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The Government is betraying our right to work

If there is one single fact that proves the government’s “jobs and growth” mantra is a deliberate and misleading lie, it is this: Mass unemployment occurs when there is insufficient spending in the economy, to generate a demand for labour that would create enough jobs for everyone who wants one.

Thus, for a party to commit to a policy of jobs and growth and then fail to address it satisfactorily, can only leave us to conclude that it never intended to honour that commitment in the first place.

Put simply, the government chooses the level of unemployment and the circumstances under which that occurs. They treat employment as a non- core right, subject to other considerations.

Those other considerations centre on the demands of our commercial and industrial leaders. Those leaders engage in targeted lobbying tactics, contribute to campaign funds and threaten to retrench staff if their demands are not met. These captains of industry call the shots. Governments are bullied into complying.

All too often we hear politicians telling us how important it is to protect jobs. What they are saying is, they want to protect the existing workforce from those who are unemployed. That existing workforce is determined by employers. It is the employers who decide the appropriate level of employment.

And this brings us to the act of betrayal by government. Employment is a fundamental human right, not something to be manipulated for the benefit of any particular group or individual.

The whole “jobs and growth” mantra is a confidence trick, a deliberately constructed three-word slogan to deceive a gullible public into believing what is, in fact, the opposite of the government’s intention.

In the words of Professor Bill Mitchell, “After all the spending (and saving) decisions of the non-government sector have been taken and implemented, any idle labour is the result of the net spending position of the government being lower than is required to generate full employment.”

It is the government’s failure to spend, that serves the cause of employers who are able to suppress real wages and by extension, jobs and growth. Our commercial and industrial leaders suppress them to the levels it decides are appropriate. Those levels are geared to produce the maximum profit possible for their industries and commercial enterprises.

Therefore, when we address the present position of 5.5% of the workforce (over 700,000 people) unable to find work, we know that this is due firstly, to the intensity of the lobbyists, the campaign contributions and the sheer clout of industry and commerce and secondly, to a government too weak to oppose them, too weak to spend what is required to ensure full employment.

Transposing that blueprint onto our economy today, it is the government’s unwillingness to spend that places more than 700,000 men and women in unemployment, men and women who are looking for work and cannot find it.

That number is further compounded with a further 8% underemployment rate, where people are working part-time, some by choice, but most being manipulated by opportunistic employers offering limited hours with lower pay.

This means we have close to 2,000,000 Australians of working age currently under-utilised. That is a betrayal of our basic right to work. Any government that denies its responsibility to provide work for all those who want it, betrays its own people.

The only way this betrayal can be remedied is to establish a job guarantee program. Not a universal basic income, as some would argue, but a guaranteed job for everyone who wants one.


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  1. Egalitarian

    This is all part of the Final Solution policy for extreme capitalism. Outsource your labour, create 457 workers, Buy cheap products from overseas sweatshops, Shut down manufacturing. Privatise former government roles CES for The job network system and encourage private job agencies, create dodgy private colleges instead of the tried and tested Tafe system. Privatise Gas, Electricity, water. And then demonise the unemployed because they can’t find a job. Halve your capital gains tax on homes and allow easier access for foreigners to buy residential property. And increase the population. Yes John Howard’s final solution policies have had a massive effect.

  2. Keitha Granville

    1984 here we come.

    I saw a meme recently about 1984 – that read words to the effect of, this is a story not an instruction book.

    Our leaders need to think like the parliaments during the depression. Here in Tasmania the then premier provided work for anyone who wanted it (and a hot meal I think too) to build a road up Mt Wellington. And build it they did, with picks and shovels and sheer hard labour. Now we need a government to step up and build infrastructure for the future, thus giving work to the current unemployed force, whilst providing for the workers and families of the future. Roads, railways, renewable power plants, public housing. And everything and anything else. Governments are not there to save the tax money they receive, they are there to spend it, for us, the people who generated it.

