Pazia Daily News
Cities brought to standstill by 24-hour general strike against government budget
Unions nationwide have brought essential services to a standstill in protest of the new government's emergency budget. Doctors, nurses, public transport operators, fire fighters, and police officers walked out at noon in Pazia and other major cities where the labour movement is strongest.
The number of deaths to occur in the hospitals of PLS in the first twelve hours of the strike exceeded the number that normally occur over the course of a week. The number of muggings and burglaries committed this year is all but guaranteed to reach an all-time high from all the crimes committed during the day without police.
Jonathan Gar?a Holmes, Leader of the Confederation of Trade Unions, declared, "Desperation inflicted by the government necessitates such a drastic response. The immediate fifty per cent cut in total public health spending has already turned our enviable health system into a privatised disgrace. The massive cut in the high and basic rates of income tax will take from the poorest to give to the rich. Given that the government is imposing permanent harm to our nation, a sudden wake-up call to our leaders is a necessity."
Despite the virtual shut-down of most of the country, the coalition government, formed of the People's Freedom Party and Liberal Alliance, resolved to continue implementation of its cuts in spending and taxation. Prime Minister Rebecca Hainault stated in a press conference in Central Pazia, "The unions and their socialist allies in Parliament are determined to stop all measures needed to bring our country to long-term economic and fiscal health. Immediately before we re-founded PLS, the parties that now comprise the Social Democratic and Labour Alliance imposed within each state massive taxation that constrained economic growth and have given the newly formed national government nothing to inherit but a corrupt and discredited welfare system."
Naomi Northwood, Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Alliance and Leader of the Official Parliamentary Opposition, said that her party was working with its affiliated labour unions to oppose the government's budget cuts by whatever means necessary. "We view striking as a measure of last resort, but the current government has given us no choice but to support a general strike so that we may try to prevent a complete dismantling of our social safety net and spirit of solidarity," Ms Northwood said at a public rally. "What is most shocking is not that the PFP is taking such a reckless approach, but that the so-called Liberal Alliance is happy to support them in efforts that have literally destroyed international respect for our healthcare and education systems overnight."
When contacted about Ms Northwood's comments, Keith Kilburn, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Alliance, was dismissive of Ms Northwood's allegation that his party had betrayed its values. "Ms Northwood has no credibility when she talks about supporting social justice," Mr Kilburn said in an interview with the Pazia Daily News. "We all want the government to guarantee health and prosperity for all, but we simply need to grow our economy and modernise our healthcare system for there to be any healthcare and wealth to provide to the poorest in our society. Once we have worked with the PFP to sort out the current mess for which the SDLA's leaders are responsible, we will be happy to talk with the SDLA about how to use the economic prosperity that we created to build a sustainable system of welfare for the deserving poor."
The right-wing PLS National Party accused Ms Northwood and labour union officials of having "blood on their hands" in a press release. They stated that they supported the coalition government's cuts, but considered them too timid. They also quoted their manifesto position, "A truly strong economic recovery requires national de-regulation, not a surrender of our sovereignty to a million bureacrats in Europolis as the large Europhilic parties demand."
United Left members attended several marches with banners demanding, "Nationalisation of our industries, consistent output for people rather than profit, and sustainability for the world's people and environment."
Government proposes overhaul of asylum system
The People's Freedom Party-Liberal Alliance government published a bill today that would radically overhaul the asylum application system and make it considerably more difficult for someone to claim asylum in PLS.
The stated purpose of the bill is to end the status of PLS as the preferred destination for asylum claimants with weak cases, though sources tell the Pazia Daily News that the real intention is to cut expenditure on the Home Affairs Department as part of the coalition government's budget cuts.
