Media releases

This campaign, we've talked to a range of activists from several social movements, to unionists, community activists and residents who turn up to candidate forums who are genuinely interested in alternative viewpoints. At meetings, I have found voters are genuinely looking around for a serious alternative, for a party they can identify with and one that articulates what they have been feeling and thinking.

Another positive sign of this openness was the support we have received from the NSW Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) Construction Division for our campaign.

The NSW Greens have mounted a strong campaign in NSW, with candidates in every seat, as well as a full ticket in the Legislative Council. While they are not in a position to form government, they hope to retain and even increase their representation in both houses of NSW Parliament.

So, is a vote for Socialist Alliance a wasted vote? The answer is no, and there are good reasons why.

First, thanks to our preferential system, in the Upper House, and in the seats of Summer Hill and in Newcastle you can give a vote first to Socialist Alliance, then to the Greens, then other progressive candidates, followed by Labor ahead of the Liberals, Nationals and other right-wing candidates.

Second, having a socialist in parliament can amplify the voices of community, workplace and social campaigns and activists, so they have a better chance of being heard. We have to use all avenues at our disposal, including parliament, to build the movements to defend and mobilise our class. Direct and participatory democracy is all about empowering people so they become the organised force for social change.

[Susan Price is the Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Summer Hill in the NSW wlection and one of the party’s national co-conveners.]

By Susan Price

Workers in Australia are under an unprecedented and multi-fronted attack, designed to strip away hard-fought wages and conditions, including penalty rates and industrial rights. This attack is part of a drive by Australian capital to shore up profits in the context of a global economic slow down.

The federal government, on behalf of business interests, is using three simultaneous and overlapping processes to undermine workers’ rights and union organisation: the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Workplace Relations, the Review of Modern Awards and the Trade Union Royal Commission (TURC).

The government hopes to achieve its industrial relations agenda through administrative means while its suite of anti-worker legislation is held up in the Senate.

The Productivity Commission Inquiry Issues Papers reveal significant overlap with the government’s Fair Work Amendment legislation. This begs the question as to why the government bothered with a review when they have already determined the outcomes.

The review has, of course, been welcomed by employer groups, such as the Business Council of Australia. BCA Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott said: “We need to rethink how we work and how we stay competitive to succeed in a global economy. Part of this is looking at whether our workplace relations system is helping us or holding us back.”

The government’s four-year “Modern Awards” review is an opportunity for industry employer groups such as the Australian Hotels Association (AHA), the Australian Industry Group and business chambers to go after penalty rates in the fast food, retail, hairdressing, dry cleaning, laundry, pharmacy and hospitality industries — where some of the lowest-paid workers are concentrated.

“Award modernization” is a euphemistic term for the process of rationalisation of thousands of federal and state awards into 122 national industry awards. It started under the previous Labor government, after years of stripping away entitlements in those awards.

The Sydney Morning Herald said on February 22 that the AHA wants a reduction in the number of public holidays. It also wants a two-tiered system for public holidays that excludes workers from claiming higher penalty rates on events such as the Queen's Birthday, bank holidays and the eve of the AFL grand final. In its proposal to the Fair Work Commission review, the AHA also asked for a lower penalty rate to be set for public holidays introduced by the states.

Workers rely on penalty rates to form part of their take-home wages, due to low hourly pay rates and to the limited shifts available each week in the fast food, retail and entertainment industries. In New Zealand, the use by employers of “zero hour contracts” is rife in the fast food industry and spreading to other sectors. Workers must be available for work each week, but can be rostered on anywhere from three hours to 40 hours.

While employer groups bleat about the impact of penalty rates on their profitability and have minimum wages in their sights, the latest ABS Wages Price Index reveals that wages grew by just 2.5% last year. The Australian Council of Trade Unions says this is the slowest wages growth recorded in any 12-month period since the index was created 18 years ago.

These figures come at the same time as mining company BHP Billiton posting of a half-year profit of US$4.27 billion in December, despite a fall in the price of oil and iron ore, and Australia's largest grocery giant, Woolworths, posted its biggest ever profit of $2.45 billion.

The ABC also revealed on February 22 that thousands of workers are being underpaid wages or denied entitlements by their employers, according to figures it obtained about complaints to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO).

