The Guardian • Issue #2009

Feet on the ground

Photo: Anna Pha

After nine years of corrupt, anti-people, climate deniers in office, the newly elected Albanese Labor government faces many challenges. Expectations of real change are high, and Labor has made a number of commitments for progressive reforms. If they are to see the light of day, it will require extensive campaigning and pressure from outside of Parliament – feet on the ground and in the streets.

Crises grow on almost every front – climate, wages, housing, pensions, public services, health, the NDIS, aged care, public infrastructure, fuel, energy, declining real wages, job insecurity, rising inflation, and more.

The Coalition’s horrendous legacy looms large – no one is unaffected by those years of one of the most appalling governments on record. People are seeking government leadership and planning. They are sick of the anarchy of the private sector and governments that abandon their responsibility to govern for the people.

The following are some aspects of that legacy and their alternative.

CLIMATE CHANGE

LEGACY: Denial and inaction – failure to adopt mitigation and adaptation measures; failure to set targets for greenhouse gas emissions based on the science; failure to assist victims of climate change experiencing floods, bushfires, and drought; failure to develop renewable energy sources; pushing for the expansion of the fossil fuel sector; pouring billions of dollars into fossil fuel subsidies; and withdrawal from the international Global Climate Fund and abject failure to respond to the plight of sinking Pacific islands and its own Torres Strait Island people.

ALTERNATIVE: Net zero emissions by 2030; no new fossil fuel mines; rapid phasing out of fossil fuels; a just transition to renewables with no worker worse off; subsidies for community, job-creating regional and rural renewable infrastructure including large batteries; subsidised electric vehicles and network of charging stations; and extensive measures to protect the environment, native flora and fauna and the Great Barrier Reef. Above all planning, no leaving it to “markets forces”.

INTEGRITY

LEGACY: Rorting of billions of dollars; no accountability; no transparency or requirement to behave ethically; handing out fist-fulls of taxpayer money to dubious outfits and individuals with Coalition connections or for political gain without even going to tender.

ALTERNATIVE: An ICAC with sharp teeth and powers of Royal Commission to lay charges; unenforceable codes and guidelines for conduct replaced by regulations carrying hefty penalties for serious breaches.

INCOMES

LEGACY: Reduced and stagnating wages that are falling behind rising inflation; growing gender wage gap; super exploitation of casual, visa, and Indigenous workers; wage theft and gig economy on the rise; bosses not paying workers’ entitlements such as superannuation or annual leave; loss of penalty rates.

ALTERNATIVE: Minimum wage of $25 per hour; equal pay for same work or work of equal value; strong regulation and enforcement of minimum wages and casual loadings; full restoration of penalty rates; making wage theft a criminal offence with jail terms.

INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

LEGACY: Increased deregulation of labour market; non-enforcement of workplace safety laws; growth of casual employment, body hire, and the “gig” economy; the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and Registered Organisations Commission (ROC); rise in the number of workplace deaths and serious injuries

ALTERNATIVE: Secure work; shorter working day on same pay; legislated right to strike; removal of restrictions on right of entry; industry bargaining; abolition of the ABCC and ROC and repeal of all other anti-union, anti-worker laws; paid union leave; and workplace deaths and serious injuries made a criminal offence punishable by jail terms.

JOBS

LEGACY: Further decline of manufacturing sector; unprepared for a pandemic; promotion of job growth in war-mongering “defence” industries; staffing shortages in tertiary education, health, education, aged care, NDIS, and public service; wastage of billions of dollars on contracting out to private sector enhancing the profits of its mates and donors.

ALTERNATIVE: Creation of secure well-paid jobs by developing a manufacturing sector including a merchant shipping fleet, trains, electric buses, pharmaceuticals, and renewable energy projects; and adequately staffing the public service.

HEALTH

LEGACY: Health costs have rocketed; primary health care neglected; regional and rural communities without a GP; uncapped fees of specialists denying access for many; shortage of mental health services; long hospital waiting lists; and bulk billing undermined by freezing of doctors’ rebates.

ALTERNATIVE: A nationalised health care system including dental; emphasis on quality primary health care, prevention and early detection; funded centrally through progressive taxation system; universal access free at point of delivery; an expanded Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme; increased funding to regional, rural and remote areas.

EDUCATION

LEGACY: Bloated budget for private schools; public schools starved of funds; TAFE gutted with funding redirected to private sector; thousands of jobs lost in universities; failure to attract teachers due to poor working conditions and low pay.

ALTERNATIVE: The provision of free, universal, and secular public education for all children from pre-school to tertiary levels; a massive increase in funding for public education; smaller class sizes; better resources; and increase in support staff.

