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Some proposals regarding a People's Budget
"A people's budget" (Guardian, 11-6-03) proposes a wide range of policies that can provide the basis for discussions with people and organisations willing to join forces with the CPA to work for the election of a People's Government. There will be many who won't agree that these policies "are realistic". For example, take the cost of providing a free university education at between $40,000 and $150,000 per student. In 2002, 170,000 students gained entry to university. If we add the estimated 17,000 who failed to gain entry (and not count those who are studying at private universities) the cost of getting all of these students through university would fall somewhere between $7 billion and $28 billion. A newly elected People's Government would have difficulty finding this sort of money in addition to financing primary and secondary education, TAFE, health, housing and social welfare, not to mention the huge amounts of investment needed to create jobs. A policy of free education from cradle to grave could only be adopted and gradually implemented by a People's Government after it has been in power for some time and the sources of income are not restricted to taxation, whether it is income tax, corporate tax or the GST. True, the CPA is proposing the return to public ownership of enterprises once owned by the government. This radical proposal is not realistic in present-day political conditions and can only be achieved by a People's Government that would agree to adopt this CPA policy. The mere assertion that the policies "are realistic" will not be sufficient to persuade people and their organisations to join forces to fight for a People's Government which would then implement them. At present people are not rallying in great numbers to join or support the CPA. They do not consider the CPA to be an effective instrument of change and prefer the Greens or to be independent. The points in the CPA draft budget, that are its specific contribution to the struggle for change and that can rally the working people of Australia to support it, are the general principle that "the public sector is central to any budget that is going to tackle economic development and job creation" and the call for a national investment policy. The CPA needs to do some work in this area, work out where the money can come from right now, and how it could be invested effectively to create jobs. A National Development Fund could be established with funds coming from the profits of public income-producing enterprises still in the hands of the government, superannuation funds and increased company tax. These funds could then be invested in areas that would not only create jobs but would also strengthen the Australian economy. Investment as also all so-called government "help" to industry should be in the form of equity and not in the form of hand-outs. This means that the public sector could consist of joint enterprises. If the Chinese can do it successfully, there is no reason why we should not be able to cope with the economic and political implications of such a step. Which brings up another important point. The CPA proposes that a People's Government would "encourage the participation of people in their own government by creating community and neighbourhood committees". This proposal should be extended and brought forward. There should also be action committees in factories and workplaces and they should be established immediately by the alliance formed to work together to elect a People's Government. And a final point. I object to a People's Government subsidising the rich to get a free education, particularly as the resources in the public schools severely hampers students coming from families on low incomes in their endeavours to matriculate. I propose a people's budget should adopt a scheme charging fees. Students would be means-tested. The funds gained from those able to pay would then be used to provide scholarships for the needy. Bob SaltisBack to index page