LIFE FOR MOST AUSTRALIANS IS GETTING HARDER, WHILE POLITICIANS SERVE THE WEALTHY. BUT PUBLIC BACKLASH IS BREWING INTO A MOVEMENT TO CHALLENGE THIS SYSTEM, WRITES SUSAN PRICE. In handing down its first budget, the Coalition government echoed its National Commission of Audit, warning that a “business as usual” scenario for public spending on welfare, pensions, public services, health and education is “unsustainable”, even “irresponsible” in Australia today.
When Treasurer Joe Hockey addressed the Sydney Institute on June 11, he complained that it is not fair that more than $6000 a head will be spent by the government on welfare this year. He said this means "the average working Australian, be they a cleaner, a plumber or a teacher, is working over one month full time each year just to pay for the welfare of another Australian."
Labor stood by its "longstanding principles" along with the Greens and refused to block the first of the supply bills in both the House of Representatives and the Senate last week. Only Andrew Wilkie and Clive Palmer voted against these bills in the House of Representatives. There were no votes against the bills in the Senate.
Prime minister Tony Abbott chalked up his first budget win on June 17 when the 2% “levy” on high income earners passed both houses of parliament. The next day, the Greens trumpeted the emergence of a double dissolution “trigger” when the Senate rejected the bill to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. It is no coincidence that Abbott wanted the temporary tax on high-income earners to be the first budget measure passed. He wants people to believe his lie that “the burden” of this budget is “shared” by all sections of the community.
Much of the public debate on the Senate “blocking supply” suggests that it is an all or nothing tactic. However this is not the case. The Senate can carefully cherry-pick the elements in the budget that it demands be amended and force the Abbott government to either accept those amendments or see its budget fail. This is a short explanation of the Senate’s powers and its ability to force a budget debate on its terms with the government-dominated House of Representatives. THE BILLS The Federal budget contains two main pieces of legislation:
Greens leader Christine Milne is challenging Prime Minister Tony Abbott to call a double dissolution election this year over the passage of a renewable energy bill. Milne said: “The Greens are ready for an election over the prime minister's global warming denial and his brutal budget.”
Union activists have written an open letter to Victoria Trades Hall Council calling for a state-wide delegates meeting to organise a strike to bust the budget. A similar petition has been launched in NSW, calling on Unions NSW to organise a mass delegates meeting to plan for a stop work protest against the budget. Sign the letter at change.org. Read the letter to the Victorian Trades Hall Council below. ***
Jo di Pietro gave the following speech to a “bust the budget” meeting organised by Unions NSW in Sydney on June 12. *** I am a technical officer in the NSW Public Health laboratories at Lidcombe (otherwise called FASS) and a proud member of the Health Services Union. NSW Health has decided to privatise food safety testing, to tender it to the private sector, so the government can distance itself from food safety work, and ultimately from its responsibility to the public.
The demand of tens of thousands of people who marched through the streets in cities around Australia on May 18 was clear. They want the federal government’s killer budget blocked. They want Labor, the Greens and independents to band together in the Senate to block the major bills implementing the attacks on Medicare, education and welfare. They want the supply/appropriation bills (the three bills that authorise the funds from treasury required by the government to carry on its day-to-day business) to be blocked, thereby forcing the government to go to a new election.
Repealing the carbon tax, abolishing the department of climate change, and getting rid of the Clean Energy Fund were the top three wishes in “75 radical ideas to transform Australia”, released by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) in 2012. Number six was to repeal the Renewable Energy Target (RET). In the recent federal budget, the Coalition government is aiming to do all four.
Thousands of people marched against the federal budget and took part in March in May rallies on May 18. About 15,000 people rallied in Melbourne against the proposed budget cuts. Viv Malo from First Nations Liberation told the rally that while $50 million was devoted to police in remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory and Queensland, $500 million will be cut from Indigenous services. She said: "You are killing us. This is not a lucky country. You won't have your freedom without ours."
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey are bare-faced liars. They sold their budget on the idea that we all had to share in the pain to pay for an unsustainable national debt. But it has been proved beyond any reasonable doubt that we are not all sharing the pain and that the government's debt is not unsustainable.
The turnout and energy at the March in May rallies on May 18 proved that people are not going to take this budget lying down. Numbers were up in several cities compared with March in March. In Melbourne, Hobart and Brisbane there were sizeable anti budget rallies on the day, even though March Australia groups had decided not to organise protests. Student rallies against the cuts to education on May 21 were bigger than any seen for a decade.
The federal government’s budget is a huge economic, social and ideological attack on women. At its heart are government spending cuts aimed directly at depriving working-class women of the means for economic independence. A report released last week by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) said low-income households headed by women will bear the heaviest burden under the changes proposed in the budget.
Tens of thousands marched against Abbott government in six cities around Australia on May 18. The march in Sydney was bigger than the March In March demonstration. Peter Boyle, who took the photos below, estimates it was about 15,000-strong. He said: "It stretched more than two and half times the distance between Central Station and Victoria Park (where it ended). The recent horror budget angered many and the crowd overwhelmingly demanded that the opposition parties block the budget in the Senate -- where they have the numbers until July."
Tens of thousands marched against Abbott government in six cities around Australia on May 18. In Perth, Alex Bainbridge reports more than 2000 people took part. The photos below are by Bainbridge. See photos of the Sydney March in May and the Melbourne "Bust the budget' protest.