The ABC report, more than $20 million was recovered by the FWO last year on behalf of employees. The industries that generated the most complaints were cafes, restaurants and pubs, followed closely by construction, the retail trade and service industries, such as contract cleaning.

Unions such as the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) have been instrumental in chasing builders and contractors to recover millions in unpaid wages in the building industry for their members. The federal government’s $52 million Trade Union Royal Commission has been relentless in its pursuit of the CFMEU and other unions and has now been extended until the end of this year. On February 19, the Guardian revealed that Jeremy Stoljar SC, the lead lawyer for the Royal Commission could be paid more than $3.36 million for just under two years’ work at the inquiry.

It is vital that unions escalate the fight against the government’s anti worker agenda while its anti-worker legislation is held up in the Senate.

Some of the nasties awaiting workers include anti-union legislation to create the Registered Organisations Commission, an independent oversight body to “monitor the conduct” of unions and to reintroduce the dreaded Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). The Guardian said both bills were set to be debated this week but have now been deferred by the government as it seeks more time to lobby and win the crossbench votes.

Another anti-worker bill held up in the Senate is the misnamed Fair Entitlements Guarantee Amendment Bill, which will limit redundancy entitlements for workers under the scheme to 16 weeks.

Add to these the Fair Work Act Amendment (Bargaining Processes) Bill, which will require productivity gains (actually losses in entitlements) in any new agreement for it to be approved by the Fair Work Commission and which tightens requirements on unions seeking protected action ballots.

Finally, the Fair Work Amendment Bill 2014, which will restrict union right-of-entry provisions, prevent the payout of annual leave on termination, expand the use and scope of Individual Flexibility Agreements, limit the conditions under which unions can ballot for protected action, and avoid employees’ rights to an unfair dismissal hearing in some cases.

The ruling class mythology that Australian workers are doing it too easy is further challenged by the results of the ACTU’s Our Living Standards, Our Voice survey of working people. The survey ran between November last year and January, and involved 43,188 people — both members of unions and non-members — from all states and territories and across all industries.

When it came to their income, 70% said they found it hard to get a decent pay rise, while 58% felt uncomfortable speaking up about their rights at work. Forty-eight percent of survey respondents said they were only coping on their current household income, while 28% found it difficult or very difficult to get by.

Before last year’s minimum wage case, the ACTU commissioned Essential Media to survey Australians on their perceptions about the minimum wage. The report found that around 60% were concerned about the emergence of a “working poor” and supported an increase in the minimum wage.

A third of those surveyed said they could not afford to live on the minimum wage (then $622.20 per week for a 38 hour week). By contrast, 82% said CEOs and executives were paid too much. In total, 62% of those surveyed supported an increase in the minimum wage.

I would like to acknowledge that we meet on the land of the Cadigal people of the Eora Nation and I pay respect to elders past and present.

I’d like to thank Stop CSG Sydney for inviting me to participate in this forum on behalf of Socialist Alliance.

Unconventional gas mining is unnecessary, dangerous and uses up resources (including *billions in public subsides) that would be better deployed to creating sustainable energy systems.

The extraction process has already been found to be dangerous (US, Queensland, NSW and elsewhere). The discovery last year that uranium had poisoned an aquifer in the Pilliga region where **Santos is drilling was a wake up call that fracking should be halted. As if that wasn’t bad enough, BTEX chemicals have been found in flowback water from ***AGL’s Gloucester CSG drilling wells.

Both the Liberal and ALP state government’s have failed to protect communities from this industry. It has only been thanks to the campaign by farmers, environmentalists and local communities across the country that this industry has been exposed to public scrutiny. As an activist party, Socialist Alliance is proud to stand and struggle with those communities.

No government in NSW should not allow this industry to proceed until it is confirmed that it is safe for humans and environment. We should not be taken in by talk of 'moratoriums' by the major parties. They'll only be in place until the NSW election. The day after, either Baird will declare he has a 'mandate' to help unleash the CSG industry or the ALP will say it can be done in a 'regulated' way. Neither will be telling the truth.

The Coalition's new 'gas plan' - designed to try and silence the issue in this election - is far from being a plan.

