The Coalition government has excitedly declared that their next budget announcement will include a surplus, parading it as a victory over Labor’s ‘economic mismanagement’. I don’t exactly side with Labor on many issues, unless they’re issues they’ve been dragged by the Greens over the years (e.g. a Federal corruption watchdog, or taking the refugees off Nauru and Manus Island), but I know for a fact I’d prefer them over a sugar coated Coalition budget before an election.
A surplus in the budget says nothing more than that the government is not spending enough on essential services. Period. Done. That’s it. Those greedy sycophants in Canberra have gutted funding for countless public services, mostly hidden from public view but certainly felt by the public. Not even a week after announcing this budget surplus, it is announced that over $300 million is to be swiped from university research funding – the deregulation and loss of subsidies for student fees is still on the table as well, but so far has not been advanced. Medicare, education, Centrelink – the list goes on. All public services that have had funding torn away from them. Why?
Alongside the deduction of public funds from public services has been the privatisation of these services. More money has been thrown into private schools while some public schools are left scraping for money. The public hospital system is being crippled while private healthcare providers are subsidised, so as the public system becomes more inefficient (by design) people are forced to consider private coverage before it becomes too expensive to do so. As you could imagine, the private system is dodgy, barely regulated, and the services you receive depend on how much you can pay them – hope you’re not poor and ill, welcome to a slowly Americanised version of healthcare!
Centrelink is endlessly attacked on all sides as inefficient and a hub for ‘welfare bludgers’. Maybe if parts of it weren’t outsourced and privatised – contracts with the company that was also contracted for the Nauru detention centre, Serco, for one – and was properly funded without dodgy programs like the automated debt collection, it might actually do the job it was designed to do.
The Coalition can hype up the surplus as much as they like, but what they are selling will affect your quality of life in the long run – they are literally selling the assets that belong to us, the public. If you cripple a service to make it inefficient, the answer isn’t to let the free market take over because at no point will the quality of service be put before the drive for profit. If the services were properly funded with taxpayer money, instead of throwing tax cuts at the banking and corporate sectors, we might actually have services that people wouldn’t complain about – imagine that?
I recently found out that all student services through Centrelink had been outsourced. After pressuring Centrelink staff – who, I will add, are not at fault for doing all they can – to try and handle my concerns on site, I eventually walked out on them and spent hours trying to contact a call centre. The ironic part was, it wasn’t an error on my behalf that forced me to deal with them – they made an error almost three years ago and tried to blame it on me and cut my Austudy payments. If I didn’t persist in trying to get it remedied, I would’ve been cut off from Centrelink payments. For me and my family, that would’ve been a loss of around $200 a fortnight; for the contracted company and the Coalition, it would have been a victory.
Unless Labor really fucks up (ha, somehow that wouldn’t surprise me if they did), the Coalition will not survive the next election. One can dream.