“Black Friday” is what many Queenslanders were calling June 28, when 3000 public servants became the first victims of new Liberal National Party (LNP) Premier Campbell Newman’s slash-and-burn agenda. The LNP’s first 100 days have confirmed the worst fears of every unionist in Queensland.
Newman is trying to keep workers in the dark about the extent of his job cut plans. But it seems that as well as cutting an astonishing 20,000 permanent jobs, 30,000 temporary workers will not have contracts renewed.
Before the election, Newman said, “public servants have nothing to fear from me.” But now the real LNP is on show. In June Treasurer Tim Nicholls declared, “We on this side know a real job is in the private sector.” The LNP won’t even provide coffee and tea in public sector workplaces.
Newman used a television ad to present the rationale for the cuts: former Howard Government Treasurer Peter Costello’s Commission of Audit report into state finances. The report forecast a $6.6 billion deficit for 2012, compared to the previous government’s forecast of only $1.8 billion. That gap immediately calls Costello’s figures into question.
Newman says he wants to free up money for “our hospitals, nurses and schools” and for “employing more doctors”—but his cuts target those very people.
One Gold Coast hospital has postponed all elective surgery and temporarily closed beds, while another in Townsville has had to cut taxi vouchers for renal patients. And a Cairns hospital estimates up to 1000 elective surgeries are at risk after funding for a new operating theatre was axed. Junior doctors are having their pay frozen, will lose paid training and less doctors will be available at night.
Newman has threatened public sector workers with a pay rise cap of 1.6 per cent if they don’t accept offers on the table. Together union State Secretary Alex Scott explains, “Nurses got 3 per cent, teachers have been offered 2.7 per cent, medical officers 2.5 per cent and now public servants 2.2 per cent.”
And despite the fact that anger at Labor’s privatisations helped Newman to victory, the report argues for even more asset sales in Queensland.
As well as attacking workers, the LNP are running a vicious ideological agenda in social policy.
Fresh from removing the right to civil unions with ceremonies for same-sex couples and replacing them with a “relationship register”, they’ve flagged banning singles, de facto couples of less then two years and same-sex couples from having children via surrogacy.
Last month Solidarity reported on the cuts to the HIV advocacy organisation Healthy Communities and the women prisoners’ advocacy organisation Sisters Inside. Since then, news has emerged that funding for services like Family Planning Queensland, the Environmental Defenders’ Office, the Tenant Participation Program, the Queensland Workplace Rights Office and Queensland Working Women’s Services is on the chopping block. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Minister Glen Elmes has announced, “Every service delivery operation in my department is under review.”
Newman’s vote in the last election was no mandate for this. Already there have been rallies and demonstrations planned to defend LGBT rights. A major union rally will take place on July 16 against job cuts, with talk of industrial action in August or September.
A round of strikes could seriously damage Newman. The next 100 days can mark the start of the fightback.