Even the water catchment is not being protected under this 'new' plan. Hiding behind the Chief Scientists' report - that the industry *could* work if it stuck to very strict guidelines - is not an answer.

Under pressure, Labor has taken some steps in the right direction - but again not enough. Its position is very similar in essence to that of the Coalition: it supports the unconventional gas industry.

Socialist Alliance believes that for a safe climate, we need to shift to zero emissions within the next decade.

Investment in energy must be limited to technologies that can move us to a zero emissions economy, not commit us to new fossil fuels. Along with other fossil fuels, existing unconventional gas projects must be rapidly phased out, with workers guaranteed a just transition to alternative employment.

Socialist Alliance has a proud record of involvement in the campaign against CSG - and not just in NSW (here in Sydney, Illawarra, New England) but also in Victoria and WA​. As an eco-socialist party we take environmental questions very seriously. Our Coal Seam Gas policy (opposing it) was first adopted in 2011.

One of our candidates for the NSW Legislative Council - Nicole McGregor - is an activist farmer who is involved in the campaign against AGL's test drilling in Gloucester. We do not support fracking there, or in Camden, or St Peters, or anywhere. We want it banned.

The health risks have been well outlined today by Dr Helen Redmond. The only​ reason the industry​ can continue in any way is because it has the support of both major parties.

PEL 463 should never have been granted (under Labor) and should never have been renewed (under the Coalition)​ and it should be extinguished immediately.

If not, the threat of CSG will hang over the heads of Sydney residents (and over the residents of ****Camden) while this license exists.

Thank you.
_________

Notes:

*$4BN per year in subsidies to the coal, oil and gas industry in the form of direct subsidies and tax breaks
**The fact that Santos only received a fine of $1500 from the NSW EPA for says a lot about the priority given by the government to protecting the health of communities in regional areas of NSW.
***AGL delayed reporting this to the EPA – could have been going on for up to 18 months.
**** The Baird government allowed the licence to be sold on to a British company IGas Energy - even while knowing that the only possible place it could try and extract gas is from that part of the PEL area which is is close to a working gas field near Camden. It's clear that Camden residents don't want AGL​ fracking next to their homes.​

Stop CSG Sydney Inc
Questions for candidates in the NSW State elections, March 2015

Dear candidate,
The drilling and extraction of coal seam gas (CSG) is already having a major impact on communities across NSW – but in particular in Gloucester, the Pilliga and Camden. Due to widespread community concern, the industry has not been able to proceed at the pace at which it had anticipated.
Stop CSG Sydney formed in 2011 to oppose the test drill at St Peters – next to schools, homes and parks. The licence – PEL 463 – covers the whole of metropolitan Sydney and remains live until October 2015.
While Stop CSG Sydney doesn’t think the current UK owner – Igas Inc – would contemplate drilling in metropolitan Sydney, it may well be considering its prospects in the outlying areas of the licence – for example close to an AGL gas field in Camden in Sydney’s south west.
Following the release of the Chief Scientist’s report on CSG in September, the NSW government released its NSW Gas Plan in November which reiterates its support for the CSG industry. The plan, however, does nothing to reassure communities trying to protect Sydney water catchment and agricultural land.
The State Election is on March 28, 2015. We would appreciate if you could answer the following questions which will be advertised on our website in the lead up to the elections. We have also scheduled a candidates’ forum for February 22, 2015.
Thank you!

RESONSES FROM SUSAN PRICE, SOCIALIST ALLIANCE CANDIDATE FOR SUMMER HILL
Q1. Do you support the coal seam gas industry being rolled out in NSW?
Answer: No
Why?The CSG process has already been found to be dangerous (US, Queensland, NSW and elsewhere). Therefore governments should not allow it to set up until the science proves it is safe – which is yet to happen. For a safe climate, we need to shift to zero emissions within the next decade. With stationary energy currently responsible for 51% of our total emissions, the single biggest contribution to a safe climate future in Australia will come through making the switch to 100% renewables. This means no fossil fuels, including natural gas.
Investment in energy must be limited to technologies that can move us to a zero emissions economy, not commit us to new fossil fuels. Along with other fossil fuels, existing unconventional gas projects must be rapidly phased out, with workers guaranteed a just transition to alternative employment.

