South Australian Treasurer Kevin Foley’s September 16 budget faces widespread opposition. The budget would slash $2 billion from public spending over four years.
A leak to the September 15 Adelaide Advertiser of the Sustainable Budget Commission's report showed recommendations for wide-ranging spending cuts and the closure of schools, hospitals and police stations.
Not all of the recommendations will be implemented, but 35 of the Commission’s 43 general recommendations will be acted on.
Public sector workers are in the firing line. 3743 jobs are to go and $117 million is to be saved over three years by cutting long service leave and abolishing leave loading for non-shift workers. Foley will force redundancies, if workers don’t apply for enough.
Fees and charges are set to rise. For example, TAFE fees will rise by 25%, water bills by 21% and hospital car park fees will climb to market rates.
Adult education in high schools will be abolished. Foley has said TAFE will be used instead, but TAFE does not teach Year 12 courses. Small schools grants will be scrapped. Barry Niven, president of the SA Small Schools Association, said this put up to 100 schools at risk.
Pensioners in public accommodation will pay $7.50 extra a week per person.
One of Adelaide’s most deprived areas, in the inner northwest, was to lose the Parks Community Centre, which will be demolished for a large housing development. Work has been suspended while the government reconsiders its position. 20,000 people a month use the community centre’s services. It is a vital resource for the area and losing it would be a social disaster.
The budget ignored recommendations like cutting the ministry by three, cutting politicians’ cars and having ministerial drivers keep logbooks.
A rally was held on September 28 to protest against the sale, followed by another rally of about 1000 called by the Public Service Association. Also attending were the Australian Education Union, Unions SA, Health Services Union, Australian Services Union, Australian Nursing and Midwifery Union, The Greens and Socialist Alliance.
Speakers included PSA general secretary Jan McMahon, who said the cuts coincided with a 15% increase in parliamentarians’ superannuation.
Janet Giles, secretary of SA Unions, said: “Labor is no longer standing up for working people”. She said the AEU is organising a rally against education cuts on October 8 outside Foley's office.
Tammy Franks from the Greens, community activist Richard Bergin and Peter Christopher, Chief Industrial Officer for the PSA, also spoke.
With widespread opposition to the attacks on working people and the most vulnerable, there is potential for a serious campaign to force the government to back off from the budget's worst aspects.
[SA Unions is organising ongoing actions. Visit www.utlc.org.au for more details.]