    More jobs, more shoppers, more tenants, more demand for food and energy – all equals a better society.

    This mob are heading rapidly back to the Edwardian age of bosses and the wealthy having almost everything and the rest of us in servitude scrabbling in the dirt for a few pennies.

  3. stephengb2014

    Like I said recently to Albo (in a comment) Abbnot and the LNP are not trying get us back to the 1950s he wants us back to the 1850s.

  4. Freethinker

    Until people do not go to the streets and organise massive protest we do not have a hope for a change.
    John said in the article that 700000 are unemployed, well if only 15% start marching in our capital cities that will be a change.
    If the ACTU also organise a massive general strike also will be a change.
    The strong united minority control the disunited weak, lay back majority.
    That it is a fact we like it or not.

  5. diannaart

    I’m for the universal basic wage (with no strings attached) not everyone can do the job they would prefer, nor are fit enough to work full-time. A guaranteed income frees a person to pursue their interests from which they may start a business or simply be productively occupied.

    Imagine a world not divided into “leaners” and “lifters” – just people getting along as best they can.

  6. paulwalter


  7. Ill fares the land

    The only conclusion to draw from the current situation is that the present government want a structural unemployment level around 5.0% to 5.5%. At this level of unemployment, noting that this mantle tends to fall dis-proportionately on the young and unskilled, there is a large pool of workers and that takes all pressure off employers to offer wages that entice people into work. The government adds to this by allowing a flood of migrant workers under a range of bogus and employer-exploited sub-class visas (of which the 457 is but one). Why, for example, are many unskilled, non-English speaking workers allowed into the aged-care sector? Simple, it keeps wages in that sector low. Are these workers effective? From friends and relatives who work in the sector, the answer is they are generally well-meaning, but can’t carry out instructions because they can’t understand them.

    Why have unskilled foreign workers been granted visas to work in the construction sector; in the agricultural/food processing sector (watch Landline anytime they have an article that sees them film inside a meat processing works and tell me if you can see any Caucasian workers). A relative works in construction and tells me he works alongside unskilled foreign workers in Australia under 457 visas – something that visa was never intended for).

    Successive governments over the last 30 years (Labor don’t come to this with “clean hands”) have dismantled and then outsourced the TAFE sector; have allowed a flood of Indian doctors and nurses into the country instead of properly funding more training places in hospitals. This is how the governments have largely created a shortage of doctors – by not adequately funding the training hospitals. Far cheaper to import doctors trained overseas. It is probably true that Australian doctors and nurses don’t want to work in regional areas (more money in the cities) and that has led to shortages that are area-specific, but in general, the importation of doctors has actually only put more pressure on Medicare – greater numbers of unskilled workers drive down or at least suppress wages, but when the Medicare system is ripe for being gouged, more doctors means more money being extorted out of the health system.

    There is no single thing that has led to the level of unemployment and under-employment in this country – but behind all of those things that have led to the present malaise is a succession of flawed government policies pandering to the interests of the wealthy – and the owners of capital who crave a never-ending source of cheap resources they can exploit (and labour is a mere resource to these people).

  8. Shogan

    I said during the last election campaign that “Jobs & Growth” was not a policy, it was just a headline looking for some substance to back it up & the unemployment & underemployment figures prove that they have yet to find anything to back it up!!

  9. Florence nee Fedup

    Isn’t it the role of govt to provide the infrastructure for both jobs & growth? #auspol

  10. michael lacey

    good article and we have to keep drumming away at this!

    Neoliberal philosophy is Keeping wages low, or debt pressure high, which means workers will be less likely to complain or make demands. As workers struggle to provide their families with all the temptations that a capitalist society offers, they become far less likely to risk their employment, and less able to improve their situation.
    At bottom, neoliberals believe in a social hierarchy of “haves” and “have nots”. They have taken this corrosive social vision and dressed it up with a “respectable” sounding ideology which all boils down to the cheap labour they depend on to make their fortunes.

