economy

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.
Tasmania is facing a series of big, interlinked problems. These include: • a health system in crisis, • job losses in other public services causing big service inadequacies and unacceptable workloads and stress on frontline staff, • bleeding of skilled professionals and new graduates to other states, • the highest unemployment rate in the nation, • an economic recession, and • a rising cost of living.
So it has been reported that Clive “Stop Taxing Me” Palmer's main private company, Mineralogy, hasn't paid tax for three years. He really is pulling out all stops to be the best cardboard cutout evil capitalist he can. You have to wonder what he'll do next. My guess is call a press conference to announce he's established a paramilitary organisation of Nazi kittens dedicated to wiping out what's left of Australia's native fauna.
Since its November 20 election triumph, the administration of Spanish Popular Party (PP) Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has launched such a blitzkrieg of neoliberal policies, less democratic rights, state centralism and conservative social values that at times it seems as if the country has gone back 40 years in four weeks. Rajoy’s is not just one more example of a new government breaking promises due to “shocking revelations” that its predecessors had left the cupboard bare. (That old ruse has already led to public sector salary cuts of up to €500 a month.)
Workers and their unions need strong labour law reforms. Two of many changes I urge can be adopted by the Independent Inquiry into Insecure Work in Australia and the federal government’s Fair Work Act Review are: 1. Amend the Fair Work Act to repeal the penal powers and have an effective right to strike. 2. Amend the Fair Work Act to restrict casual and other forms of precarious work to a limited period. Then require employment contracts for ongoing, more permanent work. Fair Work Australia should have the power to order the transition to more secure employment contracts.
Media watchers should be forgiven for a degree of confusion over statements by federal treasurer and deputy prime minister Wayne Swan in the past two weeks. He began the month with a Press Club address, published in The Monthly’s March edition titled “The 0.01%” where he attacked “the rising power of vested interests” — naming mining magnates Clive Palmer, Andrew Forrest and Gina Rinehart — for “undermining our equality and threatening our democracy”.

There is a growing disconnect between the official rosy picture of the Australian economy and mounting public anxiety about job insecurity. The latest official unemployment rate (January 2012) was steady at 5.2% and Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson insists there is no reason to worry. Australians, he said, should shake off their misplaced “boom with gloom” attitude.

Greek unions launched a two-day general strike on February 10 against new extreme austerity measures the “troika” of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank and European Union is seeking to impose on the southern European nation. The deal will give Greece a new “bail-out” worth 130 billion euros (A$161 billion) in return for fresh spending cuts. Amid ongoing street protests and building occupations, the Greek cabinet approved the deal on February 10. Six cabinet members resigned in protest. Greek parliament was scheduled to vote on the deal on the evening of February 12.

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