Q2. Does your party support hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) in Gloucester, Pilliga or Camden?
Answer: NO
Why?
Socialist Alliance supports a ban on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and similar stimulation techniques for unconventional gas mining. The process of fracking threatens to contaminate our water systems and supplies, has been found to be responsible for methane leaks, threatens the productive quality of land, including in our food bowl regions. The health impacts of fracking have been well documented, and some studies have also linked fracking with increased seismic activity.
The discovery last year that uranium had poisoned an aquifer in the Pilliga was a wake up call that fracking should be halted. The fact that Santos only received a fine of $1500 from the NSW EPA for says a lot about the priority given by the government to protecting the health of communities in regional areas of NSW.

Q3. Do you have concerns about the health risks associated with CSG mining?
Answer: Yes
Why?
Because the evidence from the US – where unconventional gas mining has been happening for longer – shows that there are major health risks: breathing and skin problems are among the risks. Doctors for the Environment states that contaminants used for fracking, as well as toxic substances produced through fracking, can produce short-term and long term health problems including contributing to systemic illness and/or cancer many years later.

Q4. Do you have concerns about the impact of CSG mining on water resources and agricultural land?
Answer: YES
Why?
It is mind-boggling that coal seam gas (CSG) licences and wells have been approved in our drinking water catchments. There are up to 600 chemicals used in the fracking fluid, including known carcinogens and toxins. Pollution from the waste fluid (from the fracking process) and aquifer damage are two major threats for farmers and others living in and around gas wells, or drinking water supplied by catchments where fracking occurs. Problems with the safe disposal of the toxic compounds including heavy metals and/or radioactive compounds means serious risk of these toxins entering the water supply and food chain, where they have a dangerous impact.

Q5. If you are elected, will you (and your party) support and campaign for a ban on CSG mining in Sydney's water catchment?
Answer: Yes
Why?
For all the reasons stated above. Water is a precious resource in this dry continent, and it must not be put under threat from a toxic method of extracting a fossil fuel which adds to the global carbon pollution problem.

Q6. If you are elected, will you (and your party) support and advocate for a Royal Commission into the CSG industry to determine if it's safe?
Answer: Yes
Why?
Numerous parliamentary inquiries have focussed on aspects of the industry and its process, but none have been able to subpoena industry CEOs to reveal the fracking compounds and methods. Only a Royal Commission can do this, and thoroughly investigate the industry’s claims to be safe. Socialist Alliance supports an immediate moratorium on all unconventional gas exploration and production until the outcome of the royal commission and democratic decision about the future of existing projects.

Q7. Will you (and your party) support the call for the licence covering greater metropolitan Sydney (PEL 463) to be cancelled (extinguished) to provide certainty for 4 million people?
Answer: Yes
Why?
PEL 463 should never have been granted, and it should be extinguished immediately. This is the only responsible policy approach. The threat of CSG will hang over the heads of Sydney residents while this license exists. The ongoing existence of this licence reveals the NSW government’s claims to protecting urban areas from CSG to be nothing more than rhetoric and spin.

Thanks for the opportunity to contribute.
Susan Price
Socialist Alliance Candidate for Summer Hill.

Response from Susan Price, Socialist Alliance Candidate for Summer Hill – 17th November, 2014
Questions for candidates for NSW state elections 2015

WestConnex will have a major impact on the communities of Ashfield, Summer Hill and Marrickville.

As a candidate for the seat of Summer Hill in the NSW state election in 2015, you have been invited to attend a forum for candidates on Wednesday 19 November 2014. In preparation for the forum, it would be appreciated if you could respond to the following questions. At the forum you will have an opportunity to expand on your responses.

The responses to these questions will be made public, in order to assist residents to determine how they may wish to vote in the election. If you don’t answer “yes” or “no” where prompted, it will be assumed that you have answered in the negative.

Q1. Do you support /not support the building of more urban tollways such as WestConnex, and what do you think should be the balance of investment between developing roads and public transport infrastructure?

Answer: I (and Socialist Alliance) do not support the building of more urban tollways. Public transport should receive the overwhelming share of public expenditure, to encourage commuters to get out of their cars and onto a system of public transport that is free, fast and frequent. Socialist Alliance policy is that public transport should be in the public hands. We do not support the privatisation of public transport.