    Neoliberals ideology has been a real revolution in central bank policy, part and parcel of the whole neoliberal trend in macroeconomic policy. The essential thing underlying this, is to try to reduce the power of government and social forces that might exercise some power within the political economy—workers and others—and put the power primarily in the hands of those dominating in the markets. That’s often the financial system, the banks, but also other elites. The idea of neoliberal economists and policymakers being that you don’t want the government getting too involved in macroeconomic policy. You don’t want them promoting too much employment because that might lead to a raise in wages and, in turn, to a reduction in the profit share of the national income.

  11. Harquebus

    “insufficient spending in the economy” occurs when surplus energy is, by one means or another, constrained. Growth in the face of diminishing energy returns will do it.
    We we will better off if Bill Mitchell and other fools like him are completely ignored.

    “An object widely considered as worthless would never become money in a free market.
    However, today, we all use irredeemable paper money. How did essentially worthless objects come to be widely accepted as money?”
    “Rome’s monetary history shows, governments have engaged in theft from the citizenry via monetary debasement from the very dawn of Western civilization.”
    “If the government had to actually raise taxes instead of borrowing the staggering sums of money it uses to keep its welfare/warfare programs running and keeping the vote buying mechanism well oiled, it would have to raise taxes by so much that it would face a rebellion. Instead government resorts to inflation. From the government’s perspective, money supply inflation is nothing but a cleverly disguised hidden tax.”
    “Few people stop to consider that this policy means ruin in the long run. Over time, the middle and lower classes will see their real incomes and living standards shrink ever more, while the true beneficiaries of inflation – those who get first dibs on newly created fiat money – amass more and more wealth in a kind of reverse redistribution from later receivers.”
    “Government mandated fiat currency simply does not work in the long run. We have empirical evidence galore – every fiat currency system in history has failed, except the current one, which has not failed yet.”

    “The nation state is the traditional home of the fiat currency, and indeed gives those currencies their primary raison d’etre – the compulsory requirement to pay your taxes in them.”
    “The potential for the likes of Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Google to operate their own currencies has been given a boost by the cryptocurrency phenomenon.”

    The Future Monetary Ecosystem

    “China, Russia, and India are all ahead of the curve and started stockpiling gold years ago. They recognize that hard assets will be the measure of true wealth in the near future — not fiat money.”
    “The impact on the average person could be devastating if they are not properly educated and prepared for the fallout.”

    “The idea that the government could spend borrowed money to grow the economy out of debt has become patently ridiculous. Nonetheless, government economists continue to advocate these policies because, academically, they have no other alternatives.”

  12. Andreas Bimba

    Kronomex, it looks to me that the offer by Korean investors and Korean steel maker Posco to buy Whyalla structural steel maker Arrium is a good one. For a start Arrium is very close to being closed down for good and Posco and the investment firms are offering to invest $1.4 billion to build a new steelmaking plant that uses their more productive Finex process which has been proven in operation in Korea and to build a 220MW gas fired electricity generation plant.

    They want a $400 million sweetener from the federal government in addition to the $50 million the SA government are offering which in my opinion is not unreasonable given the ultra competitive world steel industry and Australia’s appalling industrial policy environment. Perhaps the federal government could demand 10% equity for the $400 million?

  13. Andreas Bimba

    Another good article John that clearly explains how to ensure full employment and how easy it is to do so. Professor Bill Mitchell and others have done the work and proven the case for how to achieve full employment but the Conservatives can’t ever see the big picture and think reducing labour costs and taxation for business and reducing government expenditure will provide employment when in fact they are driving up the unemployment rate by constricting the money supply and reducing consumer demand.

    Even if we get a semi competent Labor federal government, the dumb Conservatives will again turn back the clock when they inevitably return to power.

