US horror show highlights peril of small government - Public Service Association

US horror show highlights peril of small government

SMH – 5 Nov 2013

Paul Sheehan’s article on the horror of inequality in America is a clarion call for people in this country to wake up (”A horror show confronting all Americans”, November 4). The basis of a civilised society is equal access to public services. In parts of America nearly all of the traditional public services have now been privatised, meaning only the wealthy have access. Sections of the media in Australia are setting us up for the same outcome by routinely demonising public servants and pushing the need for ”small government”.

Ask yourself, would small government have delivered the magnificent co-ordinated effort we have just seen in NSW with the bushfires or would it have resulted in the gross inequality we saw following Cyclone Katrina.

Back-room NSW public servants, including those arranging emergency accommodation following the bush fires to those undertaking the preparation of fire fighting maps and those responsible for procurement of equipment, are all under threat from job losses and privatisation.

The O’Farrell government’s public service labour expenses cap means departments must save hundreds of millions of dollars in employment-related costs over the next four years. The Rural Fire Service, for example, must save $11.2 million. At the same time consultants like J. P. Morgan and Ernst and Young are doing strategic reviews of numerous government departments.

What will they find? Cash-strapped organisations ripe for privatisation.

Let’s stop now and ask what we risk losing before we take one more step down the privatisation path of the American model.

Anne Gardiner general secretary, Public Service Association NSW, Sydney

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