The Liberal National Party (LNP) Government in Queensland has continued its offensive on the public sector unabated. In the latest round of cuts, the government led by Campbell Newman is set to slash at least 2,754 jobs from the public health service.
Health Minister Lawrence Springborg has cynically claimed that the cuts will improve services. But Townsville hospital alone has already announced that 130 full-time staff will go, including 45 nurses. This situation is likely to be replicated at hospitals around the state.
Springborg has largely tried to shift the blame for the cuts onto the former Labor state government’s mismanagement of the health budget. But the LNP’s cuts are not in any way limited to health. Workers in transport, education, the arts, fire fighting and other industries are also facing disastrous layoffs.
The latest cuts to health have laid bare the ideological, class-based attack that is underway in Queensland. Among other targets, the Newman government has deliberately undermined funding for gay and lesbian health services.
The HIV-awareness group Healthy Communities has been particularly singled out. This group’s Rip ‘n Roll advertisement featuring two men hugging caused a storm last year. The Australian Christian Lobby tried to have it banned, but failed in the face of public support for the safe sex message. Outrageously, the Health Minister insinuated that the Healthy Communities ads correspond to a rise in HIV transmissions!
Awareness-raising campaigns and services are crucial in getting people to come forward and seek medical help. Theses cuts will mean that not only will less people seek help for illnesses like HIV, but that even if they do hospitals will be less able to help them.
True to form, the ALP has refused to commit to reinstating many of these cuts if they were returned to power. As they proved in their last term in office they to support an agenda of cuts, privatisations and job losses.
Unions in Queensland held a day of action on September 12 with more than 8000 workers attending. The dilemma that workers in Queensland face is that in elections they are faced with a choice of two parties that both represent the interests of big business.
The situation highlights the need for unions, community groups and ordinary people to withdraw their support from the ALP and build a new party that can represent their interests. Without a major force to challenge the major parties these public sector cuts will be felt for generations. The time to act is now.
By Chris Dite