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Edward has worked a multitude of jobs since leaving school at 15, including Radio Announcer, Arborist, Undertaker, and Teacher. His interests include politics, Asian culture, and writing. His chief hobbies are parenting, sloth, and “trying to write as well as Ross Sharp who seems to do it with very little effort”.

Bishop: Libs scrub Kerosene Queen

By Edward Eastwood

Voters in the federal seat of Mackellar awoke this morning to find they had a new candidate for the seat at the upcoming election following the demise of long standing member and rotor fan-girl, Bronwyn Bishop.

Bishop will be replaced by businessman, Jason Falinski who wrested the vote from Bishop, 51 to 39.

The move ends a less than illustrious parliamentary career for Bishop whose time both as the member for Mackellar and Speaker of the House has been littered with scandals and rorts.

Her time as health minister under the Howard government was mercifully brief after she’d voiced enthusiasm for the life-affirming benefits of smoking tobacco.

Shifted to the post of Minister for Aged Care, Bishop quickly came under fire when it was revealed that some aged care facilities had been bathing their residents in kerosene to combat scabies and earned her the sobriquet ‘Kerosene Bronny’.

Long known for her willingness to use the public purse to fund her penchant for traveling to and from theatre, opera and weddings in luxury cars (not to mention Sikorsky’s wunderbar invention), and taking overseas holidays – whoops, research trips, Bishop really hit her straps when elected Speaker of the House by displaying a bias that would have drawn an approving nod from Judge Jefferys.

So, Vale Bronny, few will miss you but not to worry, there’s always a gig at Newscorp come  election night 2019.

…and speaking of elections;

Let’s turn the way-back machine to late last year when the MSM reported that Malcolm had received word – well, more like a Papal Bull really, from Goldman Sach’s that wise young neo-libs should always capitalize on favourable polls and go to election, oh, say about April next year. There’s a good chap.

Malc. beamed his patrician smile and assured the media that his government would run full term and as a matter of fact, he’d pencilled April in his diary as the ideal time to schmooze with the state premiers about those wearisome revenue questions. An early election simply wasn’t on the cards.

The matter of why an overseas privately owned merchant bank should be issuing directives on when and when not to hold elections to a head of a foreign government never arose, and Malc was able to avoid all those nasty insinuations that once an employee of Goldman Sachs, always an employee of Goldman Sachs.

And so to the polls we go, albeit a little behind schedule.

Or, will we?

Malc’s notorious for policy back-flips and the raison d’etre,  the re-establishment of a discredited body to root out corruption in those nasty unions, is umm… shall we say piss-weak? Yeah, let’s go with piss-weak, and while Malc and the public know that it’s lay down misere the proposal will be knocked back in the Senate for the third time, there’s always the slim chance that the Libs may fold and decide to dig in until September or October and pray that Shorten and the ALP make some monumental f*ck-up (not unusual given its history), and hand them government for another term.

Meanwhile…

In the US, the Bernie Sanders for President campaign appears to be going from strength to strength with Sanders winning seven out eight of the last primary’s, and while the results from the New York debate are not yet been determined at the time of writing, the popular consensus is that Sanders won the contest hands down.

Sanders, whose popularity especially among young voters along with British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and newly elected Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, are being hailed as victories for Progressives and as indicators of a global shift away from Neo-Liberalism. 

Which brings us back to Shorten and the ALP, and the big question: can Bill do it? Furthermore, can the ALP reform itself as a centre left party and rediscover its roots as a party for social justice and reform in time for the coming election?

Nahhh… but it’s likely Labor will shift slightly more to the left and promise more funding for schools, hospitals, universities and to create more jobs etc… in order to win back government, and who knows, they may even keep some of their promises but as for following suit in pursuing the progressive policies of Sanders, Corbyn or Trudeau, it would seem that Australians will have to wait a bit longer to tear themselves away from Conservatism be it the NLP or Labor version.

 

Tales from the Darkside: Charlie MUST Serf!

The oval shaped beads are really giving Charlie the shits. The clasp which holds the chain connecting the string is easy enough to remove on the round beads but for some reason the oval shaped beads resist the snip and unwind method and for the hundredth time, rather than coming away clean, the force of the twist has caused the bead to break.

Its also driven tiny slivers of metal into his thumb and forefinger, and at the end of the day he knows his fingers will be sore.

Charlie’s doing a Work for the Dole program supposedly preparing him to be ‘job ready’ in Warehousing and Logistics.

The reality is that he removes the connecting chain between stings of junk jewellery.

In other parts of the site about twenty other WfD ‘volunteers’ repackage items for charity work. Some sort clothing, while others work on repackaging goods for distribution to charity organizations.

Frustration and anger levels simmer just below the surface. No-one’s happy. “It’s just meaningless tasks,” he says.

“When we get here, we’re given different tasks each day. Some of us sort clothing and repackage, while others dismantle junk jewellery.

Everybody hates doing the jewellery.

“There aren’t enough pliers to go around and some of them won’t do the job without breaking or damaging the beads.

Charlie’s bead is thrown in a bin with the other broken beads, while the unbroken beads are collected and sorted into colour, size and shape by other WfD volunteers. The connecting chain is discarded.

At the end of the work period, the sorted beads are collected and tipped into a container, where the next day they will again be sorted into colour, size and shape.

“The game they play with the beads is what really gives everyone here the shits. There’s no point. It’s the same as digging holes and then filling them in. No one here is getting anything like training for work in a warehouse.

“There’s no safety equipment either. We’re all given a one-size-fits-all fluro vest and that’s it! We don’t get safety gloves to protect our hands from the metal on the junk jewellery either.

“If you forget your fluro vest, they make you go home and get it and then come back. They tell you that you have to make up for the time lost so you have to work extra hours.

He looks around at his fellow WfD’s and says that the kind of work people are doing here is the same kind of work that they give you in prison or a community service order. “It’s like Game of Thrones, the same as being a serf,” he shrugs.

There are several large notices posted around the site warning that the use of mobile phones is strictly forbidden and any infringement carries “penalties including reporting any breach of the rules to your Employment Service Provider.”

Charlie usually works on dismantling jewellery but has been assigned to repackaging on three separate occasions.

On the first occasion he repackaged a discount priced confectionary, the type found on sale at local markets or school fetes. The second item repacked was a brand of cosmetic products found in major retail chains.

“They got everybody together on these occasions. Nobody had to dismantle jewellery or resort beads, but they stepped up the pace of repackaging and they watched us like hawks,” he says.

On each occasion, Charlie and his fellow WfD’s were again warned that the use of mobile phones in the repackaging area was strictly forbidden and infringement of the rules carried ‘heavy penalties’.

Heavy penalties most certainly would apply, but not to Charlie.  There are strict rules against the use of WfD labour to replace employees, and the AUWU has stated that it will pursue the allegations with the Department of Employment and the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

Charlie’s story is just one of many, and indicative of a system failing to deal with the victims of neo-liberal economic policies. Rather than address the problem of rising unemployment, the LNP are quietly continuing to  push forward with their plans to privatize all welfare.

Multi-nationals such as Max Solutions and Mission Providence have had their eye on privatized welfare including medical insurance and pensions in Australia for over a decade, and on November 9 at the Long Term Unemployed Conference held in Melbourne, they’ll get their chance to advance their cause one step further.

Significantly, the price of attendance is $550 (concession rate) which puts the cost well out of reach for anyone on the dole.

Representatives from the  government and private sector can rest safe in the knowledge that the fate of the great unwashed will be picked over without the distasteful requirement of having them in their presence.

The findings and outcomes of the conference are easy to predict;

‘The system is in need of reform administered by the private sector.’

As a spokesperson told Fairfax media in 2002; “Long-term, [Maximus’s future] is very much driven by the government direction in outsourcing. Ultimately, if Centrelink is privatised, Maximus would be very well-suited to help.”

Meanwhile, every week hundreds of complaints, comments and stories flood the inbox at the AUWU’s website.

ESP ‘clients’ have their benefits cancelled through no fault of their own, the new Kapo’s demand that the client always be on time for an appointment – notification of which may or may not have been issued – or be breached for being 5 minutes late and then kept waiting 40 minutes while their case officer lets them cool their heels to show them who’s boss…

The bullying and demonisation goes on. The MSM does its bit through a Current Affair; “Australia’s Welfare suburbs – are they unlucky or just lazy?” The usual idiotic prejudices are wheeled out and the mayor of Liverpool tells the audience that; “I left school at Year 10 and I’ve got a Certificate IV in Small Business! Ya gotta stay positive”, he beams.

