New polling for the ACTU shows three-quarters of Australian voters support a union policy push for more government funding of health and education services and 70% would even support an increase in the Medicare levy.
The results come before the triennial ACTU Congress meeting starting tomorrow in Melbourne where 800 union delegates will plan a national campaign to save and rebuild essential services including bulk billing and Medicare.
The survey of 1,000 voters nationally conducted this month by Australian Research Consultants found that 75% of voters, including 69% of Coalition supporters, would prefer the government to spend money on services like hospitals and schools instead of tax cuts.
The ARC poll found that 71% of people thought they would be better off if the government preserved bulk billing. An additional survey of 700 people conducted by Newspoll in five capital cities this month found that 69% would support an increase in the Medicare levy if it was the only way to allow continued access to bulk billing.
ACTU President Sharan Burrow said that low paid and casual workers could not afford private health insurance or Medicare co-payments for GP visits. The ARC polling found that the highest level of support (82%) for extra funding of services was among low-income households earning less than $30,000 per year.
People are being forced to pay more for basic services like health and education which are now the fastest rising causes of inflation. The governments changes to Medicare and university funding will shift even more costs onto individuals, Ms Burrow said.
The latest ABS inflation data shows the costs of health (up 7.5%) and education (up 5%) were the fastest growing expenses in the Consumer Price Index last financial year, when overall inflation was 2.3%.
The four-day ACTU Congress will develop union policies for the next three years including lifting the legal minimum wage to $13 an hour and new Test Cases to improve family leave rights, allow long term casuals to convert to permanency and set a 48-hour cap on weekly working hours.
Speakers at the Congress will include Federal Opposition Leader Simon Crean, New South Wales Premier Bob Carr, Victorian Premier Steve Bracks, former prime minister Bob Hawke and top union leaders from the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa and New Zealand.