The 2013 New South Wales state budget is a plan to undermine the living conditions of ordinary people. Its aim is to force workers and the poor to pay the price for the developing crisis. It contains cuts to services, attacks on public sector workers and even more privatisations.
In last years budget the O’Farrell Liberal government cut 5,000 jobs. At the same time their labour expense cap will cut the equivalent of 10,000 more jobs over the next four years. The government is also extending the so-called ‘efficiency dividend’ of 1% for another 2 years.
Following the sales of Port Botany and Kembla for $5 billion they now want to sell the Port of Newcastle. They claim that the funds raised will be used to fund infrastructure like the northwest rail link and the West Connex motorway.
The sell off of the Newcastle Port is estimated to bring in $700 million. It will also mean a reduction of ongoing dividends. Port dividends will drop from $85 million in 2012/13 to $22 million in 2013/14. Once in private hands outsourcing and job losses are bound to follow.
The government claims that they will use some money from the sale of the Newcastle Port to ‘revitalise’ Newcastle. In reality this is ploy to sell off one highly valued asset in order to destroy another. They want to replace the railway line to Newcastle with light rail. These plans have been opposed by locals for many years.
The cuts planned for the public sector will amount to $19 billion over the next 6 years – almost all of these cuts will be at the expense of public sector wages and jobs. Inevitably this will result in reduced services across the board.
Cuts to other services include disbanding specialist adolescent units for at risk youth at Cabramatta and Kings Cross. Also Orange Hospital will have its palliative care unit closed, leading to the removal of 10 beds and 9 nurses. Bathurst Hospital will also lose 5 beds and 5 nursing positions.
Funding to hospitals has increased by only 5.2%, far short of the 7% that the Australian Medical Association says is needed to cover the cost of population growth, ageing, wage rises and technologies.
The NSW budget is funding part of the Gonski school reforms via raising fees for TAFE. Spending on TAFE is down by about 1% but TAFE capital expenditure is down by 2.5%.
Spending on infrastructure such as the West Connex motorway will have the initial risk for the project fall on the taxpayer with the government funding the first stage of the project. After establishing traffic usage details they will then seek private investment. In other words the government will get it off the ground, and once it begins to turn a profit, hand it over to the private sector.
Trade unions and community groups should stand opposed to this budget in its entirety. We need a government that will provide essential public services and jobs to all – not a government that sells off assets and sacks workers. Far from ordinary people being forced to pay the price for a crisis they didn’t create the big capitalists, the bankers and the financial speculators should bear the brunt.
There is more than enough wealth produced in society to fund well paying jobs and properly funded services. The problem is that the bulk of the wealth is concentrated in the hands of a tiny few. Instead of accepting cuts it is this situation that we should be looking to change.
Socialists argue that we should combine the fight against cuts and austerity with the fight for a different society – a democratic socialist society that puts people’s needs first.
By Gary Duffy