Interview: The New Democrat
Bad Boss: The Ugly Australian
Unions: Free Spirits and Slaves
Industrial: National Focus
History: A Class Act
International: Across the Ditch
Economics: Home Truths
Review: No Time Like Tomorrow
Poetry: Silent Note
The Locker Room
Last Year’s Model
The Westie Wing
"All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?"
The Leader of the People's Front of Judea, in Monty Python's Life of Brian, sounds a bit like John Brogden/Lee Rhiannon/Clover Moore at the moment.
The Carr-Refshauge Government's 3rd term agenda is to provide and improve all those services the Romans provided and more, but funding is always a serious challenge. There are plenty of ideas for new government programs and solutions to problems, but not so many innovative ways to finance them.
It's all too apparent from the regular Labor Council briefings for Labor MPs held in Parliament House that Bob Carr's 'creative partnership' between unions and the government referred to at the beginning of the third term is suffering--it lacks creativity and equality at the moment.
This is clear from the issues covered in the briefings, such as providing decent wages for teachers, nurses and public servants, the Secure Employment Test Case, rail transport, workplace surveillance and the treatment of the Industrial Relations Commission, including considering making appeals on IRC judgements possible.
And other forums have raised salient issues, concerning both city and country infrastructure, including:
-cuts to services and problems with infrastructure for passenger and freight rail
-hospitals funding and maintenance
-schools funding and maintenance
-urban planning and housing
-water resources, and
These are all big ticket items and it would be foolish to say there are simple approaches to managing them. Funding is the hardest part in all these issues, but it is not an excuse for failing to deliver.
It is true that the National Competition Policy requirements, cuts to GST revenue and cuts to education and health funding for NSW are making things difficult.
And it hurts even more to see that the only group that the Howard Government is being generous with at the moment are the advertising agencies.
But it is still not to be used as an excuse.
Instead, the positive steps the Carr-Refshauge Government is taking should be focussed on.
In NSW, the Government is planning ways of tackling the big issues, such as formulating the Metropolitan Strategy worth $30 billion over 4 years, which aims to provide infrastructure with sustainability, transport, employment, urban renewal and funding in mind.
Some of the possible funding approaches being explored includes encouraging superannuation funds investing in infrastructure. Another option is to make developers make greater contributions when paddocks in Sydney's North West and South West are rezoned for housing.
More of these ideas need to be explored further. It might seem old fashioned, but Government Bonds may still be good way of financing public programs.
Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) are all the rage at the moment, but they should be approached with great caution. So far, most of them still divest too much liability onto the public purse, which ends up paying for expensive private bungles.
PPPs are really another form of corporate welfare, which is all too common at the moment, especially in the Federal sphere. That's still nothing compared to the empire built on corporate welfare, the United States of America.
American social activist Ralph Nader has done some interesting research on corporate welfare. Just a few of the examples he cites are tax breaks for political party donors, tobacco companies and military contractors.
It's all part of the "myriad subsidies, bailouts, giveaways, tax loopholes, debt revocations loan guarantees, discounted insurance and other benefits conferred by government on business" which Nader calls "Corporate Socialism", as in socialising the losses and privatising the profits.
It's interesting to see in the American Presidential campaign that internet democracy is really taking off. And "The Mouse that Roars" Editorial from Issue 219 shows that this is an important development for the global labour movement.
In that spirit, the following links may be of use:
For more information on Ralph Nader's research on corporate welfare in the USA: http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Nader/CutCorpWelfare_Nader.html
For more information on What's On in NSW Parliament, go to http://www.ianwestmlc.com.au/new.html
I am interested to hear feedback and ideas--you can contact Antony Dale or myself at Parliament House on (02) 9230 2052 or email me at [email protected]
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