The results of the May 6 elections in Greece sent a message that has been heard around the world: Working people want an end to the austerity agenda that has plunged Greece's economy into depression and slashed living standards everywhere.

The highlight of the vote was the result for the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), a broad left party. SYRIZA came second with 17%, ahead of the social democratic PASOK (13%) and just behind the conservative New Democracy (ND ― 19%).

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Compared with a southern Europe stricken by ever-rising unemployment and government attacks on social welfare and democratic rights, Luxembourg can feel as if it is on another, much more pleasant, planet.

The richest country in Europe ― with Gross Domestic Product per capita at least 30% higher than that of the US, unemployment at 5.9% and the second-lowest public sector debt to GDP ratio ― this most important financial centre after London’s City would seem to be floating above the crisis.

Is there a surplus or is there not? Does delivering a $1.5 billion surplus in 2012-13 make Wayne Swan a “good economic manager”? Are you a winner and grinner or a loser soon to be driven to the boozer? Blah, blah, blah. Enough, enough already with the budget spins and counterspins.

You want something real to worry about from the budget? Worry about your job if you are lucky enough to still have one, and worry about what will happen to you if you lose it.

The National Welfare Rights Network released the statement below on May 9.

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“The nation’s budget is now in the black but unfortunately more single parent families are in the red,” said Maree O’Halloran, President of the National Welfare Rights Network today in a preliminary response to the May 8 federal budget.

“There are some small but significant gains in the budget for people made redundant and for those currently looking for work, studying or/and caring for children.

The Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition released the statement below on May 8.

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“Cuts in military spending of up to $5 billion in the budget are a step in the right direction, but the Gillard government has missed an opportunity to enhance Australia’s security and release funds needed for social, infrastructure and environmental projects,” Denis Doherty, national co-ordinator of the Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coalition, said in Sydney today.

The Australian Youth Affairs Coalition released the statement below on May 9.

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The peak body for youth affairs in Australia has welcomed last night’s budget measures that support a fair go for young Australians, but continues to call on the Gillard government to ensure that financial assistance is raised to levels that ensure young Australians are not living below the poverty line.

The Victorian Coalition government has taken to the state with a razor and announced huge cuts in the 2012 budget. These are the biggest cuts since the Jeff Kennett-led Coalition government that ruled Victoria from 1992-1999.

Victorian TAFE institutes in particular will be hard hit. The level of cuts was so severe that higher education minister Peter Hall sent a letter to TAFE heads on April 29 indicating that he had considered resigning from the ministry.

For weeks, Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard and treasurer Wayne Swan have focused on one thing: using the coming federal budget to prove that they are “good economic managers”.

But good managers for who?

The Labor government is determined to deliver a surplus and cut public debt at the cost of more public sector jobs, services and cuts even to the meagre welfare support for single parents.

As part of savage budget cuts, the Victorian Coalition government has slashed $300 million over four years of funding for the provider of public technical and further education, the state’s 18 TAFE institutes that teach about 400,000 students a year.

Funding per student in 80% of courses has been cut from about $8 per training hour to as low as $1.50 - to a range meant to reflect labour market priorities.

Trades apprenticeships, aged care and child care received some small increases.

The Victorian Liberal government has taken to the state’s public sector with a razor blade and announced huge cuts in the 2012 budget.

Victorian TAFE institutes in particular will be hard hit. GippsTAFE chief executive officer Peter Whitely told ABC Radio that his institute faces a loss of 10% of its operating budget. TAFE courses that are not in high demand are expected to be slashed.


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