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Abbott’s Army



I always thought I was pretty good at maths but this Green Army thing has got me beat.

“This is a $300 million policy over the forward estimates period and we believe that the $300 million over the forward estimates period will get us at least 1,500 Green Army teams to operate around Australia,” Abbott said.

The Coalition plans to have 250 teams of 10 people ready to start work by next July.

Each team will be comprised of nine trainees – paid a training wage of around $400 a week – and one coordinator on an annual salary of more than $60,000.

The maximum fortnightly dole payment is about $500 for singles and $450 each for couples, so to boost them to $800 a fortnight will cost at least $300 a fortnight extra. That means each team will cost somewhere between $130,200 (300x26x9+60,000) and $146,900 (350x26x9+65,000) a year.

The 1500 teams, that Tony assures us we will have eventually, will cost almost $200 million a year on top of their dole payments and that’s without any equipment, trees, transport or administrative costs.

In its MYEFO budget update, the Coalition said it had earmarked $300 million for the first three years of the Green Army scheme, with a further $222.1 million in 2017‑18 and $289.2 million in 2018‑19 – $811.3 million in total – the cost of which will be partially offset by a reduction in income support payments in the Social Services portfolio.

How do you reduce income support payments whilst paying them a higher training wage and with unemployment predicted to rise?

Needless to say, the government has asked for help in making this work, so here are my ideas.

Each green soldier was costing you an extra $150 a week. Give them $100 and you will save $50 a week per soldier – 50x15000x52=$39 million a year saved.

The 1500 supervisors on “over $60,000 pa” are going to cost you about $100 million a year. Did anyone do that sum? If you don’t have an army you won’t need supervisors or equipment.

Instead of spending all that money on your green army

  • increase the Newstart allowance
  • provide affordable housing or rental assistance.
  • subsidise childcare on a means tested basis
  • provide affordable reliable public transport
  • provide assistance in writing resumes and interview technique
  • establish a government employment service
  • commit to needs-based funding for education
  • provide means-tested scholarships for university
  • reopen the trades training centres

You might be surprised how many of these people will be able to find jobs if they don’t have to live on the streets or worry about how they can possibly afford to buy food let alone school uniforms or a computer. Surely providing shelter, education, hope and some dignity will be far more productive than pressganging young people into slavery planting trees because you are too stubborn to have a carbon price.


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  1. John Fraser


    @Kaye Lee

    You've got me scratching my head.

    Why don't you write to Murdoch's papers and ask them.

    Apparently they have the answers to every "policy" that the Abbott gang have ever thought of.

    The good thing about it is that i'm not the only Aussie scratching my head and asking HTF …… that's like WTF only with "How" as the first word …….. are they going to do that.

    I would sign off "lol" ….. but I don't laugh because I know a lot of Aussies will be hurt before Abbott is unemployed.

  2. kmatilda2013

    Press ganging young people into slavery planting trees is an absurd idea and very expensive, but from my observations the main problem with tree planting projects is that they usually end up with an absolute minimum of actual mature trees after 5 years. Most of the plants die within the first year due to a lack of after care such as no water, massive weed infestations, being run over by motor bikes, dug up by animals seeking easy access to roots or perhaps fertiliser, or simply smothered by their own green plastic guards which are poorly positioned and fall over in the wind. This then greatly increases the amount of plastic rubbish contaminating the environment including the waterways.
    I have observed tree plantings in many areas on public land over 15 years and the results are always the same, about 99% failure due to neglect. We certainly won’t alter climate change with this paltry effort.

  3. lawrencewinder

    ….or “Rabbott” could build Workhouses!

  4. Trevor Vivian

    To Kaye Lee. Yet another well written and resourced discussion. On the button.

  5. allenmcmahon

    Will it be led by a three star general, have a cute name like ‘operation toxic waters’ and will in parks operations be subject to a news embargo.

  6. Big Al

    Pink Batts Mark 2.Like Pink Batts every shonky business in australia will be trying to get involved in this.

  7. doctorrob54

    You are good at maths.As for the two dildos that are ruining this country,What can one say when the man
    they selected as Treasurer outsources his portfolio.FFS we are,the working class and battlers,in deep trouble.

  8. Matthew

    Great piece, just goes to show that all Abbott does is for show. No positives will come out of this. It’s social engineering designed to create an underclass. How very typically LNP.

  9. Carol Taylor

    Putting two and two together, Abbott’s expanded Work for the Dole program will be The Green Army. Either that or Abbott intends to hire an army of trained arborists and bet it is that it will be work for the dole.

  10. rossleighbrisbane

    If it’s a green “army” does that mean its activities will be unreported for “operational reasons”. After all if we were at war, we wouldn’t want to let the “enemy” know where the trees are.

