Sunday, February 22, 2015

SA Premier Weatherill implements Business SA's deformed agenda

by Max O

South Australia is about to see a new set of government 'deforms' steered by Premier Jay Weatherill's brand of social democracy. In reality Big Business in the form of Business SA, credit ratings agencies (such as Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s) and the IMF are actually at the helm and dictate the Premier's deform agenda.

Jay Weatherill hails from Progressive Left Unions and Sub-branches faction of South Australian Labor. Not that this ever meant much in the ALP lexicon, for the performance of Labor Governments in South Australia has been one of 'Left in form Right in essence'.

The capitalist ruling class demands government cutbacks on social spending, an open door to the hazardous nuclear industry and an increase in taxes on the public. Therefore Weatherill will oblige and close down local hospitals and centralise their services; expand the nuclear industry in SA; and implement regressive state taxes.

What is up for deforms

The much-treasured Adelaide Repatriation General Hospital is earmarked for closure and the Royal Adelaide, Lyell McEwin (in the north) and the Flinders Medical Centre (in the south) emergency departments will become super sites, with all other hospitals (Modbury, Noarlunga, Queen Elizabeth) no longer treating emergency patients. For patients from Adelaide's outer suburbs the increased travel times to one of these three super emergency sites has the potential of putting their lives at risk.

The Repatriation General, Hampstead Rehabilitation and St Margaret's Rehabilitation hospitals services will be turned over to the major hospitals. This has angered war veterans and locals who have relied on these hospitals for generations because it will reduce access and ease of availability to medical care.

With the turmoil of the car industry exiting the state, and the possible demise of the ASC (Australian Submarine Corporation) naval industry, the Weatherill government has desperately looked around for replacement industries. The notorious nuclear industry offers itself as a rescue partner, after having been rejected in other parts of Australia such as Mucktay Station, Northern Territory.

The premier will go through the pretence of consulting the public by holding a royal commission into the nuclear industry, to be headed by a pro-nuclear former SA governor, Rear Admiral Kevin Scare. Their intention will be to expand further the nuclear industry in SA, from mining to enrichment, energy and storage.

In conjunction with the Federal Abbott government's tax shifting plans, Weatherill is eyeing off eliminating stamp duty and payroll taxes to prop up business in South Australia. The likelihood of homeowners paying an annual $1200 land tax to replace stamp duty is now very much on the cards.

The Housing Industry Association has been campaigning for the removal of the stamp duty tax for years because it improves their opportunity for increasing house sales. In addition a yearly land tax will bring in more revenue to the state government than a stamp duty tax on house sales.

The contemplated revamp of the payroll tax where thresholds and rates would be reduced or eliminated is music to the ears of Nigel McBride, Business SA executive who said: " This is something that at least we can support in the interim to see if we can get the very best out of a bad system, which is the State Government having to tax areas of the economy to pay the bills."

Another possibility for corporate gain is the abolition of insurance tax. The obvious intention of these 'tax deforms' is to make it easier for Big Business to improve their profit margins in South Australia.

However the SA Government discussion paper specifies the need for revenue neutrality: “Where (reform) would involve a significant loss of revenue we will also need to consider generating more revenue from taxes that are less damaging to economic growth.” This is code for reducing tax imposts on business and increasing taxes on the ordinary public.

Weatherill also plans to create a new body to pitch for international investment for the state and carry out more school mergers. His economic strategy is a neo-liberal one of cutting government funded programs and begging foreign corporations for investment.

A chameleon for betrayal

Being the astute politician that he is credited for, Weatherill has camouflaged his deforms alongside 'visionary' plans: such as turning Adelaide into a carbon neutral city; stopping urban sprawl; diverting more criminals away from jail; allowing for driverless vehicles; and making electric and hybrid cars the preferred CBD transport within the decade.

He came to the premiership over the backs of Rann and Foley, former Labor leaders who were both detested within the labour movement and the South Australian public. In contrast to Rann and Foley's perfidy in reducing workers compensation entitlements, Weatherill presented himself as a cleanskin left winger who would conduct a humane and trustworthy government.

However his track record of betrayal (of the working class) is now matching Rann’s and Foley’s.  Weatherill has sold off government assets (the South East forests, state owned buildings and land), given away western suburbs open space to the Real Estate industry, and forced school mergers. Matters came to a head at last November’s State Convention of the ALP (above) when delegates unanimously condemned Weatherill’s blanket approval of the reactionary Forrest Report, accusing him of adopting the same “announce and defend” style previously associated with Rann and Foley and central to their downfall.

Under capitalism labor parties and politicians of Weatherill's ilk prove the old adage: "The more it changes, the more it stays the same!"