Ironically, he also puts his finger on the heart of the problem admitting that while there’s been a steady increase in people are moving to Liverpool, “The big problem is that the work’s just not here.”

But . . . exactly!

Charlie must Serf for his hamburger Momma!

 

Incoming…!

Illustration by Simon Kneebone

For those watching closely this week, Rupert Murdoch’s tweets clearly signposted how the political scenario is likely to unfold over the next six months.

There will be a snap election. The trigger for this will arise from either a leadership challenge or a double dissolution. The latter is the more probable of the two.

Abbott already has several issues on the table to call for an election, including work-place reform, higher university fees, as well as changes to the welfare system and Murdoch has made it clear that News Ltd. will play the obstructionist card for all it’s worth.

The usual bogey men will be trotted out for an airing.

The opposition has fallen under the sway of ‘corrupt, violent unions’ and cannot be trusted. Especially with the economy. Only a truly reforming government under the leadership of Tony Abbott can sweep away the socialist pariahs and greenie jihadist’s smearing the windscreen on the pace car of free market progress, etc…

It will be a short, sharp and extremely vicious campaign in which the ALP will have to battle hard to win votes due to its insistence in playing a ‘small target’ opposition for the past two years.

For governments who find themselves on the other side of the House following an election, the small target policy is practical method of allowing the electorate time to forget past transgressions and the trail of broken promises. It also allows a new government time to establish its own credentials without unnecessary hinderance.

There comes a time however, usually before the end of the first year of the new government’s term, when small target policy must end and genuine opposition begin. Anything less is simply lazy politics.

Indisputably for the past two years under Shorten’s leadership and the over riding influence of the party’s Right wing, it would seem that like the Monkey God, the parliamentary Labor Party is aware of vacuity and very little else.

Last week saw the ALP handed two free kicks – the Border Force farce and the latest unemployment figures showing that the jobless rate has risen to 9.2% of the workforce. 

Shorten’s response to the former, both before and after the event can only be described as tragic.

Of greater tragedy is Labor’s roaring silence over the rapidly escalating unemployment figures and an economic growth rate of 0.2% for the last financial quarter. Any opposition party should be able to make a meal of both issues, yet the ALP seems unable to muster enough energy to open a tube of Pringles.

Similarly to the civil liberties issues surrounding the Border Farce, Labor seems to be content to leave the fight to the electorate, perhaps in the belief that the mounting outrage felt by those unemployed at the acceptance of 1.8 million people trying to exist on a payment 50% below the poverty line will manifest itself in the ballot box as votes for the party.

They couldn’t be more mistaken.

Significantly, the ALP’s web site contains nothing about policies to deal with unemployment and limits itself to motherhood statements about Planned Parental Leave and Labor’s ongoing commitment to defend workers awards and conditions. And ‘Fairness’.

Those out of work simply don’t rate a mention. Nor does any opposition to the exploitative and corrupt nature of the Job Network System.

This is a grave error. It would seem that the lessons of the 2013 election and the rise of independent candidates and minor parties such as Ricky Muir and the Motoring Enthusiasts, and the Palmer United Party have been lost on the party’s tacticians and policy makers.

The fracturing of traditional parties power bases due largely to voter dissatisfaction at any discernible difference between either, accompanied through the use of social media have led to the creation of a new dynamism arising from a grass roots level among the electorate.

As a collective, the unemployed can easily form a voting bloc which urges its members to cast their vote for a party that has a policy of full employment as central to its platform. Should such a party be non-existent, then the jobless may form their own and run for the Senate on a Job Guarantee ticket.

It’s often said that politics is the art of the possible. This is only partly true. At its base, politics is the about having the numbers. Without the numbers, very little is possible in effecting lasting change.

1.8 million is a substantial number, and makes the possibilities for the unemployed to bring about change on their own terms whether as a voting bloc or an independent political party, very real indeed.

It’s there to be done and it is ‘do-able’.

If the ALP or any other party for that matter, think that the invisible army of the unemployed will remain silent and submissive at election time – they’re in for a nasty shock.

 

Appointment on Pier Street … Newstarred Fur Needo

Friday morning, 9.00am. The Pier Street branch of the Jobactive provider.

The last time I was here, the place was still putting the finishing touches on the decor in the manner of pop-ups in shopping malls.

The cables that dangled from the ceiling have been covered by gleaming white plastic blocks, giving them the appearance of the spinal models that you see in a chiropractors office.

There’s a few obligatory potted ferns, two chairs, and a couple of hard looking plastic stools. A large screen TV has been affixed to a plywood partition which blocks most of the office from view. But not from ear-shot.

“Rye’d, wadwheel do iz chainjar rover frum Newstarred turd de English coors, enya starred dat onder furzd onyxed munf; ‘K?

Demeans you doan avtarh rebort fur Newstarred, yarjist goater school. ‘K?

Yadoan avtarh lookfah twen’y chobser munf.

Zone oww, Newstard fur needo! ‘K?

Newstarred fur needo!

You doan avtarh lookferchobs bud yaf der cummin ear wenwee tellya. ‘K?”

A middle-aged Asian man clutching a piece of paper emerges from behind the partition and speedily departs. I wondered idly which Asian language encompasses the expression, ‘fur needo’.

I don’t really have to be here. I’m under-employed, not unemployed. I work twenty hours per week and my income puts me over the threshold to receive Newstart.

I claim because my ‘casual’ job doesn’t have holiday pay and coincides with school terms which means that every twelve weeks I have to make one weeks pay stretch three and half weeks; the two weeks I don’t get paid and the following week to work until I do get paid.

Nevertheless, under the new regulations, I have to report to a Jobactive provider and sign an agreement that I will look for twenty jobs a month in addition to the hours that I’m currently working.

I also have to report to the provider every fortnight. If I am unable to find a job – in addition to the job which I already have, I may be asked to take part in a Work for the Dole scheme or find ‘voluntary’ work.

‘Voluntary’.

For those over 60.

As a letter to the AUU website writes;

“I “Work-for-the-Dole” for the Salvos, and I shall follow this with interest.

It is really difficult to find 15 hours per week “volunteer” work at an approved agency, without actually going to one of the big charities, so the Salvos do *very* well out of the free labour of the over 60s.

Most of us are so exhausted by the end of the day, we can barely move (we are unfortunately for us endowed with a good work ethic), and take the next day to recover from the previous day’s work. So that’s 4 days of every week given over to them.

No hope of EVER getting a job through the “experience” provided, but lots of chance of back injury, chronic leg, foot and arm pain. We hear on the grapevine that we are going to be signed up officially to work-for-the-dole scheme after July 1.

I suppose we will need a doctor’s certificate whenever we are in too much pain or just too exhausted to come in.

At the moment, we are expected to make up the lost time, unlike genuine volunteers who, rightly, just come in to work when they feel up to it.

Degrading and humiliating for the over 60s I know who have been in the paid work force all their lives, until they lost their last job.

Work-for-the-dole with charity stores does NOT motivate older workers, many of whom previously worked in sedentary office jobs, or at least in jobs where they could claim sick leave/flex leave/annual holidays/ etc to accommodate their occasional illness or injury.

Work-for-the-dole is an exploitative and degrading experience for older workers, but the Salvos hide behind the cover of calling us “volunteers”. There is nothing voluntary about it.”

When my name’s called I tell my case-officer that I won’t sign any agreements and get up to leave.

They’re confused by this. They’re not used to people who aren’t compliant. I know that my refusal will cause a tighter squeeze on my income during the school breaks but there’s no way in the world I’ll waste my time looking for non-existent jobs and report every fortnight like a convicted offender on parole.

I walk outside, reach into my day pack and begin handing out ‘Know Your Rights’ pamphlets for the AUU which feature the illustration on this post.

Because of the agency’s logo on the window, at first the staff can’t see me doing this. After a few more ‘clients’ wander in holding flyers, the penny drops and the front door flies open.

‘Fur needo’ asks if she can have a flyer. I hand her one and ask if she’d like to take a few more to hand out during the day. The door slams shut.

Around ten, I’ve handed out about half of the pamphlets and walk across the road for a coffee. I keep my eye on the front door of the office.

While I’m drinking my coffee, the front door opens and ‘Fur needo’ pokes her head out and looks around. I give her a cheery wave from the other side of the street.

The door slams shut.