Q2. Do you (and your party) support WestConnex as a transport solution, particularly given the associated impacts on residents of the Summer Hill electorate?

Your position: No
Your party’s position: No

Please comment:

Comment: If West Connex goes ahead people will lose their homes; air pollution in the inner city will increase. West Connex will not solve traffic congestion – it will just relocate it from one part of the road network to another; it will carve up suburbs and result in more, not fewer cars and trucks on our roads.

Q3. If you support the idea of WestConnex, but do not support WestConnex in its present form, what alternatives do you propose, including public transport options?

Answer: Socialist Alliance does not support West Connex – full stop. We believe that a comprehensive public transport system, incorporating heavy and light rail, buses and ferries, that is fast frequent and free and goes where people want to go would take sufficient cars off the road to mean that WestConnex is no longer necessary.

Q4. What are your concerns about the health risks associated with tunnels like WestConnex? How will you advocate for them to be addressed?

Answer: The only way to avoid health issues from road tunnels like WestConnex is not to build them.

Q5. If you are elected, will you (and your party) advocate for the release of the WestConnex business case?

Your position: Yes
Your party’s position: Yes

Q6. If you are elected, will you (and your party) support and advocate for a parliamentary inquiry into WestConnex?

Your position: Yes
Your party’s position: Yes

Q7. If WestConnex was not to proceed, how do you think that the $14.9 billion saved in funding should be spent? (please be specific)

Answer: In Sydney - on a system of public transport that is free, fast and frequent, and massively expanded to link up bus, train, light rail and bike networks across the entire city of Sydney. Eg. Open the rail line to Bondi Beach, so that it can be enjoyed by more people from Sydney’s outer suburbs, without the need of a car.
In Regional NSW – on saving the rail line to Newcastle, and massively expanding regional rail infrastructure for people not coal trucks. On a VFT linking regional centres in NSW. On restoring and expanding regional rail services to western NSW.

Q8. What aspects of Urban Growth NSW’s urban renewal plan for Parramatta Rd do you support/not support?

Answer: I would support the aspect of ‘local area improvement’, but this part of Sydney can have ‘local area improvements’ without WestConnex and without unsustainable development.
I don’t support that WestConnex has to be at the centre of this project. I don’t support the unsustainable development of high-density housing (and retail space), especially if it is driven by speculative investment. Priority should be given to constructing housing to meet the needs of low-income people. Public housing shortages are chronic in NSW. Any new housing development along Parramatta Rd should be medium density, and targeted at public housing needs. It should preserve the ‘village’ and community character of the area. Living close to inner city services is essential for people on low incomes. Any ‘local area improvements’ should preserve and expand green spaces along this busy corridor, to improve air quality, air flows and to provide recreational space.
The emphasis on building more medium and high density housing in the inner city is a result of the failure to provide reliable, fast and frequent public transport to the city centre and the eastern suburbs from Sydney’s outer suburbs.

Q9. Do you (and your party) support building of up to 25 storey apartments along the Parramatta Road corridor as part of urban renewal?

Your position: No
Your party’s position: No

Thank you very much

February 13, 2015

"The people of NSW should reject the Baird government's plan to sell off the state's power industry, just as Queensland voters did," Susan Price, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Summer Hill in the March 28 NSW elections, said.

"The massive rejection of Premier Campbell Newman and his Liberal-National Party (LNP) government in the Queensland state election on January 31 has been sheeted home by most commentators to the LNP's disastrous plan to privatise the state's publicly owned electricity industry.

"It seems that mainstream party politicians never learn from past mistakes. Newman arrogantly ignored the central lesson of the previous Queensland election in 2012, when the Labor government was dumped and reduced to a rump of seven MPs, primarily because it had sold off the state's freight rail, ports, roads and forests.

"The NSW Liberal National Party government has pledged to sell off NSW power assets, primarily the 'poles and wires', for an alleged price of $20 billion, if it is re-elected. The NSW poll has been described as a 'referendum' on power privatisation.

"Up to now, the Mike Baird government has been sailing along, confident it will be re-elected, albeit with a reduced majority, facing an ALP opposition attempting to recover from its discredited past in office and with few positive policies.

