STONE the crows! Karl Marx is back on the menu! Remember, “From each according to his ability to each according to his needs”?[i]  The United Voice union does.

The comrades are keen on the National Disability Insurance Sheme, which (what a surprise!) they see as a means to more money for their members who assist disabled people. [ii] As UV national secretary Louise Tarrant put it when the NDIS was first floated “These workers have been underpaid for a significant amount of time and deserve better.” [iii]

And so say all of them.

But the NDIS is expected to cost around $14billion a year, half of it new money from Canberra. [iv] These elusive spondulicks Treasury has not got – and is unlikely to easily acquire, given the state of the failed gold mine formerly known as the Mineral Resources Rent Tax, which has raised a bare 5 per cent of the $2bn budget estimate.[v]

Which is maybe why the Gillard Government is softening us up for a raid on superannuation; thus; “In his first public comments on super tax concessions, Superannuation Minister Bill Shorten on Thursday emphasised the need for super to be fair and fiscally sustainable”.[vi]

Ever wonder why the tax treatment of money forcibly taken out of your pay is called a “concession” when Canberra wants more of it?

This is not to diminish the case for assistance for disabled Australians – apart from the ethics of the issue, we are all just one bad fall away from joining them. As Ewen Jones (Liberal Party, Herbert) put it in the second reading debate in the House last week:

 Too many Australians do not know just how close they are to being a part of this system. Too many Australians think that disability is only for those born that way. Too many Australians do not understand that you are only one accident away from having your mum or wife wipe your backside for the rest of your life. We need to make them understand that this is for all Australians.[vii]

But it does not make the case for a public sector union using the NDIS as an opportunity to extract more money for their able bodied members.

There is a bit of this about as the demand for welfare gets ever larger and the Gillard Government continues to be ever-more dependent on the public sector union officials who are its core constituency.

In 2011, Canberra coughed up $2bn for increased pay for 150,000 social workers on the payrolls of independent help agencies funded by Canberra.[viii] The case was made that they do difficult jobs and deserve more money – but who, in the welfare sector, doesn’t?  As soon as the social workers got their pay rise, the nurses union was demanding the same for their members in aged care.[ix]

And when union officials are not protecting their positions by demanding more money for their members, they are protecting their position by demanding more money for the public sector to employ more workers who will become their members. Thus there is a TV advertising campaign on the NSW South Coast for more community care nurses.[x]

This is what union officials do and they can’t be criticised for standing up for their own interests. The problem is that when productivity improvements are not generating increasing tax revenue to fund their demands they require more of other people’s income.

As Louise Persse from the CPSU puts it, an ageing population requires a strong role for government and a strong and effective public service.