They know we’re here now.

 

AIMN Interview: Bill Mitchell – an unreasonable man

George Bernard Shaw observed that; “A reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.  Therefore, Shaw argued; all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

Within Shaw’s definition, Bill Mitchell is an unreasonable man.

As an economist, Mitchell has persistently argued against the Chicago School theory of ‘trickle down’ since the mid 1980s and continues to do so today.  He remains in his own words; “One of a few trying to pull together post-Keynesian theories with other insights to create what we now call Modern Monetary Theory.”

“However,” he adds “there’s now a lot more than five people talking about it and reading about it, following our work, and I get a lot more invitations to speak overseas. There’s now a second generation of MMTer’s who are our young Ph.D. graduates going out and spreading these ideas.”

As someone who is wary of giving interviews and who guards his written work closely, it came as a surprise when Mitchell agreed to my request to talk about MMT.

“A lot of what I tell them often goes over their heads” says Mitchell referring to the MSM. “They rarely if ever mention my name, and then they go to my blog site, paraphrase what’s there and write it up as their own work.”

The plan was to ask Mitchell a range of general questions across a broad spectrum of MMT, rather than a detailed explanation of two or three of the finer points of a controversial discipline that is rapidly gaining popularity as an extremely powerful counter argument to neo-liberalism, especially among the unemployed.

Economics tragics may visit Mitchell’s blog site http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/ should they wish to examine Modern Monetary theory in greater depth.

I found the softly spoken Mitchell not only generous but also patient, for which I offer my sincere thanks.

(Italics are the author’s}.

I began by asking Mitchell: “What are the most common misconceptions about MMT?”

Mitchell: It’s not so much misconceptions about MMT but rather peoples misconceptions of the capacities of governments.

The classic analogy that people have whether they articulate it or not, is that the government is like a super sized household, and I’m talking about currency issuing governments here, not Eurozone governments,” he emphasised.  “And are subject to the same constraints that a household is.

We all know about budgets. They’re things we have to continually manage on a weekly basis in our households. We give our kids a ‘budget’ to teach them the value of money.

So it’s natural that we personalise our integral understanding of how the government approaches things, and the first thing that we presume is that the government can run out of money. After all, we can run out of money, and we know that if we want to spend that we’ve got to earn income and we relate that at government level as raising taxes or that we have to sell assets.

If we want to raise money we have to sell some stuff on e-Bay, and so we interpret that in the government sense as privatisation. The third option is that we have to go to the bank and borrow or use our credit card and we interpret that as government borrowing.

So from this, we build a picture of government being like us. We see it as bigger than us but we see it financially constrained in the same manner that we are, and just like us it can’t ‘max our credit card out’ or ‘spend like a drunken sailor’ and that ultimately we’ve got to pay the piper, and all these morality tales that we build into frame the narrative.

That’s the biggest misconception. We don’t appreciate that the Government has no financial constraints.”

AIMN: MMT always draws fire from its critics through its insistence that governments can simply print more money to cover debt.

Mitchell: This is the second misconception. The average person has a total misconception of a ‘cost’. So, when MMT says that the government has no financial constraints, that’s not the same thing as no constraints. For example, you and I can’t buy anything and everything that we want in Australian dollars because we can only buy what our spending resources allow us to.

As a currency issuing government though, we can buy whatever we want. Whatever is for sale in the currency of issue – we can buy, and… that’s all it can buy! This means that it is not constrained by how much money it can spend but what is available for sale.

In other words, we’ve converted the concept from a financial constraint to a real constraint. Material things, goods and services.

For the individual, cost is calibrated in monetary terms, how much did it cost for this phone? What is the cost of a holiday?

These are real costs for us because if we spend the money on them we don’t have the money to spend on other things because we’re financially constrained, whereas for a currency issuing government, the numbers that go on the financial statements they punch into the “Budget papers” are not costs at all.

AIMN: How is money creation accounted for?

Mitchell: Someone in an office types it into a spread-sheet. They (Reserve Bank and Treasury), have double accounting ledgers for seignorage and notes.

The accounting’s important, because it has to equal the accounting that shows dollar for dollar the government deficit equals the non-government surplus. It’s very important that people understand this.

If you want the non-government sector to run down debt, then the government sector has to run-up debt. It’s wrong to say that the accounting is irrelevant, but it’s trivial in the extreme.

When the crisis hit the US, the Federal Reserve immediately transferred 80 billion dollars with one key stroke into the American private banking system – boom! – just like that.

When Ben Bernanke appeared before Congress to explain where the money had come from, he was asked; had it come from taxes? No, said Bernanke. Then where did it come? Bernanke replied that; ‘you’re best to understand that it came out of thin air.'”

Notes and coins are trivial. They’re just a small part of it.

The other really important issue is what the concept of a “cost” is because we always talk about what the cost to government is. The cost isn’t something that appears on numbers statements or balance sheets. The cost is the real resources that are being deployed by that spending.

The “cost” is a real resources concept, not a financial concept.

So when we say ‘what does it cost for the Government to run a program?’ It’s not the dollar outlay that appears in the papers. The cost is the actual real resources that are diverted or used in that program.”

AIMN: Define real resources.

Mitchell: Well, I would argue that the federal government of Australia and all currency issuing governments should make an unconditional offer of employment at a fixed wage to anyone who can’t get a job.

Then the question becomes ‘well, how can the government afford it?’

My argument is that while the typical narrative will assess the cost in the terms of the wages paid, the overhead costs and the supervisory costs and say the cost of the program is 20 billion but this is not the cost at all.

The cost is what extra food are the workers who are converted from unemployed to employed going to consume? What extra clothing are they going to require? How much extra transport are they going to use? What materials and equipment are those workers going to use, and working capital to convert into productive output?

That’s the real cost.

The real resources of a  Job Guarantee program would be the extra tools the worker’s using or the materials needed.

So when people say ‘How can they afford it?’ Of course they can afford it as long as those real resources are available and one of the clearest indications that there is a massive amount of real resources available, is unemployment.”

AIMN: You’ve been highly critical of the Job Network System/Jobs Services Australia in the past, do you think that the new model, Jobactive will fare any better than its predecessors?

Mitchell: When governments at different periods over the last decades abandoned the post WWII commitment to full employment, they created a head ache for themselves because even though they were intent on reducing public outlays, short of leaving people to starve or shooting them, they had a huge pool of unemployed that they had to manage in some way.

And consistent with all of the ideology of outsourcing and privatisation etc… they created this nightmarish system of managing the unemployed, which I call an industry. The Job Network system, Job Services Australia and the latest incarnation which has just started to unfold. It’s a new industry and it’s one that has zero productive output.

Its sole role is to manage the unemployed, rather than get them work which was the stated aim since it began in 1998.

The vast array of empirical evidence reveals that it has failed dramatically. Before the GFC, the headlines in the MSM continually featured statements from industry stating that we had massive skill shortages in Australia.

How do you get skill shortages when you’ve been spending billions of dollars allegedly re-training people, and preparing the unemployed with new skill sets? All of the evaluation, one way or the other, indicate that it’s a parasitic, failing industry.

It’s creating a profit seeking behaviour or if it’s a not for profit organisation, some sort of rent seeking behaviour which is somewhat different but always manifests in high executive salaries and high management fees and captures public funding. We also know of the massive fraud in the scheme.

It was meant to be a private market for job services, and it was using all the ideological took kit from the mainstream economics textbooks about the benefit of free markets.

Yet, it wasn’t a market at all.

The government set the price because it set the contracts, the firms weren’t allowed to compete in a market, there were no competing job services. It was all stage-managed. The consumer set the prices and fixed them, there was no competition. It was just a nasty little way of deflecting public responsibility into the private providers who will have a socio-pathological bias in the way they treat the unemployed.

The whole concept of being unemployed was re-framed and suddenly the unemployed became clients or customers.

They’re not customers! They’re unemployed – they haven’t got a job!

Yet, now they’re clients, as if they’re consumers, as if they’ve got choices. In the first model of the JNS, they didn’t have any choices about placements, which is also seems to be the set up with the latest model.

The unemployed are not are a market, they’re not a product!”

AIMN: How does MMT circumvent further unemployment and create jobs?

Mitchell: First you have to understand why unemployment arises. The Neo-liberal ideology that supports this harassment of the unemployed through this unemployment ‘industry’ has created the narrative and the construction that the cause of unemployment is the individual cause. If the person hasn’t invested in skills earlier in life, has a lackadaisical attitude to life, doesn’t want to work, prefers to live on the dole even though its well below the poverty line, that somehow this is created as some sort of Shangri-la that people aspire to as a life style choice.

