July 19, 2024

Health Mettler Institute

Healthy LifeStyle & Education

SEP demands billions for health and education, not for war

SEP demands billions for health and education, not for war

The New South Wales (NSW) state election next month is being held amid an unprecedented crisis of the public healthcare and education systems, in the state and across the country. Decades of funding cuts, and now the consequences of bipartisan “let it rip” COVID policies, have brought the public schools and hospitals to a breaking point.

Striking NSW teachers at Sydney rally in May, 2022. [Photo: WSWS]

Public school classrooms and entire schools are chronically overcrowded, while overworked teachers are leaving the profession in droves. The situation in health is deteriorating by every metric, with ambulance and emergency wait times at record levels, and nurses forced to work gruelling shifts while being denied decent pay amid a cost-of-living crisis.

In this election, Labor and the Liberal-National Coalition are making various phoney funding promises. But even if met, they will not resolve what is increasingly an existential crisis for these key social services. Moreover, after the election, the agenda of whichever parties form government will be to slash spending further, in line with a growing budget deficit that already sits at over $200 billion.

While there is supposedly no money to meet the most fundamental needs of the population, spending on the military and war has reached record proportions. While that is primarily at the federal level, it impacts developments in all the states.

The federal Labor and Coalition governments, while allocating vast sums to the war machine, have been reducing or keeping stagnant their funding contributions to education, health and other areas of social spending. The drive to slash spending at the state level, moreover, contributes to the process whereby an ever-greater proportion of total government funds are allocated to the military.

In the NSW election, and more broadly, the Socialist Equality Party (SEP) is alone in raising the call, billions for education and health, not for war!

The SEP’s election campaign is fighting to help develop an international anti-war movement of the working class against the US-led conflict with Russia in Ukraine and preparations for a catastrophic war against China, both of which are supported by Australian governments. The fight against war must be connected to the struggle for the social rights of the working class, including high-quality, free public healthcare and education for all, and decent jobs and wages for all staff in both sectors.

Both Labor and the Coalition are committed to military spending of at least $575 billion this decade, a figure they are already on track to meet. But with plans for the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines, hypersonic missiles and other advanced weapons systems, that figure is only an initial downpayment.

The sharp contrast between the vast sums handed to the military and the pitiful spending on essential social services was summed up in the federal Labor government’s October budget.

A Ukrainian soldier fires an NLAW anti-tank weapon during an exercise in the Joint Forces Operation, in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, February 15, 2022. [AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda]

It boosted defence spending by 8 percent on the previous financial year, to $52.2 billion. But amid an ongoing global pandemic and health crisis, the budget revealed that federal funding for public hospitals would decrease by $755 million this financial year and $2.4 billion over four years. The budget lowered the federal share of healthcare funding from 50 to 45 percent and reinstated a 6.5 percent annual cap on federal hospital funding, under conditions where official inflation was already above that level, there is an ageing population and increased demands on the hospital system due to the impact of the COVID pandemic and Long COVID.