When was the last time you heard the army announce that it had run out of soldiers and was bringing in extras on 457 visas? You didn’t. Because the military, unlike the healthcare system, doesn’t face resource problems.
There is always money for new hardware, whether it gets used or not. In January, the federal government announced another $3.5 billion to upgrade Australia’s tanks and armoured vehicles. All up, it will spend between $30 and $42 billion on armoured vehicles in coming years. This is despite the fact that the last time the Australian army deployed a tank in combat was during the invasion of Vietnam.
There are almost 60,000 active Australian military personnel, few of whom are deployed. They get paid simply to hone their skills and wait in their barracks until the government decides to use them—usually in some offensive invasion of another country. There are another 30,000 reserve personnel paid to do weekend training each year and wait to be activated.
By contrast, nurses are worked to exhaustion 24/7. You will never walk into a hospital to find scores of nurses just training, waiting for something to cause a surge in patients—like a natural disaster or a pandemic. Yet we should have more nurses than we need at any given time precisely so that the system can cope with patient surges.
Hospitals are regularly stretched to their limits even without surges. Wait times for treatment and beds have grown across the country in recent years. “Ramping”, when patients are treated in parked ambulances outside of hospitals due to lack of free beds in emergency rooms, has become a common practice and reduces the number of available ambulances.
This is considered good sense by politicians: keep the costs as low as possible and make up the shortfall with overtime from overworked and underpaid healthcare workers. The idea that you would provide enough funding not only for regular healthcare needs but also for surge capacity to deal with threats like a pandemic is anathema to the entire cost-cutting logic of our healthcare system.
In fact, hospitals have been turning to the Australian Defence Force for extra support, as has occurred in Victoria during the current code brown emergency declaration, military personnel being brought in to drive ambulances.
There’s a completely different logic at play when it comes to war. There’s no cost-cutting, just permanent funding increases.
The billions spent on each generation of new fighter jets and submarines is meant to help Australia match and outpace the military capacities of its imperialist rivals. This logic of competition drives an ever increasing military budget. Defence Minister Peter Dutton has been quite explicit that the attempt to push back China is behind a move to increase military spending to 2.5 percent of GDP.
But if the machines of war are ever put to use in a conflict with China, it will mean death and destruction on an enormous scale. And you know what we’ll need more of then? Nurses.
If the army can get billions for new tanks despite not using them, hospitals should be able to receive funding and resources well in excess of their current capacity. After all, when the army actually is used, it’s a killing machine for Australian imperialism. When hospitals are used, they provide health care and save lives. They should get all of the funding and resources they need to do that.
While most of us are being hit hard by the biggest cost of living crisis in a generation, Australia’s “big four” banks—Commonwealth, Westpac, ANZ and NAB—have had a record-breaking start to the financial year, posting a combined half-year profit of $17.1 billion. That’s a 19 percent increase from the equivalent period in 2021, and $1.3 billion more than the previous record of $15.8 billion in 2015.
Academic workers at Rutgers University in New Jersey have achieved a stunning victory with a serious campaign of industrial action, centred on an open-ended strike. Their approach is a model for unionists in Australia.
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The South Australian government has followed New South Wales and Victoria to undermine democratic rights. A bi-partisan bill has been rushed through parliament’s lower house, which proposes fines up to $50,000 or three months in jail if protesters “intentionally or recklessly obstruct the public place”.
NTEU Fightback, a rank-and-file union group of the National Tertiary Education Union at the University of Sydney, is calling on staff to vote No in the upcoming ballot on the proposed enterprise agreement. The campaign was launched at a forum on 25 May, attended by over 50 people. A members’ meeting on 13 June will consider the agreement. This week will probably be the first time that members are provided with a full list of proposed changes to our working conditions.
A recent NBC News poll found that 70 percent of US voters don’t want Joe Biden to recontest the presidency next year. Sixty percent feel likewise about Donald Trump. Yet the two men are currently odds-on to face each other in a 2024 re-run of the 2020 presidential election.