A great part of being a candidate for the federal elections is that people want to talk to you. They want to tell you what’s happening in their lives and they want to let you know their opinion on lots of different issues. Recently I was invited to address an Electrical Trades Union branch meeting in Geelong, Victoria. After I’d had my say, some members told me they agreed with me.
It was great to see all big health unions in Victoria hold a joint community rally on February 3 to protest against the state and federal governments’ slashing of health funding in Victoria. But any casual observer couldn’t help feeling that a re-elect Labor strategy was lurking. It was true that all of the secretaries from the key health unions roundly condemned the state Coalition and federal Labor governments for the $107 million cut to be implemented by June this year. The cut will result in more than 300 beds closing, elective surgery delays and job losses in many hospitals.
If a casual observer glanced at the results for the mayoral elections in Geelong, they could be forgiven for thinking that they were a victory for apolitical and conservative politics. The winner, Keith Fagg, comes from a local business family whose name is as close as you could get to landed gentry in Geelong. The next highest pollster’s claim to fame was that she, Stephanie Asher, had worked for BHP Billiton. All of this in a working class town.
In 1988, then Labor Prime Minster Bob Hawke famously promised: “By the year 1990, there will be no Australian child living in poverty.” Yet the recently released 2012 Poverty In Australia report by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) reveals that 2,265,000 people, including 575,000 children, are still living below the poverty line in Australia.
A prime opportunity for the TAFE campaign to give voice to community opposition to the TAFE cuts came on September 6. Victoria's Upper House of parliament was sitting in Bendigo and its Lower House was at the University of Ballarat.
Waving banners, lighting fireworks and chanting against budget cuts, millions of people in Spain were on the march in more than 80 towns on July 19. They were responding to government decisions made on July 11 that will cut €65 billion from services over the next two years. Within 24 hours, rallies were organised by the General Union of Labour and the Workers’ Commissions. See also Spain: Rising protests reveal political crisis
Members of the Tamil community and Socialist Alliance joined Geelong Trades Hall secretary, Tim Gooden, in raising the Tamil Eelam flag over the Trades Hall on April 20. This was the first official raising of the flag in the southern hemisphere outside of Tamil Eelam. Spokesperson for the Tamil community, Sabsh Sanmugam, described how the flag has come to represent the aspirations of many Tamils around the world in their desire to break free of oppression.
Victorian nurses crowded into Festival Hall in Melbourne on March 16 to hear their nine months of struggle had reached a successful outcome. After what the ABC said was Victoria’s longest running industrial dispute, nurses have won 14-21% pay increases and kept their nurse-to-patient ratios in return for minor productivity offsets. Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said: “This is a bittersweet victory for nurses and midwives after an unprecedented industrial marathon with the Baillieu government to protect patient care and secure a fair pay rise."
After eight months of campaigning by Victoria’s nurses to keep staff-to-patient ratios and win a wage rise there may be a breakthrough in the dispute. On March 7, the Ted Baillieu Coalition state government finally offered to begin new negotiations with the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) though a conciliation process overseen by Fair Work Australia.
Twice daily outside almost every Victorian public hospital there are nurses protesting and waving banners in a spirited display of defiance. They are not being incited by their union. They are walking off the job for four hours at a time, demanding a pay rise and defending the very essence of quality public health. A brief scouring of social media or talkback radio shows that Victorians love nurses, despite government propaganda to the contrary. See also: Vic nurses 'dislike' Baillieu government Facebook gag