The draft bill will introduce a presumption that any asylum claim brought by a national of a democratic country is presumed to be unfounded unless evidence of exceptional individual circumstances is shown. The grounds for judicial review of asylum denials are to be narrowed such that routine errors in processing of applications will only give rise to a judicial review claim if they can be shown to have a strong causal link with the denial of a manifestly valid application. Adverse inferences will be required to be drawn against any applicant who fails to assert relevant facts immediately upon arrival at the border.
A senior civil servant in the Home Affairs Department told the Pazia Daily News, "We were told that we had to find some way to cut our immigration and asylum budget in half. The only way to do that was to propose denying most asylum claims outright, preventing judicial review of them, and getting rid of the applicant quickly so that we wouldn't have to house and feed refugees during years of administration and appeals."
The Social Democratic and Labour Alliance has issued a press release condemning the proposed asylum changes as "a cruel and cynical slap in the face to the most vulnerable people who arrive at our borders". For its part, the Liberal Alliance declared, "We have long been a pro-immigrant party and a party that supports refugees' rights. However, we do not believe that the asylum system should be a way for economic migrants to jump the immigration queue."
Despite the assertions of the Liberal Alliance, a senior PFP official told the Pazia Daily News, "Of course we're doing this for budget reasons. Our number of asylum seekers has been increasing year on year and we desperately need to get Home Affairs in line with the budget. And that was before the crisis in New Paristan. Frankly, we're can't be quite the model of humanitarianism when we're short of cash, so we need all these refugees to become someone else's problem. Of course, the Liberals were a bit annoyed with the thought about being insensitive to refugees, but we reminded them that we had already made concessions to them about health and junk food regulation."
The bill has been fast tracked for a vote within the next few days.
The coalition government finds itself in an embarrassing situation after the Pazia Daily News has revealed that changes to the asylum system are designed specifically to cut spending on the Home Affairs Department and turn away legitimate New Paristani refugees. Government ministers, particularly those from the officially pro-immigration Liberal Alliance, are furious that an unnamed People's Freedom Party official has acknowledged that New Paristani refugees are to be made "someone else's problem" under a system of legal fictions that will presume New Paristani asylum seekers to be liars.
Two senior Home Affairs Department civil servants have told the Pazia Daily News that the PFP, which has long been critical of the number of immigration and asylum claims, has engaged in illegal wiretapping to anticipate New Paristani asylum seekers' planned trips to PLS and prevent their arrival. Communications between the PLS National Party and a persecuted member of the New Partisani opposition were intercepted by a PFP spin doctor and leaked to the PLSBC. This leak led the New Paristani opposition member to go into hiding within New Paristan rather than arrive in PLS and go before an immigration tribunal with the truth about the New Paristani situation. A Liberal Alliance MP spoke on condition of anonymity said, "If the PFP was up to dirty tricks, we were certainly never told by them. Nearly everyone in our party hates the front bench's willingness to agree to asylum changes. We want the New Paristani opposition to arrive in Pazia and show why we need to admit more refugees."
The PLS National Party has refused to officially comment on reports that its headquarters had been in touch with the New Paristani opposition with a view to assisting in the lodging of asylum claims within PLS. However, a minor official from within the National Party told the Pazia Daily News, "The PFP is doing whatever it can to see no evil in New Paristan, even if it means letting someone die in New Paristan who could otherwise have made it to Pazia. This is what happens when you provide housing and welfare benefits for immigrants. The persecuted become a liability. If we were in power, we would allow any New Paristani in as long as they claimed nothing from the state."
The Pazia Daily News has spoken with a New Paristani who was recently smuggled into PLS and is now being advised by the PLS Civil Liberties Council about launching a constitutional challenge to the new asylum law. She told us, "Everyone in New Paristan knows you'll be rounded up if you criticise the aims of the current government. A neighbour of mine was beaten by the police when he was caught with a leaflet criticising Magritte and his stooges. When I commented to a friend that things were even worse than under LeClerc, she reported me. I was only able to escape arrest by fleeing my home and getting fake identity documents before leaving New Paristan. More people need to get the hell out of there before it's too late."