Thousand rally to save Medicare

OVER 1000 people joined a demonstration in Sydney today to demand Tony Abbott keep his hands off Medicare and stop his planned wave of cuts to services and jobs. Solidarity distributed this leaflet, arguing that a united campaign has the power to seriously threaten Abbott.

Recent weeks have revealed the horrors of Abbott’s plans for Australia. Almost every day we learn of new proposals designed to shift wealth from workers to the rich, like attacks on Medicare and threats to privatise Australia Post. But Abbott is not coming from a strong position. He has no mandate; there is no community support in for his agenda. The hatred for his government has grown at record-breaking speed. If an election were held today the Liberals would lose. 

However, we can’t afford to wait for Labor and the next election. There needs to be action now. Vigorous union and community campaigns can stop the attacks and stop Abbott.

Defend services—build opposition to the Commission of Audit

Abbott’s “Commission of Audit” is a corporate razor gang, appointed to find ways to dismantle services and the welfare state. From Medicare to Australia Post, nothing is safe. Headed by Tony Shepherd, the head of the Business Council of Australia, the Commission is packed with Howard-era Liberals like Amanda Vanstone and representatives of big business.

While the Commission is currently running in secret, it has already leaked proposals for new waves of privatisation and outsourcing of government services. At the same time Treasurer Joe Hockey is mounting the case for cutbacks with a fabricated “budget crisis”. There is no crisis. Australia’s debt levels and spending are some of the lowest in the developed world. There is no rush to cut the deficit or get the budget back in surplus. Hockey’s talk of “ending the age of entitlement” is all about cutting welfare spending and attacking our rights to health, education and housing. Funding for Gonski increases for schools and for the national disability scheme is under threat. Meanwhile, Abbott handed big business $3.1 billion by dropping planned taxes on the very wealthy’s superannuation and on profits sent overseas.

Defend Jobs—we can reverse the cuts and closures

In the five months since the Abbott government has been in power we have seen the collapse of the car industry, with over 50,000 jobs under threat in Holden, Toyota and the auto components industry. More jobs will be lost if the SPC Ardmona cannery closes. Abbott has imposed a jobs freeze to cut 12,000 workers from the federal public service. Mining construction company, Forge, has just sacked 1300 workers, and another 300 jobs are going at QANTAS. It’s a jobs massacre; unemployment has hit 6 per cent and it will likely get worse.

Shamefully the Liberals are trying to blame unions and decent working conditions for the job losses. In reality Australian workers have had their wages, conditions and union rights squashed with three decades of productivity “reforms”. None of this has protected jobs.

Labor argues for more industry subsidies from government. But subsidies haven’t guaranteed jobs. In fact Holden, Ford and Toyota took billions in tax subsidies, squeezed their workers, and still decided they can make more profits by closing their Australian factories.

Workers and their unions could still save the jobs if they fight now. Holden (General Motors), Toyota and SPC (Coca-Cola) are all part of global multinational companies that could be forced to change their plans if workers campaigned and if necessary occupied their plants. Highly skilled autoworkers and the car plants could be turned over to expanding public transport and other green jobs. Public servants could fight Abbott’s cuts too. A serious fight for jobs by any group of workers would win solidarity across the country and inspire others to fight.

Defend unions—scrap Abbott’s Royal Commission, hands off the CFMEU

The Liberals want to cut wages and conditions. But they also know that if they attack unions head on, or move quickly to change workplace laws, opposition could grow even more quickly.

The Royal Commission is a massive government propaganda exercise designed to generate anti-union sentiment, and pave the way for the reintroduction of WorkChoices. If the Liberals succeed in further weakening the unions, it will be easier for them to privatise and attack welfare, benefits and services even harder.

Link up the fights—Abbott can be beaten
A union and community campaign against the Liberal-dominated Blacktown City Council has given a glimpse of how Abbott can be beaten. The campaign has already forced the City Council to reverse its plan to close the council’s child care centres.

The Medicare rallies are a great start to pushing back Abbott’s agenda. Abbott has already cut funding to Aboriginal Legal Aid. It is clear that the Commission of Audit and the May budget will see more government cuts.

We need “Stop the Cuts, Hands off Medicare” contingents on every May Day rally across the country.

We need to linkup the fights against the Abbott government. Public servants’ enterprise agreements expire in June. A united fight by the public service for the their 12 per cent wage claim will be another opportunity to take the fight to Abbott.

Most of all we need to see the reorganisation of Your Rights At Work campaign to link up every workplace and every union in a fight that can stop the rot and stop Abbott. A general strike in 1976 saved Medicare from certain destruction at the hands of the Fraser Liberal government. That is the kind of struggle we need to build again.

Jean Parker

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