The unemployed, who are the victims of systemic failure, are suddenly in the media and therefore in the public eye, as the cause of the problem.

You can’t search for jobs that aren’t there. You can push and shove and harass people to search harder but if there’s only 100 jobs and there’s 120 people chasing them, bad luck! You can rev up people through fear and income support loss but if there’s a shortage of jobs – there’s a shortage of jobs!

If you understand the systemic failure – and when there’s systemic constraints individuals have very little power – one person against the system. Why does the system fail to produce enough jobs? Marx knew the answer, and later in a more acceptable form in the West, so did Keynes.

An economy is an input generating, output generating, spending machine.

If the income that’s generated in some period isn’t re-spent the next period, then the production plans of the firms that were based upon that expected spending will fail. They’ll overproduce. When they have unsold inventory, they lay off workers.

It’s so basic. Spending equals income and that equals output It’s the most basic rule of macro – economics that’s been lost in all of this.”

AIMN: Critics of Keynesian economics are quick to point out that Keynes theories eventually led to stagflation. Why would MMT be any different?

Mitchell: Keynesian economics were developed during the fixed exchange rate period, when governments did have financial constraints because of convertibility issues, the tying of currency stocks to gold stocks. Nixon ended Bretton-Woods in 1971 even though it continued to live on for another few years in various forms.

That meant that the central bank was no longer required to maintain the exchange rate, and that monetary policy was no longer tied to the need to attract capital inflow and to suppress imports to maintain the currency position. The Keynesian economics of the ’50s and ’60s was within a fixed exchange rate system, whereas Modern Monetary Theory understands that, but talks about the implications of the break down of Bretton – Woods. The world changed dramatically in 1971 but economic thinking didn’t change with it.

Keynesian economics didn’t create stagflation. The commitment to full employment didn’t create stagflation. Most people have this idea that if the government ‘spends too much’ it creates inflation.

The only way you can attach meaning to that is if you think of inflation as a certain amount of goods being available for sale and too many people wanting to buy them. In economics this is called ‘demand-pull’ inflation. Too much demand for the supply.

Inflation makes sense in that context and therefore you understand that if any of the components of total expenditure like the consumption, investment, or government spending or export spending are in sum greater than what’s available for sale, then there’s got to be some rationing device because we know that the production process responds by increasing output when there’s more spending but if it can no longer increase output it has to ration that demand somehow and that’s by price rises.

That’s a sensible thing and therefore we understand that all expenditure components generate inflationary forces if they outstrip supply. The stagflation of the ’70s, stagflation being inflation and unemployment, the inflation component had nothing to do with the demand being too strong, it was the oil price rise. and so we had up until then the relatively rarer concept of ‘cost pushed’ inflation where oil prices rose, raw material costs rose, the costs of production rose, that pushed up prices and then the government responded to that with contractions to fiscal and monetary policy which caused the unemployment.

As long as you don’t have raw material shocks, and spending is keeping pace with productive activity then there wont be inflation.”

AIMN: Does MMT think it’s worthwhile chasing the very wealthy for their taxes providing they aren’t spending their gains, rather, why not run an increased deficit over a over a short term. What about the rest of us?  Why can’t we have the option of saving rather than paying taxes?

Mitchell: The fundamental principle is that if the non government sector which is made up of the external sector and the firms and households all together and all of their spendings and savings plans, don’t spend as much as they earn each period, then there’ll be a spending gap.

If that gap’s not filled then there’ll be unsold goods produced  from last season, leading to worker lay-offs. So the fundamental idea relates back to the causes of unemployment. If the non-government sector isn’t intent on spending all their income each period, then the government sector has to fill the gap. Typically, it has to run a deficit.

Then you say; what about all those rich people who have got lot’s of savings? Why don’t you tax them more and run a smaller deficit. But if the government reduced its deficit to tax individuals who aren’t spending, then you’re going to get another spending gap and then the level of spending will fall below what’s required to maintain full employment.

Progressives love the idea of taxing the rich but MMT’s builds on the work of Abba Lerner’s 1940s work, Functional Finance and what Functional Finance tells you is governments never tax to raise funds.

The function of tax is to reduce the spending power of the non-government sector. Why do we want to reduce to spending power of the non-government sector? So that you can create more space, real resource space for the government sector to spend, so you keep the economy below the  inflation constraints.

The level of taxes that you’d want to raise in total are calibrated by the amount of spending space that you want the  government to have to maintain full employment. So taxes aren’t to raise revenue. That argument implicitly assumes that you could reduce your deficit because you’d have more money.”

AIMN: So you’re not in favour of the ‘Buffet Solution’ to tax the the rich?

Mitchell: It completely misunderstands the role of taxation and that’s an understanding that MMT completely re-orientates your thinking about.  It’s to reduce spending power to create more real resource space. Given that there’s got to be an overall tax take to make real resource space available for the governments program, it’s not to fund the government’s program, it’s to make the real resources idle that the private sector may have been using, labour and other resources. Because if you don’t make those idle then the government will just create inflation.

Given that there’s got to be some level of taxes commensurate with your aspirations for a public sector program then the question is valid; how do you raise the revenue?  What principles might be bought to bear? One of them is fairness and equity. Do you want low income earners having less purchasing power and the higher income earners paying tax disproportionate to their income?

Is it better to deprive the high income earner the third BMW in the garage or the yacht? Or the latest holiday to Aspen, relative to taking the food off the table of a low income earner? These are equity issues and MMT can’t guide on equity issues. They’re moral philosophies that you have to bring to bear on public policies and society has to develop its own set of norms for that.

I believe that I have a progressive leaning and I think that fairness tells me that I would much rather a low income earner having more food on the table or going to a cafe once a week or attending a sporting event or the cinema than a high earner going to the best restaurants in Aspen every a year.”

AIMN: Finally, any thoughts on the style of economics currently being taught in high school?

Mitchell: It’s consistent with the problems in the undergraduate programs in universities in that it’s essentially teaching a wrong paradigm, it’s ingraining students with invalid constructions about the way the monetary system operates. It uses metaphor and terminology that are plain wrong and it reinforces the inapplicability of the paradigm being taught. My view is that students would be better off not studying it at high school.

 

The Australian Unemployment Union: Hunting Tyrannosaurus-Rex.

There’s an air about Owen Bennett that brings to mind the interviews you see with Edward Snowden.

The same soft spoken approach. The same quiet resignation that the battle will be a long one.

The same quiet resolve to fight it to the end.

Bennett is the prime mover behind the Australian Unemployment Union, which like its predecessors in the 20th century, aims to give both voice and political strength to the unemployed.

He tells me that the producers of A Current Affair rang him recently to ask if he had any dirt on the US owned Max Employment Agency, one of the big winners in the recent government restructure of the Job Network Providers System (Jobs Australia).

“I told them that I’d have a look” he says, “but if you want dirt, then you don’t have to dig very far when you look at the system.”

“Not long after that call we launched our campaign against Max. We’re now being threatened with legal action by their lawyers.”

We’re sitting in a cafe in the shadow of Melbourne’s Trades Hall.

A huge ‘Hopeless’ banner with Tony Abbott’s features emblazoned on it hangs limply against the side of the building, and the warm winter sunshine streams through the window.

We order two rounds of the ‘Student’s Staple’ – a toasted ham and cheese with a flat white coffee on the side.

Bennett surveys the passers-by, many of them from Melbourne University and says; “It’s the worst time to be unemployed in Australia’s post-war history.”

“There are at least 11 people applying for every job vacancy. Rather than address the problem, the government now wants to implement even harsher measures against the unemployed.”

“Under the new rules, from the 1st of July you can be fined for failing to attend a ‘job search’ appointment with your J.A. provider if you don’t have a ‘reasonable excuse’. The amount is roughly $50 which is  a lot more when you consider that the dole is already $280 per fortnight below the poverty line.”

“in addition, the expanded requirements of the Work for the Dole scheme will force job-seekers into unpaid labour far sooner and for much longer.”

“All of this will be overseen by privately owned and operated companies which exist solely for the purposes of profit and not to help the unemployed. That includes the ‘charitable agencies'”, he adds with a wry grin.

“Many of these have already been exposed as fraudulent, and handing them powers to impose fines on the unemployed beggars belief.”

