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AUKUS, Nuclear Submarines and Public Health Crisis Dominate Malinauskas SA Government First Year
(Above: the public support for the RTBU's 2019 anti-privatisation campaign forced a commitment from the ALP, then in opposition. Photo source: RTBU Facebook page)
The SA Labor Government led by Premier Peter Malinauskas has just completed its first year of office in parliament.
Malinauskas campaigned for the March 2022 state election on 6 key policies.
1.Reverse Marshall Government's $2.1 billion contract for privatisation of trains and trams.
2.Change planning regulations to protect the character and heritage of the city and suburbs
3.Fast track infrastructure project
4.Improve road transport construction.
5.Build a hydrogen electrolyzed facility and hydrogen storage facility near Whyalla steel works
What progress has been made on these policy areas in the first 12 month of office?
The most notable public announcement about any of the 6 key policies was made in the last month of the new government's first year. Elected in March 2022, Malinauskas announced in March 2023 that the operation of the suburban trains and trams would return to the government in 2025. However, the customer service and security services for the trains and trams would remain with the private concern Keolis Downer until 2027. Keolis Downer would also keep maintenance services of trains until 2035.
The Malinauskas Government called this new arrangement with Keolis Downer an "alliance model" costing the taxpayers $30 million.
The positive aspect of the "alliance model" is that the workers who drive the trains and trams will again be directly employed government workers.
The Secretary, Darren Phillips of the drivers’ union, the RTBU said this was a good thing not only for drivers but because the money generated from public transport would no longer have a private for profit multinational "clipping the ticket on the way through."
The "alliance model" is far from a complete reversal of privatisation. It shows that under capitalism privatisation reversal is often incomplete. The multinational corporations have years of experience of ensuring that under capitalist laws, it is made difficult for governments to completely reverse privatisation. In-coming governments also have to contend with the other organs of state power such a government department heads who have close relationships with the private operators who have benefitted from privatisation.
In other areas of the 6 key policy promises of the Malinauskas Government, there has been the usual cry from Treasury that there is not enough money in the kitty to fund the promises so they become delayed or watered down or just forgotten about until nearer the next election battle in three- or four-years' time.
For example, in number 3 Policy promise Fast Track Infrastructure, the new Malinauskas Government was hopeful that the federal Albanese Government would contribute to the Adelink upgrade and expansion of the Adelaide suburban tram network. This was first promised by the previous ALP state government in 2017 when Albanese as a Shadow Minister pledged support for federal money for Adelink tram upgrade.
Now that Albanese is Prime Minister the tram upgrade has taken a back seat, as most projects have for federal government funding in SA. The exception of course is the more than $360 billion federal government funding pledge for the nuclear submarine AUKUS project with the SA-based Osborne Naval Shipyard as its centrepiece.
So, Malinauskas's enthusiasm for realizing the 6 policy pledges outlined above has taken a back seat to the war preparations and profiteering of companies like BAE who benefit most from the nuclear submarine project.
The other headache for the Malinauskas Government at the end of his first year in office is the multi-layered crisis of the SA public health system. Ambulance ramping is still the most visible sign of a system that is not coping but there are many other problems in the health system facing the government. A new children's hospital has to be built, there are not enough nurses and doctors and those that are present are over-worked to the point of leaving the system.
Where will the money come from to solve all these people problems?
They will not come from the federal government as funding the manufacturers of the US and UK war machine are obviously more important to this federal government.
So what is the Malinauskas Government doing faced with this situation?
So far it has tried to score points by legislating for an SA First Nations Voice, welcomed by many.
The government is big on "bread and circuses" as a diversion to all the problems facing the people in their daily lives, such as job security, cost of living, high rents, high interest rates and over-crowded health system.
The latest "circus" is the Gather Round of AFL games in Adelaide in mid-April.
The government hopes this will be a boost to the hospitality industry and a slight increase in government revenue from hotel owners and food outlets through increased payroll tax.
Maybe an increase in tax from the Casino as well, even if it is just for a week!
Malinauskas is no socialist. Even if he was, it is doubtful he could find the money needed to deliver on his 6 key policies due to the nature of the capitalist system that he administers.
He would have to nationalise multinationals that make millions of dollars profit from mining and energy and other industries, particularly agriculture to have any chance of having enough money to deliver on his key policies.