  11. Ange Kenos

    It is forbidden to use sense and logic when referring to anything Abbott

  12. Terry2

    If you reckon there were workplace health & safety issues associated with ‘pink batts’ (where you were talking about people employed in the private sector ) just wait until you have a few ‘green army’ participants falling down gullys, being bitten by spiders and snakes or chopping off their fingers and toes with sundry implements under Tony’s scheme.

    Of course, unlike pink batts, any such injuries will have nothing to do with the government : we shall see !

  13. Gilly

    Oh dear !, Tony fresh out of brain farts, and Joe fresh out if fingers. Again !

  14. Billy moir

    The rabbott produces the long distance(far) tea with no substance but smells. Sell ideas with no forethought and makes policy off someone else’s mouth.

  15. Jan Smith

    Another good article Kaye Lee – thank you.

    Let’s suppose all these trees do get planted and survive, what happens to their usefulness for absorbing carbon when a Bush fire destroys these forests?

    I think your suggestions are heaps better – both for people and for the planet.

  16. abbienoiraude

    Your calm factual writings and information is always impressive and always shocking!
    I love your plan to help people, but then again, that is never the LNP’s aim is it? They are doing that thing they do, punishing a group so the LNP supporters feel better about themselves, like a bully watching in glee as the bullied get the cane across the bum. Delight for those who ‘want their share’ but don’t want anyone else to have theirs.

  17. patsy

    another good article kaye…..but as I have quoted before common sense is not so common …pulling down the brick houses that labor built and replacing them with cardboard ones…….They could not lead a parade let alone a country!!!!!!!

  18. Stephen Tardrew

    Kay I am sick and tired of the denigration of the poor and working class. In early days I spent 14 years working in the Lonsdale foundry Chrysler and then Mitsubishi sweating in the heat and toxic dust of the melt-group on hot summer days. My lungs now suffer the consequences. No sympathy needed just facts. I learned relativity theory from a fellow worker, studied literature with a janitor; had a shop steward who was a brilliant chess player and was good friend with the plant manager an so on. I worked with a wonderful menagerie of people form all cultures and ended up marrying into an great Italian family. We were ordinary people living ordinary lives. Many had served in the second world war and Vietnam was in full swing. I loved these people as mates and fellow workers without whom there is no wealth. I cannot express the sorrow I feel at the vilification of people who are a necessary part of this universe otherwise they would not exist. It has become a world of the privileged by the privileged and for the privileged while constantly using victim blame as a weapon for avoiding social responsibility. These people do not choose to be janitors that is their lot and they are good bad and generous like any other group in society. Without janitors and sweepers there is no wealth and I don’t need a Marxist or social justice rave to show me what is right and just. Increased purchasing power of the poor and low income is the medicine a stagnant economy needs to drive growth. Stuff econometrics, Friedman, Keynes etc. Every human being is a necessary part of the matrix of existence and deserves to be treated fairly and with respect. I spent years working with the homeless; drug and alcohol; youth services; domestic violence and service veterans and there is a clear set of causal contingencies that lead to dysfunction. Low IQ is a burden you just don’t want to shoulder. Many priviledged people have no idea what it is like to work mundane repetitious jobs for a pittance. Workers should be rewarded for taking the burden of mind numbing occupations. People do not choose there genetic heritability or place of birth, but who cares, lets just blame them for the results of rampant greed and inequality. I am so disillusioned at the state of political discourse and the lack of common sense by academics. Science is treated like some nasty social disease by ignorant religious fanatics destroying the lives of others. Just don’t get me started on refugees, foreign aid or the environment. I would love to shove the pungent smell of the slums of Delhi under the noses of our ignorant politicians and see how long they would stand for it. Conservatism is dead mans backward referral to an idealized past that never existed. Just read Howard Zinn’s history of America to see what the land of the free and home of the brave have in store for the poor. Labor has failed the working class by trying to play the capitalist greed game. Labor meant something completely different back then and that is where it must return to embrace, and utilize, the benefits of modern technology for the good of all. Yes I am and idealist and ain’t nothing gonna change it.

  19. mark

    What it also does it puts pressure on all the small business whose activities involve bush regeneration (tree planting. All of a sudden they have to complete with a low paying government subsidized workforce demeaning the work a lot of its employees work.

  20. Kaye Lee

    Does ‘Work for the Dole’ work: An Australian perspective on work
    experience programs?*

    Jeff Borland
    Department of Economics
    University of Melbourne

    “The study provides several important general lessons on the effect of youth labour market
    programs. Most significantly, it adds further weight to the predominant body of evidence
    from the United States and Europe that finds little beneficial effect from participation on exit
    from unemployment or labour market outcomes, and supports other studies that have found a
    major problem with participation in labour market programs to be the reduction in job search
    effort that results.”

  21. jasonblog

    I agree with everything you said, but I also don’t think the “Green Army” (why is there such a militaristic overtone to everything these fascists do?) is such a bad idea.