The burning question is; how do the unemployed with little or no money and even fewer resources fight back?

How do you bring down Tyrannosaurus Rex with a bow and arrow?

“By taking one step at a time.”

“The AUU is organising leaflet days at Centrelink and JNS Provider agencies, and a ‘Fight the Fine’ protest on July 1st outside Max Employment in  Melbourne and Adelaide. Our branches in Sydney and Brisbane will hopefully be building towards staging actions in the coming months.”

“We want to pressure the government to bring fraudulent Job Agencies to account and not reward them with multi-million dollar contracts and new powers to hurt the unemployed.”

What about the long-term?

How do around 1.8 million unemployed and underemployed bring pressure on the government to create a jobs market which pays a living wage or at least a benefit payment above the poverty line?

“Firstly by showing the Trade Union movement that the Government’s punitive approach toward the unemployed is actually a well-trodden technique used to undermine the power of workers and organized labour as a whole. Clearly, having 1.8 million impoverished job-seekers competing for only 150,000 job vacancies is going to favour the bosses as they play workers against each other to bring down wages.”

“Once unemployed and employed workers see their common interests and organize accordingly, there is really nothing that can stop us.”

“Secondly, we are determined to smash the media generated myth that the unemployed are ‘dole bludgers’ and ‘job snobs’, and educate people on the reality of unemployment and underemployment.”

“After all, it is largely through these ridiculous stereotypes of the unemployed that big business and its representatives mange to drive a wedge between unemployed and employed workers.”

“In the long term, we want to press for a Job Guarantee based on Modern Monetary Economics.

Bennett delivers his arguments and explanations in a steady and determined tone. There’s no hint of wild-eyed radicalism or  the firebrand’s rhetoric, just a quiet resolve to fight until he reaches his goal.

The Tyrannosaurus Rex which is the Job Network System has romped and stomped on the unemployed for over a decade and a half.

With the emergence of the AUU, one way or another, by hook or by crook, (now where have I heard that lately?) T-Rex is headed for extinction.

The Fight the Fine protest takes place on July 1st 2015 outside the Max Employment offices, 470 Collins St Melbourne from 1.00pm.

 

Why Shorten’s Same-Sex Marriage Bill is Unlikely to Succeed

The key-board kamikaze’s are at it again. Leaping before they look.

Last time it was the certainty of Abbott losing leadership of the LNP.

As rumours of a leadership challenge firmed to certainty in February this year, many writers and commentors rushed to their key-boards in the anticipation and celebration of Abbott’s demise.

What could go wrong?

The polls had Abbott almost down to single figures following the knighthoods debacle, the rage in the electorate at the government’s ineptitude and deception was palpable even among his supporters, and for the first time in eighteen months even the mainstream media seemed to have turned its face from him.

For Abbott defeat was inevitable and not before time either!

It was simply a case of the guests are met, the feast is set; May’st hear the merry din.

But it didn’t quite turn out that way.

This time it’s the private members bill to be introduced by opposition leader Bill Shorten, in parliament on Monday.

The issue of course is the legalization of same-sex marriage, which at first glance would seem to be a case of applying the appropriate rubber stamp.

Ireland has recognized same-sex marriage, Finland too.

In the US, Obama’s support calling state bans on same-sex marriage ‘unconstitutional’, signals  that America may also join the enlightened throng in the near future.

In Australia, the general consensus would also appear in the affirmative.

So what could go wrong?

Introduce the bill, proceed with the second and third readings, send it to the Senate for approval, pass the legislation, smiles all around – job done!

Don’t hold your breath.

The problem with private members bills is that they are notoriously unsuccessful. So too are conscience votes.

In the history of Australia’s parliament there have been four hundred and fourteen private members bills introduced for debate.

Only twenty two have passed into law.

The last being the The Euthanasia Laws Bill 1996, introduced by Kevin Andrews.

The bill deprived the Northern Territory, the ACT and Norfolk Island from passing their own euthanasia laws and similarly to the proposed amendments to the Marriage Act,  MP’s were allowed a conscience vote.

Nor do conscience votes have a strong history of success.

Since 1950 until present, conscience votes have occurred on an average of 1.8 debated every year over a 12 government term – a total of 65 years for roughly 130 allowances for conscience voting.

Of those, only 33 were passed into law.

Private members bills and conscience votes are the pop-corn of politics.

They allow politicians to appear in the light they favour most; He-who-listens-to-the-electorate’s-wishes-and-acts-decisively-on-them.

The outcome, usually a defeat of the bill allows both sides to say; ‘Well, we tried but the electorate has spoken’ without a loss of face.

In this instance, both sides stand to gain whatever the result.

For Shorten, the introduction of a private members bill enables Labor some attempt at reclaiming their image as the party which stands for progressive policies and social justice while at the same time helping to dispel the electorates perception of  an odorless, colorless, and tasteless leader of the opposition.

If the bill is passed the ALP and its supporters will claim it a victory for humanitarian values and common sense.

If the bill is defeated, it’s a case of a progressive party who tried their best and battled valiantly against the odds, and who will continue to champion the cause until elected.

For Abbott and the Coalition, the political gains are even greater.

For Tony Abbott, Shorten’s private members bill couldn’t come at a better time.

Buoyed by the boost in polls following the ‘soft’ budget, the bill and particularly the subject of this bill, allow Abbott to consolidate his position as a leader who-heeds-the-wishes-of-the-electorate-and-acts-decisively-on-them.

The allowance of party members to vote with their conscience is seen as further proof of a prime minister who, although not in agreement with the legalisation of same-sex marriage, remains firm but fair regardless of outcome.

For the Coalition, Shorten’s bill is a win-win situation.

The issue also serves as a distraction from the growing number of problems faced by an inept government.

An almost non existent foreign policy save to remain in lock-step with the US, the secrecy surrounding the TPP Agreement, the bungling over climate change, the appointment of a Bedlamite as the chair of the Business Advisory Council and his soul-mate as the Minister for Immigration… ad infinitum.

While issues such as these are ongoing, the respite provided by the publicity surrounding the bill affords the Coalition breathing space to parlay agreements with members of the Senate to pass those oh-so sticky points in the Budget, and pave the way for an early election, which on the face of things, Abbott should win comfortably.

The issue of same-sex marriage should not be an issue at all.

It should have been resolved long ago. In the 21st century, “marriage should be a matter of more worth than to be dealt by attorney-ship.”

Hopefully, the same-sex marriage bill will be passed but in the light of the few success and many failures of private members bills; Don’t hold your breath.

Gay-marriage

 

Great Scott!…Is he really Bat-Man?

“Is Scott Ludlam really Bat-Man?”

The question was posed on a Facebook page in response to a post publicising Ludlam’s appearance at a screening of the documentary ‘Citizenfour’, and asked half in jest and half in hope.

The question also gives a good barometer reading of the mood of the 18-35yo voter.

Faced with the greatest challenge to the future of mankind, and at the same time confronted with an ever shrinking job market and rising education and health fees, the ‘hipster generation’ is firmly rejecting 20th century ideologies spouted by men in blue (and red) ties, and is searching for a politician with vision and more importantly, one with enough guts to speak out against the injustices of Neo-liberalism and ‘supply side’ economic theory.

A politician who is prepared to subvert the dominant paradigm.

For the hipsters and many not-so-hipsters included, Ludlam fulfils the role perfectly.

From an unsuccessful second candidate on the Greens ticket for the Senate in 2001 and elected to Parliament in 2007, Ludlam’s rise to co-deputy leader of The Greens in 2015 has been remarkably swift.

So swift in fact, that a little over a year ago Scott Ludlam was barely noticed by either the electorate or the media.

The MSM barely gave him a glance at the last federal election save to note that he was likely to lose his seat to Palmer Party candidate Zhenya Wang, following the results of the ballot for senate.

It was during the tussle over the results of awarding Ludlam and Sports Party candidate Wayne Dripulich, fifth and sixth senate spots and the challenge raised by the AEC in the high court following the discovery of missing ballot papers, that Scott Ludlam stood up in the Senate and delivered a blistering attack on the Abbott government.

Ludlam’s “Welcome to Western Australia Mr. Abbott” speech delivered to a near empty chamber, shot him to national prominence.

The speech went viral on the new front page, and in less than eight minutes, Ludlam had made his reputation as a rising force in Australian politics by not only giving voice to the pent up frustration felt by voters at the government’s ineptitude but also by cutting the ground from beneath opposition leader Bill Shorten who had remained almost silent if not compliant during his first six months at the helm of the ALP.

