This article first appeared on my blog En Passant with John Passant (http://enpassant.com.au)
The Rudd Labor Government’s next budget in May will take a meat axe to vital public services and public servants.
As Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner said recently: “We have got further efficiency work (sic) under way – the second phase of the razor gang.” (Danielle Cronin and David McLennan ‘PS pain not over as China hits the wall’ The Canberra Times Friday January 23 2009 page 1.)
He went on to say: “It’s all about squeezing more out of the lemon, cutting out waste, getting greater efficiency, but time will tell how successful we are.”
Ominously, Tanner said that the number of public service positions had grown from 212,000 to 247,000 under John Howard in his final years in office.
Remember 1996 when Howard and Costello sacked 25,000 public servants and axed a large number of programs?
Tanner is softening us up for the HowRudd Government’s version of 1996. Given the benchmark Tanner is using – 212,000 compared to 247,000, could this rotten Labor Government be tempted to go further than Howard and Costello and sack 35,000 public services and axe vital programs across the board?
The CPSU – the public servants’ union – has condemned the comments, saying you can’t get blood out of a stone. The CPSU accepted the 1996 attacks. It should take a stand now. Instead of being an acolyte of Labor, it should defend its members.
If you are a public servant, and not a union member, now would be a good time to join. But don’t imagine that somehow the “union” will save you without you doing anything. The union leadership is essentially a conservatising force, afraid of industrial action and wedded to the ALP and the fear of upsetting it. So if you do join, join prepared to argue and agitate for mass meetings, demonstrations, bans and strikes to defend public services, jobs, wages and conditions. Join and fight!
These meetings, bans and strikes should be on the union agenda now to force the Government to back down before their attacks become a debilitating and confidence destroying fait accompli. The added bonus is that such action would help rebuild the union, tainted from years of collaboration with the employer and class enemy – Hawke, Keating, Howard and Rudd.
This looks unlikely from the CPSU leadership. Instead the Union is affiliating with ALP branches around the country. In Canberra these moves are just beginning. The talk is of influencing the ALP from the inside. The union may as well join the Liberals for all the good it will do.
This entryism is doomed to failure because managing capitalism for the bosses demands attack on workers. That’s the essence of the ALP in times of economic crisis, and no amount of “influence” is going to change that. In fact the end result is more likely to be the host ALP taking over the parasite CPSU.
This affiliation nonsense is the consequence of the CPSU limply rolling over to governments for 25 years. The alternatives are affiliation or action to defend jobs. I’m in favour of action instead of passing do nothing resolutions through the ALP and getting do nothing officials on to the backbenches.
Strike to defend vital public programs, jobs, wages and conditions.