Editorial: Rule-for-the-rich Turnbull targets penalty rates, unions, Medicare

Malcolm Turnbull tried to use the dying days of 2015 to dump two tainted Ministers. First sexist Minister Jamie Briggs, who resigned after being outed for an incident with a female public servant in a bar in Hong Kong.

Then Mal Brough who said one thing to Channel 9, and another thing to parliament, about whether he had asked anyone to illegally photocopy the former Speaker of Parliament, Peter Slipper’s diary.

The incident is now being investigated by the federal police. Not a good look.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton was his usual obnoxious self. Backing up Jamie Briggs, he accidentally sent a text meant for Briggs to a female journalist who had criticised Briggs, describing her as a “mad f**king witch”.

But Turnbull let that slide, and Dutton is still the Minister responsible for the regime of sexual abuse of women on Nauru.

Ever since public outrage stopped Abbott’s $7 GP co-payment, the Coalition has been casting around to find other “efficiencies” in the health system. Just before Christmas, Turnbull attempted to quietly slip through some nasty pathology cuts to Medicare.

It will mean patients paying up front and copping co-payments of around $30 for services like pap smears, blood tests, MRIs, and urine tests, according to doctors and pathology companies.

But the news went viral online, and nearly 200,000 have signed a petition against the cuts (see p7).

The national “These Cuts Are Killing Us” rallies on 20 February can be the basis for building a united campaign in defence of Medicare in the run up to the budget.

While polls show that Turnbull and the Coalition are ahead that can change quickly as Turnbull seeks to screw the most vulnerable and make us pay to get the budget back in order.

Meanwhile astonishing evidence of rampant tax avoidance was released by the ATO in December. Thirty-eight per cent of large Australian and foreign-owned companies paid no tax in 2013-14.

But that’s ok, according to Minister for Small Business, Kelly O’Dwyer, who said, “…just because they don’t pay tax doesn’t mean that they are avoiding tax”.

Income growth is the lowest for 50 years, yet all the indications are that Turnbull wants to increase to the GST, while lowering corporate tax even further—to 22 per cent under one proposal handed to Turnbull’s advisers by the Finance Services Council.

And while the Australian Retailers Association predicts retailers banked $16.8 billion between Boxing Day and January 15, Turnbull is backing those same bosses to cut penalty rates. The Productivity Commission declared that Sunday penalty rates are “anachronistic”, while Turnbull said penalty rates were old fashioned and cutting them was “inevitable”.

Turnbull also revealed his anti-union hand when he called the Trade Union Royal Commission report a “watershed” and declared his intention to make union power an issue at the next election (see p9).


Meanwhile, we are waiting for the fightback. Labor leader Bill Shorten declared that he will debate Malcolm Turnbull over the GST any time. But his whistle-stop anti-GST tour is most famous for his awkward small talk about lettuce in Queanbeyan.

Defending Medicare, defending penalty rates and defending the unions can’t wait until the next election. We won’t beat back Turnbull with a marginal seats campaign focussed on voting Labor.

The CFMEU called rallies outside the court when the Victorian state officials were charged with blackmail (see p8). This is the kind of action that is going to be needed to push back Turnbull’s big business agenda.

As the Chinese economy slows and the price falls of iron ore, coal and gas cut into government revenue, there will be even greater demands from the top end of town for cuts to government spending.

Turnbull talks about national agility and innovation; what he really means is boosting profits.

But the boom-bust of capitalism is graphically on display as the economy slows, mines close, and banks lay off workers.

The IMF has cut its predictions for the growth of the world economy for a third time in less than a year. Turnbull’s answer is the same as Abbott’s—make workers pay.

We need to make the Medicare rallies the first step to fight Turnbull and the bosses’ system he stands for.


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