SInce his Senate speech, Ludlam has steadily maintained a high profile both in the mainstream media and more importantly for a politician with their eye on the main prize – social media.

To say that Ludlam is social media savvy is like saying ducks can swim.

Ludlam understands how to use social media to its best advantage far better than any current or previous politician including Kevin Rudd, and he utilizes it with an unerring sense of timing.

Ludlam’s championing of causes such as the plight of the increasing number of homeless, loudly opposing the meta-data laws, the urgency of finding solutions to climate change, and the need for research and development of renewable energy sources has drawn the 18-35 yo voters to him like a magnet, much to the consternation the ALP which is steadily hemorrhaging votes as even long time supporters grow disillusioned with Labor’s ‘more of the same but slightly different’ politics, and Shorten’s lack-luster leadership.

There’s an air of a ‘New Frontier’ that surrounds the senator from Western Australia.

Like a young Jack or Bobby Kennedy, Ludlam has a wide appeal to the youth vote and has been steadily drawing their disaffection with mainstream parties and funnelling it to The Greens.

For their part, The Greens are moving like a well-oiled machine. The change of leadership was swift, bloodless, and much to the chagrin of the MSM – and some sections of social media it would seem, – amicable.

Under the new leadership of Di Natale, The Greens have assumed a more confident and prominent stance as an alternative party with an eye to making steady advances toward increasing its numbers in the House of Reps.

The co-deputy leadership of Waters and Ludlam provides a strong back-up (and an interesting dynamic for future leadership challenges) to Di Natale’s new broom.

While it’s unlikely that Ludlam spends his spare time wearing lycra and body armour to fight crime and evil, the question of whether or not Scott Ludlam is Bat-man is a reflection of his semi-superhero status among this group and it is likely that he will continue to attract a steadily increasing number of disillusioned voters to The Greens especially among 18-35yo’s.

With a fresh leader and a social media savvy deputy who is scooping up voters like he was a driving a front-end loader, for The Greens it appears to be a case of; “Turbines to speed, solar batteries to power!”

Ludlam002

So, What’s On Your Mind?

 

Comments on this post are now closed.

Tim Dunlop, author of The New Front Page:New Media and the Rise of the Audience, argued recently that while the most exciting aspect of the new digital news media was the ability of the reader to directly interact with the writer, the downside was that readers and writers tended to form enclaves.

Especially as far as comments are concerned.

The critical question for a site such as AIMN is; How can the site attract more comments and above all, more people willing to pass comment?

Over the two years since Cafe Whispers evolved into AIMN, the site has had over 7 million visitors and the numbers continue to climb.

The number of comments however, stand at only 1.1% of that figure and of that only a tiny percentage comment regularly.

Arguably, the unwillingness to comment arises from either fear or indifference.

Indifference speaks for itself but in the case of fear, who among us did not feel that tiny tremor of both fear mixed with elation when they made their very first comment?

Who among us didn’t check back on their comment at least a half a dozen times a day to see if anyone had responded?

As your confidence began to build, a thick skin also began to quickly develop because that either as writer or commentor, the sad fact is that you don’t survive in digital forums without one.

The purpose of ‘Your Say’, is to encourage new commentors who may be standing in the shadows to step into the light without too much fear in expressing either opinion or matters of concern.

There’s always plenty to discuss and make comment about.

This week has witnessed the announcement that Tony Abbott will enter into private talks with the heads of the commercial television networks to discuss a relaxation of the cross media ownership laws.

It has been revealed that the Catholic church had put aside $150 million for for future sexual abuse payouts as early as 1988.

In the Asian-Pacific region, China has raised security concerns by building “a Great Wall of sand” in the territorially disputed Spratly Islands.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will lobby the Iranian government to take back asylum seekers when she visits Tehran next week.

Political dithering allows climate change to roll on largely unchecked, adding an ironic twist to Twain’s remark that ‘everyone complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it’.

In entertainment, the fifth series of Game of Thrones has begun, while the first series of the Breaking Bad spin-off ‘Better Call Saul’, has just concluded.

That… and lots more.

So, what’s on your mind?

And furthermore…

As someone not of a religious bent, Edward Eastwood spent the Easter break compiling a list of a few of his least favourite things.

Reality T.V. cooking programs where smarmy overdressed and overfed ‘judges’ humiliate greedy aspirationals in front of a nationwide audience. These same overfed and overdressed epicureans are usually the ones who scream loudest and longest about the need to pay their staff penalty rates.

Ditto for ‘home improvement’ programs where the average home-owner is conned into believing that with no knowledge of either building or architecture and with the aid of a ‘mate whose done a bit of this himself’, the renovators delight into which they’ve sunk their hard-earned into for the next twenty years can be magically transformed into a palace that has doubled in value.

Bunnings hath no greater love than it has for the cashed up effwit with a headful of ‘brilliant ideas’ taken from a television program.

Cyclists who abandon common sense in the belief that the rules of the road will shield them from the laws of physics as applied by a real estate agent at the wheel of a 4WD while using a mobile phone and running late for a meeting.

MSM financial gurus, economic experts, and assorted Ju-ju men who continually espouse the ‘government deficit is public debt’ line while delivering what is little more than an interpretive dance.

In the case of Ross Greenwood, this flannel is delivered at a speed and volume that would cause even the most hardened of ‘thrash metal’ aficionados to wince.

Sporting commentators who rush to the field to interview athletes and ask them, “how do you feel?”, making the viewer long for the reply; “With my hands, Eddie…”

Corporate mission statements that use weasel words to describe their operations. Doubly so for school reports and employment advertisements, and in the case of the link provided; semi-literate to boot. Then again what else would you expect from this particular corporation?

Why not be honest and tell the applicant that they’ll be cleaning toilets and that several of the board members suffer from palsy, so it would be a good idea to keep an eye out for stray nuggets that may have missed their target.

While we’re on the subject of nuggets, Q&A’s Tony Jones. The only interviewer in the MSM who asks a question and then answers it himself before his interlocutor has a chance to open their mouth.

Fad diets, the latest being Paleo. If you want to live and behave like a Neanderthal, join the Liberal Party.

Benedict Cumerbatch as Sherlock Holmes. Another bloody Hollywood ‘re-imagining’. Why bother when Jeremy Brett did it so much better in the 80s.

The entire front bench of the House of Fools aka the Abbott government. One look at Warren Truss, you just can’t help but think perhaps all the talk of ‘Lizard People’ may have more than a ring of truth to it.

Warren Truss

Unemployment looms for Job Network staff: Karma’s a bitch

Are staff at the Job Network Providers about to fall prey to rising unemployment? Edward Eastwood reports:

My case-work officer at the Job Network provider doesn’t seem too bad a human being. It’s just that he has some strange ideas and is looking very worried.

He worries about dole bludgers and those who rort the system, he worries about Islamic terrrorists. He thinks that putting young unemployed into the army is a good idea. He sees himself as an avenger appointed by that most put upon of species; the Australian tax-payer.

On this day however, he is not worried about any of the above. Today he’s worried about job loss – his own.

Following the usual meet and greet, he tells me that Job Network provider which employs him has lost its contract and in all likelihood, he too will lose his job.

I make noises of mild surprise and then we go through the same old rigmarole, where am I working?, how many hours?, is my employer aware that I want more work? Would I like him to phone my employer and tell them that I’m looking for more hours?

“Sixteen.”

“Yes.”

“NO!”

I mention that I’m teaching English as a Second Language to middle aged Vietnamese who once worked in factories and are now forced by the ‘earn or learn’ policies to attend English classes.

He tells me that there is a crackdown on “the people who having been doing these courses over and over. Some of them, particularly the Vietnamese, having been learning English for nine years.”

“Oh yeah, what do you know about Vietnamese culture?”

He gives me a blank look.

“It’s a Confucian culture which means that it’s both family and socially centred. Most Vietnamese would rather work in their own family businesses rather than work for someone else.”

“When they came as refugees, they worked every shit job that the locals wouldn’t do. They made the cars, they cleaned the toilets, they worked the factories and the fields.

“Now the factories have all but disappeared, what is it that you expect them to do?”

I get another blank look and then he turns to the screen and begins to punch in a few details.

More rigmarole and we move into phase two of the meeting; ‘checking the clients welfare 101’.

