The Guardian • Issue #2053


Off the hook

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2053

Budgets are about political choices. We look at where governments are spending, and where they are cutting. The media draw up lists of winners and losers, so that the rest of us can check which group we’re in. The Guardian has done a thorough coverage of what the recent Federal Budget says about the Albanese Labor government’s priorities.

Another thing that’s important about budgets is what they leave untouched – what’s sacrosanct. For the Australian government, the gigantic commitment to supporting US domination by spending big on AUKUS is one thing that will not be touched, no matter which major party is elected. The Guardian has covered this in detail, as part of the Communist Party of Australia’s “Give Peace a Budget” campaign.

Another thing that is never touched, and which is left out of the budget commentary is outsourcing. Outsourcing is rampant by both state and federal governments. Work which could be done by professional public servants is farmed out to consultants with their own agendas. This is very big business. In the last years of the Morrison government this came to literally billions in payments to “consultants.”

Governments do this for several reasons:

First, the neoliberal ideology that claims that private markets are more efficient. No amount of evidence to the contrary can shake this widely perpetrated myth. Many functions of government have been outsourced providing lucrative profits to big corporations.

Second, outsourcing means governments are at arm’s length from the services they provide removing accountability and transparency. If all goes well, bourgeois politicians take credit. If there’s a problem, they can put on a show of being on the people’s side against the problem they’ve caused by outsourcing the service in the first place! It’s like letting a fox run around the chicken coop before giving it a clip round the ear and asking the surviving chickens for a round of applause.

Another reason neoliberal governments like outsourcing is that it drastically weakens the power of workers. A divided and casualised workforce spread out over multiple contractors is much less likely to stand up for its rights than a united, unionised, workforce with job security and a single employer.

So our leaders contract out like there’s no tomorrow. Jobseekers are left desperately trying to access their entitlements pitted against professionals in a maze of self-interested private employment agencies. The training Australians and their country need, is in the hands of often-shonky private colleges, while high-quality TAFE colleges are starved of funds. Other victims include the NDIS, which has turned into a bonanza for private outfits.

A change of government leads to a few reforms. The new regime turns the odd rock over, but it’s next to impossible that a light will be shone on the whole corrupt system of outsourcing. As Education Minister, Julia Gillard cracked down on the more outlandish “visa mills” and private competitors to TAFE that were little more than a place to print certificates, but left the others in place. Bill Shorten might have a go at some rorts from NDIS agencies, but will leave that scheme to private providers.

Just now, there’s a scandal going on in the world of outsourcing. Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), contracted to do work for the Australian Tax Office, took just hours to decide that the information they gained was too good to waste, and scuttled off to Google, Microsoft, and Apple with the inside track on how to rip off taxpayers more effectively. A few directors have retired early, but not the 40-something PWC higher ups who knew this was going on. Sure, there might be legal consequences for one PWC director, but don’t hold your breath. It’s way less likely that there will be any consequences at all for PWC as an organisation. The fox will stay inside the chicken coop under the current system.

For that we need more than a change of government. We need a change of system. If you’re reading this and you’re not in the Communist Party of Australia, join us and help us work for that change.

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