CHILDCARE

LEGACY: Critical shortage of early childhood education and care places; unaffordable for many families; poor working conditions and low wages resulting in staff shortages.

ALTERNATIVE: Free early childhood education and care (highly successful during pandemic); centres owned and run by public sector; well resourced; higher pay and better working conditions; and centres located in communities where there is need.

NDIS

LEGACY: Adversarial system putting participants and applicants through considerable stress and trauma fighting for funding; huge wastage on contracting out to for-profit private sector; all too often poor service delivery with many service providers lacking necessary skills or training.

ALTERNATIVE: Nationalised scheme; centred around people’s needs and aims; fully funded from central revenue; people with disability involved in management of scheme.

AGED CARE

LEGACY: A system in crisis; abuse of residents and malnourishment; understaffed and under-resourced; low pay and poor working conditions; inadequately regulated; failure to implement recommendations of Royal Commission; and private sector siphoning off profits.

ALTERNATIVE: Nationalised aged care system; fully funded; regulated and enforced staffing ratios, registered nurse always present; pay increase and improved working conditions; and implementation of other Royal Commission recommendations.

HOUSING

LEGACY: Housing crisis; rental unaffordable for those on low to middle incomes; housing shortage; thousands of homeless people; privatisation of public housing stock; housing as a commodity for investment; and houses left deliberately empty for tax breaks.

ALTERNATIVE: Housing as a human right; construction of public housing with additional benefit of job creation; abolish negative gearing to discourage private investors; increase rent assistance for social security recipients and others on low incomes; and require superannuation funds to invest in public housing construction.

PUBLIC SERVICE

LEGACY: Huge staff shortages; decline in services; staffing caps encouraging departments to enter into deals with contractors and labour hire outfits ($2.7 billion worth contracts signed since July 2021); casualisation of workforce; and pay frozen or increases below rising cost of living.

ALTERNATIVE: End contracting out and casualisation creating permanent positions; increase staffing levels to meet needs; and improve working conditions and increase pay.

INDIGENOUS RIGHTS

LEGACY: Deaths in custody on the rise; increase in number of children being separated from their families; ongoing exploitation and neglect of communities; poverty causing chronic health conditions; theft of land and destruction of culture continues; mining corporations destroying cultural heritage; the Intervention in the Northern Territory; and cashless debit card.

ALTERNATIVE: Recognition sovereignty has never been ceded; provision of services to communities; control over own affairs; give effect to demands for justice, land rights, treaties, and truth telling processes; implement Deaths in Custody Royal Commission recommendations; and improve housing, health, education and other basic services to remote communities.

ASYLUM SEEKERS

LEGACY: Barbaric system of indefinite incarceration of people coming to our shores seeking assistance; children subjected to physical and sexual abuse; and turning boats back sending people to uncertain futures.

ALTERNATIVE: End this system that amounts to torture; recognise legality and human rights of asylum seekers; assist to settle in community following security clearance.

WOMEN

LEGACY: Gender wage gap widened; women still concentrated in low-paid “women’s work”; high cost of early childhood education and care means that women on low wages gain little financial benefit from their employment; domestic violence on the rise; funding cut to women’s services.

ALTERNATIVE: Recognition of skills and qualifications of low-paid work such as caring professions with appropriate increases in pay; domestic violence leave; free early childhood education and care; and provision of services and accommodation for women experiencing domestic violence.

PEACE

LEGACY: Bloated military budget; $100 billion plus committed to nuclear-powered submarines; arms build-up with focus on strategic weapons; increased presence of US military; aggressive stance towards People’s Republic of China; and creating regional tensions.

ALTERNATIVE: Cancel submarines and weapons contracts; slash war budget; approach other nations on basis of mutual respect, friendship, non-interference; and recognition of independence and sovereignty of other nations.

ABC

LEGACY: White-anted the ABC with ongoing funding cuts and job losses; drove ABC to the right in fear of further cuts; made political appointments to Board.

ALTERNATIVE: Fully restore and increase ABC funding; spill the board; appoint new members with skills and experience.

BUDGET MEASURES

LEGACY: Ongoing cuts to spending on social services; failure to increase incomes of social security recipients and public servants; wastage of billions on contracting out and privatisation; legislation of tens of billions of dollars in corporate tax cuts; and tax cuts for the rich.

ALTERNATIVE: Increase funding to public sector; increase public servants’ salaries and social security payments; cancel nuclear-powered submarines and other military spending; end corporate welfare; nationalise strategic industries and government services.

If you agree with the above alternatives, or some of them, you might like to consider joining the CPA or just find out more about us. For more information: cpa.org.au.

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