"Now, the Queensland result has hit Australian politics like a bombshell. No government is safe.

"The Abbott federal government is in crisis. The Northern Territory Liberal-Country Party regime is a disunited shambles.

"The Socialist Alliance welcomes Baird's challenge to make the NSW election, in effect, a referendum on power privatisation. We will do our utmost to campaign against the sell-off of the people's assets to benefit only the rich and wealthy corporations.

"And what is the money received for this massive theft of public assets being spent on?

"A large amount of it is supposed to go toward funding private road and rail projects, primarily Baird's monstrous white elephant, the WestConnex tollway.

"This exposes Baird's lame argument that the difference between the Queensland and NSW government plans is that the Newman government was proposing to use the funds from the sale of the power industry mainly to pay off state debt, while NSW is planning to use most of the funds to build 'infrastructure'.

"In both cases, a Liberal National Party state government was pledging to privatise essential, profitable public assets, eliminating future dividends of billions of dollars available to fund schools, hospitals and other services, to benefit their super-rich mates.

"Whether the funds are spent on so-called debt repayment, or on a useless and environmentally unsound private tollway, which will merely create more traffic instead of expanding public railways, is beside the point.

"The NSW power industry must not be sold off — it must remain in public ownership. And control of the facilities should be placed in the hands of its workers and the community," Price concluded.

December 2, 2014​

​Susan Price, Socialist Alliance candidate in the March 2015 NSW elections, has welcomed the student protest in ​the Senate today ​organised by the NSW Education Action Network ​against higher education deregulation.

Students reminded the Senate today of the dire consequences of allowing the education deregulation bill through. They unfurled banners, and chanted their opposition to the government's cuts until they were escorted from the gallery.

"Students, again, are the conscience of the nation​", Ms Price said.​

"They are the ones who should be devoting what ends up being a very short time of their lives to focus on attaining their higher education. Instead, they are worried sick about what the Abbott government's budget cuts to higher education will mean for them and future generations", said Ms Price​ ​who has worked for many years at a higher education facility.

​Ms Price, a member of the National Tertiary Education Union, also paid tribute to fellow unionists who met with MPs today to press their opposition to the higher education de-regulation bill.

"Neither the students nor the union which covers academic and general staff are supporting any of the compromises being put by Education Minister Christopher Pyne, nor the PM.

"It's an outrage that Pyne, together with his wife, can spend $30,000 of tax payers money on a trip to London and Rome.

"Yet, I know of students who are wavering on whether or not to even apply for tertiary education because of fears that they will never be able to pay off the​ costs of the​ir degree.

​"I heard the howls of indignation from the Liberal-National side in the federal parliament yesterday about education 'not being free'.

"Of course, it's not free. Workers pay for it - and workers by and large want their kids to be able to undertake tertiary education without being priced out of the sector.

"Australia is a rich nation and does not need to cut billions about of the education budget. It's a question of priority: if you value an educated population, eduction should be free.

"Germany has just decided on this course. Australian can too. But first we must stand firm against any attempt to cut the education budget.

"We know what a two-tiered education system does: it privileges the rich students over the poor. This may be the sort of class society that Pyne aspires to, but it's not the type most workers do. And it's not what most students do either.

​"We also need to stop this, the TAFE system which is already under massive pressure will become even more corporatised.

"We won't have seen the last of the Abbott government's attempts to corporatise higher education, but today we can say we've had a win.

"Education is a right not a privilege."

Susan Price is standing for the Socialist Alliance for the NSW seat of Summer Hill.

December 10, 2014

"The Abbott government's proposed back-door GP tax is a massive scam, and should be totally rejected by the whole community," Susan Price, Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Summer Hill in the March 2015 NSW state election, said on December 10.

"Today, International Human Rights Day, is a good time to stand up for universal public health as a basic human right. Abbott's proposed cut to the Medicare rebate for doctors still means the beginning of the end of our treasured universal, national public health system, Medicare", she said.

"The fact that the government has been forced, under enormous community pressure, to back off from its hated $7 GP co-payment plan is an important win for people power. It has finally been forced to exclude pensioners and low-income concession card holders, as well as children, from the co-payment scheme.