  14. Hettie Lynch

    “Jobs and Growth” is not a sentence. The witless electorate was clearly intended to add the words, “We will increase” before the slogan. They did so.
    However, the true intention of the Coalition was, “We will destroy jobs ad growth.”
    How do I know this?
    Because actions speak louder than words.

  15. diannaart

    Well stated, Hettie.

  16. Zoltan Balint

    ‘Jobs and growth’ is a good title to a book but you have to read the pages within to find the plot. We are told that the reduction of penalty rates will result in businesses employing more. Yes they will as in if they can employ 2 for the price of one they will. As they say 4 hands are better than two. Globalizition is also good as in if you get all workers of the world to compete for the same job, the one that asks the least will get it. It was intended as a mechanism to allow the poor countries to enter the market and thus allow them to share in the prosperity of the rich BUT business soon realised what it could and would do like alow them to move their manufacturing on mass to the lower cost places.

  17. John Kelly

    Diannaart, a universal basic income will encourage people not to work. As humans, we need to work, to be occupied. Moreover, within a defined community we need to contribute our individual talents and continue to learn. The nature of the work can be negotiated and include everything from Engineering to the Arts. But each of us should contribute something according to our ability. Early years of motherhood would, in my world, be a full time job and rewarded accordingly. Education would be free, each student being accommodated in his/her chosen profession. The jobs would be created by the state utilising local government, local services including, police, health, transport and the military.This makes possible a ready trained and work-oriented pool from which the private sector can draw when the economy expands. It might sound too idillic but it can work and it is certainly better than what we have at the moment.

  18. paulwalter

    Paradoxically, large numbers of people living in places like Toorak and the North Shore wouldn’t work in an iron lung, yet receive incomes way above any prospective minimum living income.

    As John says, we were on the right track with the notion of the Social Wage, until the neolibs and IPA subverted the prospect through appeals to the basest facets of human nature, envy, spite, greed and selfishness for the benefit of those least in need.

  19. zoltan balint

    If they don’t work any money they might get is not income, that is why they do not have to pay tax (a lunch or a trip overseas is an expense they will claim as looking for a job against any money the tax department thinks they have). Didn’t you realise that. And since they do not have an income they can by their rights claim all the goverment support they get since they do not have any assets (here in Australia or they have given it away to their kids who will give it away to their kids … trust … it).

  20. diannaart

    John Kelly

    a universal basic income will encourage people not to work

    That’s a very jaundiced view of humanity. More in line with Neo-conservative expectations of people.

    Of course, SOME will not work.

    The majority of us like to be engaged. A variety of pursuits can be followed without the worry of earning sufficient money for the basic necessities. People can earn more by entering into a PAYE workplace, others will continue to provide care for others as they have for millennia, more will seek greater learning, the elderly, disabled will no longer feel they are “leaners” as everyone receives a basic income.


    Every student learns about Magna Carta, the ancient scroll that enshrined the rights of barons against the arbitrary authority of England’s monarchs. But most have never heard of its arguably more important twin, the Charter of the Forest, issued two years later in 1217. This short but powerful document guaranteed the rights of commoners to common lands, which they could use for farming, grazing, water and wood. It gave official recognition to a right that humans nearly everywhere had long just presupposed: that no one should be debarred from the resources necessary for livelihood…

    …With the rise of robots, robust employment is no longer a realistic hope. We know that automation is a real threat to jobs in the global north, but the threat is much worse in the south. The main industries there, such as small electronics and textile manufacturing, are some of the easiest to automate. According to a United Nations report, up to two-thirds of jobs in developing countries could disappear in the near future.

    I am surprised that such a strong supporter of MMT would not support a universal income.

  21. diannaart


    If a person is considered wealthy, they are also considered exempt from the usual judgements placed upon the majority of people.

  22. zoltan balint

    Better still how many people will celebrate on the 7th of November the 110 years since the Harvester case here in Australia determined by H.B.Higgins about the minimum wage.

  23. Pingback: The Government is betraying our right to work | THE VIEW FROM MY GARDEN

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