||Issue No. 215||02 April 2004|
Interview: Terror Australis
Unions: Graeme Beard's Second Dig
Industrial: The Hell of Troy
Organising: Miners Strike Gold
Economics: The Accepted Wisdom
History: Vicious Old Lady
International: Out of Sight, Out of Mind
Review: War Unfogged
The Locker Room
Getting Away With Murder
The Premier has been softening us up for a horror mini budget: the saturation TV adverts adding to the millions that he says the Grants Committee has stolen from us.
Strategic leaks have set the scene for new taxes, cuts to 'non-essential' resources and a renunciation of the government's long-term commitment to No Forced Redundancies - all in the name of this fiscal crisis.
In the crisis he will call on his loyal public servants to do the same job with less, working longer hours with fewer resources to serve a public that expects more and more from a system that operates on less and less.
And when the time comes for public sector pay negotiations to recompense for this extra pressure? Well, the fiscal crisis means the cupboard will be bare.
It is true that test cases by the nurses and teachers have placed extra pressure on Treasurer Michael Egan's most recent budget surplus.
It is true that the formula for allocating Commonwealth funds discriminates against Australia's most populous state.
But it is also true that the Carr Government has been reaping the windfall through stamp duty of one of the most sustained property booms in history.
The reality is that budget projections are exercises in soothsaying - they are based on a whole series of variables that change over time. Tweak a few levers and a deficit appears, tweak them back in 12 months and things will be rosy again. Governments do it all the time.
Is this too cynical? Would a Treasurer with a surplus fetish really go ton these lengths to keep the public sector wages bill down?
We would love to know what is really behind the need for a mini-budget, but no-one form Macquarie Street wants to talk.
Here are some of the questions we believe need to be answered before the min-budget if the government is serious about keeping tis faith with the union movement:
- what assumptions have changed to create the deficit - ie where has all the money gone?
- what percentage of total government income is the $365 million that the Grants Commission has taken from NSW?
- what impact will the shortfall have on the government's pay offer?
And a couple of supplementaries:
- Why is the NSW Government briefing its lawyers to oppose the union submission in the Secure Employment Test Case?
- Is it because the NSW Government is one of the largest employers of casual labour in the state?
- Does the 'budget crisis' mean that this spread of tenuous employment will continue to spread in the public sector as departments try to maintain service levels while meeting Treasury's labour freeze.
Until the government answers these questions and gives us a coherent picture of the state of the NSW economy, public sector workers are entitled to be cynical about this current crisis.
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