"But, by reducing the Medicare rebate to GPs by $5, it is effectively making the doctors either take a pay cut, or charge patients an extra $5 for consultations. It is merely a slightly reduced version of the original GP co-payment plan, but now fully administered by doctors and medical centres.

"This new plan is a huge confidence trick on the Australian public. It will still threaten the integrity of the Medicare system, by undermining the high proportion of bulk-billing by GPs that is the core of our national health system," Price said.

Price said, "The fact that, although some of these changes can be initially implemented through government regulation, they will all face final decision by the Parliament, means that the public campaign against Abbott's $5 GP tax scam needs to be stepped up in the new year.

"Doctors, nurses, other health workers, unions, and community groups must unite to build a strong public campaign against the changes to ensure they are either withdrawn or defeated in the Senate.

"Already, the spirited effort co-ordinated by the Save Medicare Campaign, the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, and other groups this year, has played an important role in stopping the original $7 GP co-payment plan going through.

"Now, we need to accelerate our efforts to build an even broader campaign to defeat the $5 GP tax and defend Medicare as a genuine, universal national health scheme into the future”, Price concluded.

December 19, 2014

The Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook, released by the federal Treasurer Joe Hockey on December 15, foreshadowed further major cuts to public sector jobs and services. The MYEFO updates the draconian federal budget brought down by the treasurer in May.

The centrepiece of the mini budget is Hockey's forecast of a massive $44 billion collapse in Commonwealth receipts over the next four years, leading to a delay in the Abbott government's much-trumpeted return to surplus to an unspecified date, and resulting in combined federal deficits totalling more than $100 billion.

Treasurer Hockey cited huge falls in international resource commodity prices, especially the near halving of the iron ore price and slow wages growth, for the fall in federal government revenue. These factors have together reduced Commonwealth income by around $70 billion over the past 15 months.

The government claims it is saving more than $3 billion by slashing 175 government agencies and making multi-billion further cuts to the foreign aid budget.

The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) says the way is now open for even harsher job cuts in the federal public service.

The CPSU has confirmed that the 16,500 public sector jobs slated to be reduced in the May budget will be gone by the end of this year, well ahead of forecast.

World Vision head Tim Costello has described the government's slashing of overseas aid as "immoral."

"The mini budget underlines the growing political and economic crisis facing the Abbott government", said Susan Price, Socialist Alliance candidate for Summer Hill on December 16.

"The May budget was a pre-emptive strike by the Coalition government against working people and the poor in the expectation of a looming international downturn.

"Now the government's neoliberal austerity policies, on behalf of big business, are in danger of throwing the so-called 'Lucky Country' into serious recession.

"Meanwhile, the Senate is holding up the government's cuts to Medicare, tertiary education, social welfare and other areas totalling almost $34 billion.

"It is the public's rejection of the inherent 'unfairness' of Abbott and Hockey's budget which has led to these brutal measures being stalled in the Senate.

"However, it is because of the massive public hostility to the government's savage May budget that the treasurer has been slightly more restrained in his cuts in MYEFO.

"But, the government's decision to cancel its commitment to introduce a 'targeted anti-tax avoidance provision', aimed at multi-national corporations which dodge Australian tax by sending profits offshore, is the most blatant hypocrisy. Hockey railed against tax avoidance by big companies at the G20," Price said.

"The Abbott government is waging class war against the workers and the poor, on behalf of big business," Price said.

"Unions and community groups will need to be vigilant in the new year when Abbott and Co. try to push through their program of cuts, with new incentives aimed at the cross benchers in the Senate.

"We will need to organise and unite our forces in 2015 to build a mass movement of opposition to the cuts. We need to halt the attacks and the privatizations. This will involve fighting the policies of both federal and state governments.

"In NSW, we need to follow the example of Victoria where a mass campaign against the East-West Link forced the incoming Labor goverment to tear up the contracts.

"I'm encouraged by the enormous turn outs at public meetings and actions to oppose West Connex over the last few weeks. This helps put pressure on both the Baird government and the ALP opposition which, so far, has not come out against the tollway. This also means fighting the Baird government's plans to sell off the NSW power industry", Price concluded.