Taking Back Control

  • 28 June 2018

A fraud has been perpetrated on ordinary people, whether it be a person working for a Government service, or the community that uses a now privatised/corporatised service.  For the past 25-30 years we, as a nation, have had to deal with a political class (both major parties) who have felt that the way to economic prosperity for our respective States, or our Nation, was to outsource, privatise and downsize the public sector.  It has been done (and continues to be done), in the mistaken belief, that “trickle down” economics is good for everyone, from the highest paid to the lowest. The mantra is, that all of us will share in the “spoils” of this economic miracle if we work hard and take their word for it that what is good for them is good for us all.

But no one ever looked behind the claims to see if it was real or a lie.

We decided to look beyond the veil and we found a fraud.

The movement commissioned a People’s Inquiry into Privatisation which held public hearings around Australia and brought its Report down last year.  I have brought a few copies of the Executive Summary for you and we have more in the Federal Office if you would like them.

The Report was damning.  The evidence was overwhelming and in some cases just personally distressing, particularly evidence from NSW about the impact of the decision of the NSW Government to withdraw in total from any service delivery in the policy area of disability services.

The Report gave the unions, who supported the Inquiry, some ideas about how we change the given norms that exist within Governments, within the ranks of Senior Public Servants and the Corporate leeches that continue to advise Governments of the need to jettison service delivery in favour of contract managing others to do our work. Often at a significant lower wage with less conditions than public servants currently have.

We know the current economic settings don’t work.

We know that there has not been an alternative voice, not even within some union forums but that is changing.

As the ACTU prepares for its Congress later in July, we have been actively reviewing their policies on privatisation, public services, worker capital infrastructure investment trends and taxation. All of these policies have been reviewed with the recommendations of the People’s Inquiry at the forefront of the amendments we have been seeking.

Those new forms of privatisation that have emerged (such as Social Impact Bonds, Public Service Mutuals, commissioning and voucher systems ) that have been developed to hide from the public what Governments have been doing but know the public hate.

In fact, recent polling has shown that most people in Australia, when asked, actually oppose privatisation. Governments now know that and so hide what it is they are doing by using inclusive/ warm and fuzzy terms to hide the stark reality of their policy setting.

Just look at the emerging furore over the Liberal Party Conference resolution to privatise the ABC.

Think what that furore would be like if it was about Child Protection.  Some organisation making a profit out of child abuse, this debate is currently being had by our Tasmanian Branch.

By having the ACTU adopt a broad, wide ranging policy in opposition, we start to be able to influence the national discussions that are occurring around policy settings for the next federal election.

Let’s look at two of the policies as an example and why they should be important to you as a member of the CSA here in WA: tax and workers capital.

Sound dry don’t they??

For a long time, the tax debate for unions has been focussed on having a fair and progressive tax system, one where each paid according to income, where corporations that make money in Australia return to Australians, a corporate tax that can help pay for vital and universal public services. 

Very commendable but that does nothing for those of us working in a State Government program because what was missing was a policy that said the Commonwealth must give to the States a fair share of the tax wealth.

We can’t raise income tax but we need it to pay for public servants to deliver services, to build roads, hospitals, schools, pay for judges, court staff, police, community corrections, education the list goes on.

At present we are lumbered with a funding system that sees States negotiate for a share of the tax revenue through Commonwealth – State funding agreements that are tied to a political agenda.

That agenda can require our jobs or public sector assets be outsourced (Public housing cut at the expense of social housing) or not funded to the original agreed level thereby placing untold hardship on the State and the people that need that service (Legal Aid).

If a state doesn’t sign: no money. If a state does sign, it does so on terms dictated by the Commonwealth. i.e. Current Commonwealth/State Housing Funding Agreement mandates that for a state to receive Commonwealth money IT MUST transfer 35% of its public housing stock to the social housing sector.

It is the same with the Asset Recycling program whereby States can only access Commonwealth money for new infrastructure works if they agree to “recycle” old assets (privatise) so even in Victoria, a good Labour Government has moved to “recycle” the Port of Melbourne and the Land Titles Office as a way of opening the Commonwealth’s purse strings.

Workers Capital is similar.

Whereby the big Banking and Accountancy firms advise the Trustees of the Industry Super Funds that they should use workers capital (superannuation) to buy an asset that is being privatised as they are “better” than the ‘for profits’ and Trustees can’t ignore the recommendation if it’s about maximising the returns to those members of their Superannuation fund, even if it’s at the expense of other workers such as in NSW when First State Super (a Health industry Super fund) joined with Westpac to tender for the lease of the NSW LTO.

Our focus has been to challenge this entrenched orthodoxy and I believe, with your help, we can change the policy settings.

In my role as the Victorian Branch Secretary, I met with our Treasurer last night to discuss a number of issues but one I raise here was the pending anouncement of yet another Social Impact Bond.

I asked him why not consider something new, untried and innovative. I asked him to develop an in house Public Service innovative funding model to redress social disadvantage, that is currently clogging our education, youth justice, prison and health and human services but IN THE PUBLIC SERVICE.  I used all the words proponents of SIBs use to justify access to Government money to deliver public services.  After a lot of discussion and with an eye to the State Election in Victoria late November, he agreed.

Together the union and the Government will design the first ever Partnership for Addressing Disadvantage funding initiative to be piloted by the Victorian Public Service……not an NGO, not a faith based organisation, not a for profit.

I have asked two Departmental Secretaries to look at their existing programs and identify what’s missing, what is new or needed, never been tried in Victoria but has runs on the board overseas and to work with the union to develop a brief to take to the Treasurer.

For us to jointly ask the Chair of the Peoples Inquiry into Privatisation, David Hetherington, to help us design a new innovative funding model for social services to be delivered by Victoria’s public service.

The People’s Inquiry recommendations talk about new approaches to social service delivery, to having accountability measures for existing privatised services and for greater involvement of those involved in delivering the services in their design.

But this isn’t all.

We know that privatisation is on the nose but we need to harness that opposition. We need to make the politicians who “diss” the service accountable to their communities not only by traditional boots in the street but smart, targeted campaigning using social media, having a nuanced message for different groups with in a targeted demographic (what works for existing public service employees and their families may not work for a struggling young person looking for work or seeking Government assistance up that “aspirational” ladder.

The CSA is a campaigning union.

The Taking Back Control Report gives you an opportunity to target a message and design a campaign around it that will assist you in your struggle with a Government that, frankly, is captured to the neo liberal approach to Government.

The national union is taking steps to put in place a new agenda for the Australian union movement, the Victorian Government have asked for help in designing something we can advocate and I’m hoping WA members will join us to



Thank you


Presentation to CSA General Council

Wednesday 27th June 2018