||Issue No. 296||24 February 2006|
Interview: Court's in Session
Industrial: Whose Choices?
Politics: Peter's Principles
Environment: TINA or Greener?
History: Its Not Just Handshakes and Aprons
International: US Locks out Jose' Bove
Education: No AWA - No Job
Culture: Jesus was a Long-Grass Man
Review: Charlie the Serf
The Locker Room
For Whom the Toll Bells
Labor Sells Hydro
Stop the Hordes
These are the people who are meant to believe that the state is the solution, yet here they were carrying on as if the public service was the only thing standing between society and a healthy economy.
There were the 5,000 jobs that will be cut in a bid to plug a cyclical glitch in the budget; but that was not the worst of it; it was the way the government spun out all the clichés of bludging public sector workers as if the cuts were some kind of service to the public.
Some of these were opportunistic, others downright disingenuous; when the Daily Telegraph splashed on public sector stress leave, there was the new Treasurer, once a defender of workers rights, singing the tired old song of rorts. We've seen it before on the railways; soften up the public with allegations of rorts then send in the dogs. Peter Reith was good at it too!
Then they splash with their grand plan to end the 'unattached list', spruiking about public servants being paid to do nothing; without fessing up that the vast majority of the 0.01 per cent of public servants on the list are actually doing meaningful work in departments where their positions have been restructured out of existence.
And then there was the bizarre announcement of a two-week public service lock-down over Christmas, a proposition that could ensure that any festive emergency is dealt with via a recorded telephone message.
The enduring sadness came not from the search for efficiencies; of course the public's money should be used wisely, but in the way the government seemingly invited the debate about services to be dumbed down.
With the benefit of research over summer we can make a few observations about this tack: first, the cliches of lazy public servants doesn't wash with the public; secondly, they reject the notion that the private sector does these things better and thirdly, they will punish candidates who cut jobs at the ballot box.
And this is where this week's adventure gets even sadder; a Labor Government was actually giving up its natural political strength, the delivery of services, in order to attempt to compete with a right-wing party on the issue it can never win on, the economy.
This is a classic case study of the Fingerhut Principle of framing the debate (see editorial in issue # 272 that applies to political parties in all western democracies.
Conservative parties win elections when the debate is on national security or the economy; progressive parties win when the debate is rooted in services - education, health and the rights of ordinary working people.
Elections are not won on the relative merits of the policy positions on these issues; simply on the issue that is dominating a voters mind when they cast their vote.
No matter how many jobs Costa cuts; if voters are thinking about the economy next March, Labor will be in trouble; in contrast, if the sacking of 29,000 workers - cuts that will undermine public services - is front and centre, Labor should be popping the champers.
With the NSW industrial relations system up for grabs, the next state election is too important to sacrifice on the economic adventurism of a few Cabinet members. This is a time when we need a Labor government that has the courage to play to its strengths.
Here's hoping that this week's audit was the end of the job cutting madness; and that Labor realises that only a combination of defending workers rights and standing up for public services will be their ticket to electoral success.
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