Tens of thousands more federal public service jobs could be lost through outsourcing and privatisation, the union movement is warning, as it gears up for a new national campaign.
CPSU federal secretary Nadine Flood made the prediction of more mass lay-offs when she addressed the “bust the budget” rally at Parliament House in Canberra on Sunday.
“This government is taking a wrecking ball to the services it has taken a century to build and we’re not going to let that happen,” she told the large crowd.
The Canberra rally was part of nationwide protests against the cuts proposed in the Budget, staged as the new Senate begins its first session.
The rally - estimated by organisers at 1,500 people - featured a large Tony Abbott puppet who ripped apart placards to symbolise what were said to be the Prime Minister’s broken promises.
Two protestors, Lena Galapi from Melbourne and Margaret Cotter from Darwin, wore T-shirts emblazoned with, F--ck Tony Abbott.”
Ms Galapi said: “That’s what he’s doing to the country … I think it does justify dropping the F bomb.”
Rally organiser, UnionsACT secretary Kim Sattler, said she did not see the T-shirts but said they were prevalent at a recent rally in Melbourne.
“We have the freedom to express ourselves in protests in Australia,” she said.
“We had control over the slogans going onto the signs but you can’t control what people wear.”
She said the rally attracted a broad cross-section of people and interest groups from the ACT.
The Labor Party was outraged when Mr Abbott appeared at a rally on the same location in front of placards saying “Ditch the Witch” and “JuLIAR, Bob Brown’s bitch”.
Ms Flood said the Canberra rally said “something incredibly powerful” about Australia.
“It says, we stand for a fair and decent Australia and we stand against Tony Abbott,” she said.
While the Coalition would reduce the public service by 16,500, that was “just for starters”, she said.
“That does not include a single one of the tens of thousands of jobs that could go through outsourcing and privatisation of most government services and assets,” she said.
“He [Mr Abbott] doesn’t believe in science and he doesn’t believe in innovation.”
The union had stopped many forced redundancies and was now building community support against the budget measures.
Ms Flood called on people to talk to their friends and colleagues about the new campaign and to persuade them to join a union.
“Let’s build and broaden this movement and opposition … we have done it before,” she said.
“When we started the Your Rights at Work campaign [against WorkChoices] you never would have said we would have pulled off tens of millions of conversations that shifted politics in this country and changed the government.
“We did it then and we’re going to have to do it again.
“We need to build strong, powerful, aggressive unions capable of defending workers’ rights and taking these fights on so you’ve got to go out and ask everybody you know to join a union.
“If we do that we will change politics in this country.”
Lee Thomas, federal secretary of Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, said the Coalition government was planning a “devastating attack” on the health system on several fronts, including the co-payment for doctors' visits.
“It does signal the beginning of the end for our universal health system called Medicare,” she said.
“Nurses and midwives tell me every day that they already have seen people who are delaying going to the doctor because they’re struggling to afford it.
“They are already delaying putting off having their prescriptions filled and, of course, what this means is those delays are only going to get worse.
“They’re going to get worse as people get sicker and ultimately, in a very bad state of health, are going to turn up at our emergency department putting even more pressure on the public hospital system. This is a disgrace.
“Things in our health system are going to get very, very bad and we are all going to be affected by it.
“There is no way we can afford to go down the American style user pays system in this country, Mr Abbott has no electoral mandate to make these changes.
“We must campaign against these charges, taxes and cuts - lies, cuts and broken promises.”
John Minns from the ANU challenged any Labor MP present to publicly disassociate themselves from their party’s asylum seeker policy.
Later Ms Sattler repeated her criticism of the ALP’s refugee policy.
“The community is feeling very strongly about this issue and the mood is changing in the electorate about that issue,” she said.
“I would like them [ACT Labor MPs] to take note of how many people have turned out for a number of actions recently.”