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Australia bush fires
AUSTRALIA'S STATE and federal governments have blamed arsonists for the devastating bush fires. However, the vast majority were a result of the extreme weather conditions. Did these governments do everything in their power to mitigate the worst effects of the fires?
For years rural communities have been hit hard by cuts to services. Fire fighting and emergency services budgets have been slashed. There is a severe shortage of doctors, nurses and emergency services staff and this cost people their lives in a time of crisis.
In Victoria the Labour-run state government only allocates $252 million a year for rural fire prevention. For a country covered with bush and prone to extreme weather this is totally inadequate.
On top of the cuts and lack of investment in prevention, rural fire-fighting relies almost entirely on unpaid volunteers. While the work of these volunteers is amazing, less than 2% of those who fight fires in Victoria are full-time professionals.
WORKERS AT Thames Water, the UK's largest privately-owned water utility company, have threatened strike action if it cuts 300 jobs through outsourcing.
Thames told GMB union members employed at a call centre in Swindon that unless they agree to family-unfriendly changes in working hours and shift times, and other measures, their jobs will be outsourced to India.
Thames reckons the job cuts are necessary due to the economic recession. The economic downturn however, doesn't appear to have stopped Thames from raising water charges 3% above inflation each year for the next five years. These increased charges have helped swell the company's half yearly profits to a massive £323 million.
Thames Water was acquired by Australian-based investment bank Macquarie in 2006 from the German company RWE for £8 billion.
THE SOCIALIST reported last week that the Higher Education Funding Council has cut the £18 million annual grant to London Metropolitan University and wants £38 million in 'overpayments' repaid, resulting in massive cuts.
Although the Met is the worst affected by this problem, the same thing is occurring elsewhere. After an audit took place at Kingston University it was revealed that the figure for students not completing courses was actually 8.6% instead of the 6.4% that had previously been claimed. This adjustment in the statistics will mean a loss of £500,000 for the university, an amount nowhere near the shocking financial readjustment to be faced by LMU, yet a loss all the same.
In the current economic climate it is obvious that further funding cuts and job losses are more than undesirable, the question is, as the government found billions of pounds to bail out its banking system, will the same rescue be provided to save one of London's pivotal educational institutions?