It doesn’t matter whether it’s Australia, the US, or the UK – conservative governments care first and foremost about cutting jobs, privatising services, and benefiting business, regardless of the cost.
In London, Mayor Boris Johnson has closed ten fire stations, in seven boroughs. over the objections of nine out of thirteen local councillors, and untold work by fire fighters and community activists protesting the closures.
As I’ve written previously, I had the privilege in September of supporting members of the London Fire Brigade Union as they protested the decision at a London Council meeting. London’s population is projected to increase by 1.5 million people in five years, and most of them will be living in high density housing, in under-served communities – where (shocking!) the greatest numbers of closures have occurred.
Kelly Macmillan’s the first fire fighter I met in London – she generously explained the issues, introduced me to her colleagues, and assisted me to enter the council meeting. Some twelve hours ago she posted this clip on Facebook, by a London taxi driver well-known for his YouTube-published opinions. His language is not safe for work, but it’s not a mile away from that used by emergency and essential service workers, and nurses, and it’s resonant of the frustration I know she, and I, share.
I wish this passion was more common – in the UK, and here. Some of the issues in Australia are different – our fire fighters have bush fires and ludicrous heat to fight, too. But the Tory attacks on essential services are no less vicious, or dangerous. What we’ve seen so far is only the beginning.
This isn’t a fight for our firies, or our paramedics, or the SES – it’s a fight that affects all of us. Any of us could need any (or many) or our emergency services, at any time. Going in to one of our worst fire seasons on record – for NSW the season’s already well underway – every Australian should know how important adequately funding emergency services are.
Last July paramedics saved my father’s life – by the time he hit the operating table he was, his surgeon told me, half an hour away from having bled to death. Almost every day of my professional life I care for people whose lives have been saved by the intelligent, educated, well-trained skills of Victoria’s paramedics. When I worked in burns, and road trauma, and emergency, I know those men and women worked in collaboration with CFA, SES, police officers and fire fighters. I know, on both professional and personal levels, the real, priceless, irreplaceable value of the services they provide.
Maybe politicians don’t. Maybe for politicians, this really is about balance sheets.
But, as the man says, “ultimately it’s the public that allows this to happen.” We know politicians care about votes, especially in Victoria, where we’re only eleven months and change out from an election.
We can make a difference – and we have to. Be informed, be an activist, and be angry. Please.