This time last year the community rallies were in full swing, and though we didn’t know it there were still three months to go! That’s probably a good thing – maybe even Lisa would have been tired at the prospect 😉

We’ve got 714 days until the next Victorian election, when we decide who’ll govern Victoria through to 2018. That includes the period of our next EBA negotiations, which is a factor that ought to be considered by all Victorian nurses and midwives.It is, of course, not the only consideration, but it’s significant.

In 2016 we can negotiate with a government who’ve demonstrated duplicity, breaches of promise, and over and over shown that the long-term best interests of the electorate are not their priority. Across multiple areas, essential services needed to keep our state viable into the future are being attacked:

  • in health care, where we had to fight to maintain standards that mean we treat a million more patients a year than a decade ago, with leaner inpatient services;
  • in education, where the public sector  teachers’ dispute is still unresolved, and vocational education has been attacked so viciously that enrolled students have courses they can’t complete because their classes have been cancelled and fees for ongoing programs have – not to mention the 2,600 plus associated direct job losses (we have no idea what the indirect losses will be but here’s the known effect of cutting one program in one TAFE);
  • in emergency services, with $66 million cut from Victoria’s CFA and MFB budgets, just as we enter as bushfire season predicted to be the worst since Black Saturday; crime rates in Victoria have jumped; and Victoria’s ambulance service, in the throes of EBA negotiations, is in crisis, with rocketing suicide rates among paramedics, appalling morale and bullying, unprecedented turnover, and talk of strike action five months before the Agreement even expired.

And that’s just the first-line areas being hit. As I wrote last Friday, the cuts to Victoria’s public health system, which are scheduled for implementation between now and the end of the financial year, will not trim fat, or even erode muscle – we’re looking at amputation in some cases. And we may not be, in the words of ANF (Vic. branch Secretary) Lisa Fitzpatrick, a metrocentric union, but Premier Baillieu seems to be running a metrocentric government – as with TAFEs, it’s our regional areas that will be hardest hit, and who can least afford another blow.

It’s a year, eleven months and two weeks until we go to the polls – and there’s no scope for complacency in this intervening time. Without active, engaged, passionate people involved, we have rhetoric, not change. Fighting for the integrity of our health and education systems, for our emergency services, for the rights and welfare of workers across industries and professions, for all those who are and will be worse off under the is government – it all strengthens our state, protects our youngest and our most vulnerable, and future-proofs Victoria.