He can see I’m in a shitty mood but fools rush in, and he attempts to engage me in friendly conversation.

“What do you think is the greatest danger in the world today?”

“Global warming. Why? What do you think is the greatest danger in the world?”

“Fundamentalist terrorism.”

“Oh yeah, so you think that there’s a good chance that ISIS will succeed in imposing Sharia Law under an 11th century Caliphate and do away with democracy?”

“We’ve gotta be on our guard!”

For some reason, his answer shifts the conversation to his views of putting young unemployed into military service.

I ask him if he’s ever served in the Armed Forces and he tells me “No, but I did try to get in.”

Another armchair warrior who have never served but would eagerly force service on others as a cure to society’s ills.

This time it’s my turn to give the stony gaze.

He ploughs on.

“I saw something about investigations into RTO’s a day or so ago. What’s that all about?”

“I don’t know. I did see that TAFE’s are coming under investigation altering the grades of international students so that they pass the entrance exam.”

“Yeah, I had woman in here who had a Cert Two in Aged Care telling me she wanted to learn English! I mean, how did she get the qualification if she couldn’t speak English?”

“I knew she was lying about not speaking English. How could she get the qualification if she didn’t speak the language spoken in class?”

“Good question. What was the upshot?”

“It went to the team manager and in the end they let her do the English classes.”

“So, how did you feel about that?”

“Well, I knew something was phoney. Either she was phoney  or her qualification was phoney.”

“What did you decide?”

“I came to the conclusion that her qualification was phoney.”

“Yeah, well I guess that’s what you get when you try to make a commodity out of education and sell it for a profit”. When the owners interest is solely pecuniary, academic rigour and standard take a distant second place”.

No answer to that one either, and he turns his attention to booking my next appointment.

“Ok, I’ll see you in three weeks and then I’ll also be able to tell you whether we’ll be here for any longer.”

“What happens to you?”

“I’ll have to find something else. I also work part time for a cleaning company and I might be able to get full time work with them.”

I can’t help myself and decide to twist the knife.

“How well do you think you’ll survive on a part time cleaners pay, and how long do you think it will be before you’re replaced with a 457 visa holder?”

“Oh no,” he says. “They’re pretty good. I don’t think they’d do that.” He frowns and a flicker of doubt crosses his face. “Nah… they wouldn’t do that.”

“Oh yeah? Are you sure about that?”

“Yeah, pretty sure.”

“How do you feel about this?”

He gives an exasperated sigh and sinks back into his chair.

“It’s just so much stress and anxiety. You don’t know where you are from one day to the next. Whether you’ve got a job or not.”

I want to put the boot in and tell him that now he knows how every person who walks through the door feels and they also carry the added weight of self appointed avengers of the tax-payer and righters of rorts breathing down their neck but I say nothing.

I can see the fear in his eyes. He knows that very shortly he’ll be in the same situation as his clients, struggling to find work and reliant on the dole to make up the difference. Which means that he’ll also be reporting to his counterpart at another Job Network provider – and it fills him with anxiety.

Working on the front line of unemployment he knows the real truth of the job market and the future looks even more bleak than the present.

He’s my ninth case officer over a period of nearly four years and typical of the staff in these organisations and their claims to petty officialdom.

The system of private employment agencies enforcing welfare regulations while at the same time receiving subsidies for job placement or breaching offenders was never going to work in the long term.

While the Howard government was successful in keeping the focus on ‘mutual obligation’ to the tax-payer by the unemployed  as a means of deflecting attention away from from its own half of the bargain – that of job creation through government initiative, the Abbott government has no such luxury.

In the past eighteen months, the tide of unemployment has risen so rapidly as to make itself felt even among the ‘enforcement arms’ of the government’s welfare watch-dogs.

As the unemployment rate climbs and the job vacancies plummet, the JNS contractors are increasingly unable to meet their ‘targets’ and so contracts are cancelled.

For the corporations who own these organisations, it’s simply a matter of a name change and a re-tender for available contracts.

For many employees, it’s joining their clients among the ranks of the working poor or the unemployed.

As I walked back to my car, I think of the countless people who have been caused anxiety and stress trying to comply with policies designed to be punitive for the unemployed while at the same time profiting from their misfortune, enforced by people like my case officer and the organisation he works for.

I try to have some sympathy for his plight but f*ck ‘im. Karma’s a bitch.

Unemployment

 

 

A Few Words About The Use Of Assumption in Political Analysis

There is a truism which runs; whenever you base your judgment on assumption, you automatically become the first three letters of that word. That is, an ass.

In their anticipation of Tony Abbott’s predicted demise as leader of the Coalition and their headlong rush to join Madam Defage at ringside, many bloggers particularly on this site, but also in the MSM, have overlooked the fact that it is only a MOTION for a leadership spill and not a spill itself.

Should the motion be successful;  then and only then, will a leadership spill occur.

It is often said that politics is the ‘art of the possible’ but that is only partly true.

In order to achieve the possible, first one must have the numbers and the real base line of any politics be it right or left or anywhere between is always dependent on the number of followers garnered.

A motion can easily be dismissed if those who move the motion do not have the numbers to carry it forward, and it is more than likely that the motion for a leadership spill will be defeated.

There are several indicators to support this argument. Firstly, although welcomed by the back bench and one suspects much of the public at large, the timing by LNP back-benchers Dennis Jensen and Craig Kelly is a shade premature.

A better strategy would have been to wait until around late March – the 23rd perhaps- or mid April, by which time which Abbott would have inextricably buried himself in his own mire.

Also of significance is Turnbull’s refusal to commit himself as a contender. Turnbull like Keating has only “one shot in his locker” and should it fail, Turnbull knows full well that any hope of re-gaining the leadership either in government or opposition will be gone forever.

It is highly likely that both Turnbull and Bishop will side with Abbott to defeat the motion – at present. This is not to say that either wont support a future motion but for the LNP right-wing it’s a matter of either hanging together or hanging separately.

Finally, Abbott’s strategy of ‘setting out after the enemy but arriving before he does’ in moving the party room meeting forward to Monday instead of Tuesday deprives those who support the motion the extra time to gather the assurance of support.

Abbott is a seasoned political animal and veteran head-kicker who thrives in a confrontational environment. He is not to be underestimated in his determination to hold on to the leadership, nor is the far right of the party in providing the support to keep him there.

So let’s not rush to dance on his political grave due to the assumption that the motion will be passed, or for that matter if the motion is passed that Abbott does not have the numbers to retain his leadership. To do so is to make an ass of ourselves.

Sweet revenge as Queensland voters give Newman rough end of pineapple

It was sweet revenge for Queensland shadow minister for the Environment Kate Jones, as she easily wrested her seat back from Premier Campbell Newman.

Jones who lost her seat to Newman in 2012, fought back to reclaim the seat in a stunning 10% swing for Jones and an overall 11.4% swing to Labor.

Newman now joins Victoria’s Denis Napthine in the dubious honour of becoming a one-term government – something that would have been almost inconceivable a few years ago.

Newman congratulated Jones on her victory and in a masterful statement of the bleeding obvious declared; “My political career is over”.

While some seats remain in doubt, it would appear that the ALP have secured 43 seats of the 45 seats they needed to govern in their own right, with independent Peter Wellington retaining his seat and Bob Katter’s Australian Party with two seats.

The strength of the swing has sent shock-waves through the Federal Coalition with its ramifications for Abbott and the LNP.

Newman and Abbott are two peas in a pod, with both coming to power on false assurances, and both implementing a previously hidden agenda designed to destroy the foundations of Australian democracy through means of a warped and discredited ideology.

With the certainty of a leadership challenge to Abbott within the next few weeks, and an approval rating of 57- 43% in Labor’s favour on a two party preferred basis, Abbott’s plans to unveil his government’s ‘re-boot’ plans at the National Press Club tomorrow are doomed before the PM utters a word – the electorate is no longer listening.

Significantly, while Premier in waiting  Annastacia Palaszczuk has stopped short of declaring victory, the roar of approval which greeted her thanks to the union movement for its support during the campaign proves that there’s life in the old dog yet and that unity is strength.

Eeeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo 

In Praise of Tony Abbott

Now before you start screaming, and wondering what kind of drug is this stupid bastard on, let me take a moment to explain.

Yes, it’s true I have been mainlining schardenfreude and it’s heady stuff, the real deal, not that synthetic crap you’d score from some guy called Sir Rupert behind the dunnies at the Melbourne Club.

