In 860 days we go to the polls and decide what kind of leadership Victoria will have for the following four years. We’ve had almost 20 months of the Liberal/National Coalition’s ideas thanks to Mr Baillieu, and seen industrial issues on multiple fronts, in previously unheard of numbers.
It took almost a year for the Mental Health EBA to be settled; SES paid employees are now 18 months in with no resolution on the horizon; our teachers took strike action with record representation, and have an even bigger day planned for September; ambulances are ramping again, in no small part to the refusal of VHIA to include extra ED nurses as productivity measures for us or them, even though one more ED nurse would free up as many as three vehicles and six officers; and the ramification of slashes to the vocational education and training sector continue to flood across huge segements of the population, including many rural centres.
Despite promises from Health Minister Davis that a hundred new beds would open by the end of the financial year, we’re 22 days into the next one with no revelation of where these beds are – and attempts to pass off Hospital in the Home positions as inpatient beds just won’t wash. Those involved in the health sector (government, administrators, ANF and staff) use ‘beds’ as short hand for ‘nurses to care for people in hospital beds’ – and with an entire surgical ward closed just at Box Hill Hospital last year, the greater part of 500 graduate nurses unable to find supported first year positions, and cuts in agency nurse shift hours, there’s no sign of a bed number increase.
While we watch the next two years, four months and one week pass, we must pay attention to what’s happening in the rest of the country, too – watch what’s happening in Queensland, where an LNP government in power with an unheard of majority is dismantling significant, long-standing and essential programs. They may still be a little shocked by the size of the swing, but that will wear off soon and they’ll act on a mandate the Queensland populace didn’t realise they’d given.
In NSW Premier O’Farrell has not only gutted WorkCover but introduced the word “offenders” to refer to people injured at work. He’s in the process of removing nurse/midwife: patient ratios, which the NSW Nurses’ Association only won last year, even though their EBA has two and a half years until it expires. And he has been so intransigent about negotiating with essential services that they’re banding together in protest – something never seen before in this country.
All this is happening in the context of a Labor Federal government. If that aspect changes, and the Coalition get in, all bets are off. Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott has not hidden his intention to bring in a new version of WorkChoices, the Howard-era industrial relations legislation that crippled unions and their ability to represent the best interests of their members, and the public.
Remember the past, look at the track record, don’t be distracted by the hype, and maintain your rage.