I HAVE always had a fascination with magic eye pictures. They seem so simple on the surface. But when you gaze a little longer all sorts of chaos is revealed.
Our current state government is beginning to resemble a magic eye picture. Barry O’Farrell is often accused of being a “do-nothing” premier. However, he has actually done more to slant this state’s economic and industrial profile towards business interests than any politician in living memory.
Today it will be two years since the O’Farrell government was elected to office in NSW. The longevity of the previous Labor government and the landslide election result mean that the new Premier has been offered a particularly long honeymoon period.
But we are now halfway through his term of office, and the time has come for a thorough review of the impact this government has had when it comes to the key issues that matter to working people: Job security, service quality and working rights.
Unfortunately, a broad assessment of what has been “achieved” to date makes for sobering reading.
We have seen a similar agenda to that of Campbell Newman in Queensland -but O’Farrell has taken a leaf out of John Howard’s book, while Newman is working from the Jeff Kennett blueprint.
O’Farrell knows it’s wiser to preach relaxed and comfortable than shock and awe. Yet facts are facts.
Since March, 2011, NSW has seen some 15,000 public sector workers sacked and we estimate there are at least another 10,000 job cuts to come. The sloppy and poorly thought out nature of these cuts means many of these axed positions will end up having to be filled by casuals and contractors, probably at higher cost to taxpayers.
These cuts represent a short-term budget saving but they are costing sacked public sector workers and their families dearly now, and will cost the rest of us dearly later.
$3 billion is being ripped from the state’s health budget and $1.7 billion from education. The TAFE system is now in total crisis.
Fire stations are closing on a rolling basis across the state, putting lives and property at risk. Ambulance services have been cut back, to the extent that on-call ambulances are not being triggered -to avoid overtime payments.
We have experienced the rapid rollback of workers’ rights that took decades to build. The workers compensation scheme has been dismantled, meaning workers across the state are far more vulnerable than they were before.
Many chronically injured workers do not know how they will afford their medical expenses – and journey claims have been scrapped.
The independent workplace umpire has been sidelined and the right to strike has been dangerously curtailed.
All this has been done in the name of “budget discipline”, despite the Auditor-General “finding” an $1 billion on the government’s books.
When Premier O’Farrell has decided that the axe needs to be swung, he’s targeted working people first.
Vested interests with loud lobbyists have been spared, but ordinary working people across the state have felt the painful sting.
Well, working people in NSW do have supporters. They are called the union movement and we are going to make sure that O’Farrell is held to account.
Well-informed working people making their voices heard will be the key to ensuring that the second half of the state government’s term is not as painful and destructive as the first.
Mark Lennon is secretary of Unions NSW