Happily, there are many more like me and it’s all due to the efforts of Tony Abbott.

You see without Tony Abbott, the Left in Australia would still be languishing somewhere in the 1990s.

Abbott has been able to unite the Left including the more moderate sections of his own party in a way that no other Conservative politician including Menzies or Howard could ever do.

What may be termed as the ‘traditional Left’ with its union affiliations and working class support base had been in steady decline during the Hawke-Keating years and all but disappeared during the Howard regime aided and abetted by the ‘small target’ stance taken by Beasley and Crean.

Generational difference also played its part. Generation X, “bred in modest comfort and now housed in universities” felt no affinity with unionism nor with being ‘working class’ but rather were drawn toward Howard’s promises of a ‘relaxed and comfortable’ middle-class.

Who need unionism with its connotations of entrenched corruption and grimy fingered belligerence? Middle-class welfare and family tax benefits A and B were the go, and access to easy credit provided the lubricant for purchase of the house, the 4WD, and those oh so important private school fees.

No one wanted to question what the price would be for this bourgeois bonanza least of all Howard and Costello.

Generation Y followed dutifully in Gen X’s footsteps.

This is not to say that Leftist activism ceased, but the younger generation were drawn to the Greens rather than the ALP, and while the traditional unionists fought and won their last great battle in 1998 against Corrigan over the Wharf dispute, they also saw the writing on the wall, took their redundancy packages and got while the going was good.

Nor did the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years see any revival of the Left’s fortunes and arguably the continued vacuum allowed on one hand, the rise of a meglomaniac with little talent and on the hand, a competent politician hamstrung by an appalling sense of timing.

Enter Tony Abbott.

Abbott’s short-comings have been well documented on this site and in the MSM over the past few days so there’s no need to regurgitate them.

What Abbott has done from the outset of his government, is to provide the impetus for the emergence of a new and most significantly, intergenerational Left.

Almost single-handely, Abbott has provided the glue for the cohesion of young and old, middle class and working poor to unite in opposition to his government’s policies.

The fact that a Conservative politician rather than a Progressive has been able to tap the vast well-spring of voter dissatisfaction and frustration with Neo-liberalism which has been building steadily over the past decade and a half is a delicious irony. (note to self: no more schardenfreude this arvo or you’ll have to go and have a little bit of a lie down).

Moreover, this new and united voice has served as a clear prompt and reminder to the minor parties.

For the Greens it’s an indication of continued and growing support and this is evidenced by the outcome of the recent Victorian state election.

For Palmer United and the independents its a firm reminder not to waver in their opposition to the LNP’s deliberate determination to destroy the very foundations on which Australia has been built, for to do so is political suicide.

The emergent New Left bears little resemblance to the traditional Left save for its concern with social justice. As argued above, it is intergenerational in a manner that the old Left could never achieve.

It is new media (social media) savvy and it has found its found its voice, one which carries across the globe in an instant, and more importantly it is the voice of a collected people from all walks of life as they unite in concern for the fate of their society and of the planet.

While its likely that a new Left would have emerged in the near future, under a more moderate leader it is unlikely that it would have occurred so swiftly or with such determination.

So as the Wreck of the Hesperus that has been Abbott’s leadership sinks beneath the waves, let us give a brief moment of thanks to the individual who, in his determination to divide the nation unconsciously provided the tinder to the flames which are now engulfing him.

It’s the Chalice from the Palace that has the pellet with the poison!

Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall at the LNP Headquarters at this moment?

As most of Australia swelters in the summer heat, quietly, oh so very quietly, in ‘the smoke filled back-rooms’ of the Liberal Party, tactics are being discussed while promises are made and gifts exchanged.

For the Coalition, the electoral barometer has plummeted from ‘change’ to ‘stormy’ and shows no sign of movement nor is it likely to.

Through his bungling and imperialist bluster demonstrated toward both Indonesia and China during the first two months of his term while at the same time shamelessly toadying to the US and Japan, and followed swiftly by the delivery of a budget hated by the community for its unfairness and blatant bias, Abbott had already set in motion the end of his leadership before it had even begun.

As early as its first quarter, the government’s approval rating began to slide and after May steadily declined to its present rating of 42.5% to the ALP’s 57.5% on a two party preferred basis.

This is not surprising considering the electorate has been a horrified witness to a government which careens from crisis to crisis in the pursuit of God only knows what, while leaving a trail of destruction in its wake.

Arguably, whilst the budget dug the government’s grave, the cuts to the ABC, SBS, and the underhanded implementation of the Medicare co-payment. screwed down the lid on the coffin.

As early as January 2014 the public began to develop selective deafness where Abbott’s statements were concerned about the need for tough budget measures, and by November they had stopped listening – entirely.

Despite the best efforts of the Coalition spin doctors to paint Abbott as a credible leader, nothing has worked.

Not the threat of terrorist attacks, not the deployment of troops to fight terrorist threats – real or imagined, and certainly not ‘shirt-front’ diplomacy.  The gaffes and parochialism of Davos were repeated at the G20, and Abbott side-lined and reduced to insignificance by Obama and Xi’s declaration to combat climate change.

Mid term now looms, and the LNP power brokers are on the verge of panic.

When the electorate loses all faith in the government and treats it with ignore, there can only be one outcome and on the results of polls such as this they know that as far as a second term goes, alles verloren. 

Their only option is to try and limit the damage.

This leaves two courses of action.

Keep Abbott as leader and try to tough it out with the threat of a double dissolution if the government’s bills continued to be blocked in the Senate.

A double dissolution however carries a high risk. With all seats in both houses open to contest, the results are unpredictable and neither Abbott, Palmer, or the independents are likely to relish another round of electioneering so soon.

In Abbott’s case, even if the Coalition were to be returned with a majority in the lower house, it may also mean that the government could face an even more intractable and hostile Senate than it does at present.

For Palmer and PUP, it would be at best a loss of their present power bloc; at worst, obliteration as the electorate tires of both Palmer’s antics and his caprices.

In the minor league, neither Leyonhjelm nor Lambie are likely to be re-elected due to their innate stupidity and the Motoring Enthusiasts Party are also unlikely to drive much further.

A double dissolution is not entirely risk free for the ALP either. Shorten has been able to profit through the strategy of adapting a ‘small target’ stance (and been roundly criticised for it) while standing back and allowing the government’s own ineptitude to seal its fate.

An election campaign however, would require a far more aggressive stance by Labor than demonstrated since its time in opposition, and next few months will also be critical for Shorten to prove beyond doubt to the public that he’s P.M. material.

The other option is to replace Abbott as leader. While pundits argue that this would open the LNP to the same accusations of disunity, disloyalty and disorganisation levelled at the Gillard government, the Coalition’s backers know that the urgency of the necessity to sacrifice the crown in order to save the purse grows by the day.

In less than half a term, the ‘Iron Throne’ of Abbott style Conservative government has become one of porcelain located not in a gleaming bathroom of ‘free markets and workplace reform’ but rather in a political outhouse infested by Red-backed spiders.

But who will ascend it? Truss, Hunt, and Robb are nolo contendere, and Macfarlane would do little more that to cause a rise in  sales of throat lozenges.

Pyne will never lead the party as long as his Gluteus Maximus points to the ground, and while Hockey and Morrison may be palatable to the right wing of the party, as far as the electorate is concerned; both are in the same category as Pyne.

This leaves a choice between either Turnbull or Bishop. Arguably Turnbull is far more likely to be acceptable to the public despite blotting his copy book with the NBN and the defence of Abbott’s cuts to the ABC, but Malcolm is so utterly despised by both the right and centre right of the Coalition, that he is unlikely to be able to garner enough support to mount a successful  challenge.

For the power brokers, Bishop is the only option but it’s not going to be easy to sell a someone who has been described by a Right wing US think tank as; “Australia’s Margret Thatcher and who is as tough as a woodpecker’s lips”.

Australian’s have had more than enough of chest beating, beak whetting Conservative politicians vowing to implement ‘tough measures’ against the most vulnerable in the community in order to drive down a non-existent ‘debt’.

For her own part, Bishop surely knows that to assume leadership is to accept that the chalice from the palace has the pellet with the poison and most of the next eighteen months will be spent in frenzied efforts to reverse the government’s fortunes.

The replacement of Abbott as leader of the LNP is a foregone conclusion. In back-rooms of the party he has been weighed and measured and now stands on the trap-door of the gallows. It’s only a matter of time before the lever is pushed.