Maurice Sibelle, of the Democratic Socialist Party, and Bill Dawson, from the Socialist Party of Australia and the Communications Workers Union.
Groth outlined the development of a joint campaign by teachers, nurses and railway workers against planned cuts to the public sector in the Goss government's budget. All the cuts had merely been reviewed, not reversed, he said.
The experience of strike action and a mass meeting had been especially empowering for Queensland teachers, who had mounted their biggest industrial action ever.
A follow-up bans campaign had been adopted to maintain the pressure, until the government was forced to listen, he concluded.
Sibelle stressed that public sector cuts are a logical result of the dominant "economic rationalist" perspective.
"For a serious campaign to succeed, the trade union movement needs to break with Labor", Sibelle said.
"This process is happening in New Zealand. The NewLabour Party split off from the Labour Party with a significant chunk of the unions."
Sibelle said there was no easy way to defend jobs and the public sector. "We believe that any program must take up the call to stop the running down of the public sector; to extend the public sector with increased funding; to halt privatisation of government enterprises; and to democratise the public sector through workers' and public control.
"These demands can only be won through the activity of the workers, in alliance with the community; through industrial action combined with community mobilisation."
Dawson explained the history of attempts to privatise Telecom, going back to the Fraser government. The ALP at that stage opposed privatisation, a policy that was later "reversed in reality".
The motivation for doing this was "to please big business and to stay in government."
The economic basis for privatisation of telecommunications, the fastest growing industry in the country, is that "capitalism needs to expand or die".
"Allegiance to the Accord and to the Labor Party has hamstrung any campaigns opposing privatisation", Dawson said.
"Actions must be developed in the workplace and through trade unions first", he added. "We need to overcome the lack of organisation by the left in the workplace and group those interested in opposition to anti-worker policies."