    This is a very general comment because I don’t think overall the Direct Action plan is particularly bright, but an aspect of DA that does appeal to me is the proactive measure of going out and performing landscape restoration / rehabilitation (call it what you will).

    If the upside of DA is getting young folk onto a pathway for a training qualification & if these “Green Army” projects help put money back into regional communities then that is a good thing.

    The downside is that the “Green Army” & DA overall is simply a media stunt that will be quietly jettisoned because the LNP couldn’t give a flying stuff about climate change & the environment anyway.

    It also runs the risk of being a National Party rort much in the way they often look to hijack land care funding. (Just as an aside, the National Party policy on Landcare seems to be more about cutting accountability for how funds are spent as much as anything else The Conversation had an article in Sept 2013 about Landcare & the Green Army. A particular sentence was curious and perhaps ominous “Some regional groups have also demonstrated a preference for targeting their funds towards individual landholders rather than Landcare group activities.” )

    A risk with the “Green Army” is that simply becomes a taxpayer funded rort where young folk are providing underpaid labour to the squattocracy for the immediate benefit of the squattocracy and very little benefit to the rest of Australia.

    Of course the smartest plan would be to have a price on carbon pollution & establish a Biodiversity Fund & have land managers submit evidence based project proposals to assist in a co-ordinated approach to developing bio-links, etc, etc. This way land management – i.e. reveg works that seek to get biodiversity back into the landscape – can be used as part of carbon trading. That would result in a market based solution that results in small business opportunities that in turn create employment / training possibilities. Hmmm…

    The Tony Abbott government is going to cost Australia dearly.

  22. Monicas wckd stpmthr (@Monicas_WS)

    I am a member of a local environmental group that re-vegetates areas in our suburb. Planting is a very small part of our work – the area needs to be cleared of weeds, soil prepared and dug, planting, watering and identifying them clearly so council workers don’t run over them or whipper-snipper them. Tree guards are only used to protect the plants from kangaroos. We water all our plantings every month for the first summer, and often for the second summer too. Even with all the care taken, sometimes our success rate is as low as 50%.

    It appears that the “Green Army” will be “work for the dole” under another name. How much care will these people take when planting? How are they going to get to the areas to plant trees? Many unemployed can’t afford to run a car, and the extra money on top of the dole will be swallowed up in costs (food, transport, child care etc) associated with attending Green Army activities.

    Of course, what is the point of planting more trees when State and Federal Governments are cutting down forests and allowing land clearing for mining? There’s no point planting more trees if they are being cut down even faster.

  23. Kaye Makovec

    Questions, questions, questions! Please stop trying to make sense of their nonsensical proposed proposals as it is an impossible possibility, because they clearly misunderstand that an exact estimate of their indirect direct action will only produce intense apathy and negative growth within the job seeker’s comfortable misery. They have enough problems now without Abbott’s deceptively honest cruel kindness amid his deafening silence. I for one am looking forward to a brisk vacancy 🙂

  24. pvcann

    Window dressing. When economics is practised by amateurs you end in bovine effluent as with this project. As with all unemployment issues, it is people who become assumptions, stereotypes, perceptions and the like. I know that the unemployed I know and have known want work, but not by force, stealth, or coercion. Labour camps probably coming soon.

  25. Jinxx

    If the green army is run anything like the batts scheme NOBODY WILL get any qualifications or even payed correctly! I was told by the Minister of Education IN PERSON on a break from working my ass off in ceilings above 60 degrees Celcius to meet the minister that I would gain qualifications in business administration… I questioned that in itself as I was certainly not doing any administration and barely even any PR I was a straight out installer… being under payed and worked sometimes 18hours days for no overtime (averaging probably 12-13hrs a day being paid for 8) on the promise of qualifications for something I was not even doing….

  26. olddavey

    Kaye Lee @January 28, 2014 • 9:57 am:
    Kaye, that report has way to much science involved in gathering the info for it to have any meaning for these dullards.
    The best way to find out if anything works is to ask Chaffy Jones, Pinhead Pickering or Das Bolter. Or better still, read the inane comments their slavish followers make.
    It’s the only way to run a country.

  27. Fed up

    Maybe back in time to a well used solution. Shovel, to shift the sand from one end of the beach to the other.

    Yes, back to the days of the Great Depression. I wonder with such high, world wide unemployment of the time, they thought they were proving.

    At least the workhouse puts a roof over their heads, and some food in their stomachs.

  28. FryaDuck

    @Kaye, that’s a rather small number of people in the “Abbot Army”. There are about 716,000 currently unemployed, where are they going to get the projects etc to put all these people for Work-for-the-Dole (WftD)? How fast will the volunteer groups fill up when they have compulsory slave labour? Who is paying for the child support of those mothers who will be forced into slavery?

    MSM seems to think that WftD ceased when Rudd was elected, they neglect to state that it’s still there and still totally useless waste of time and cost for both the unemployed and the WftD provider.

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