It seems extraordinary that Social Services Minister Christian Porter would unveil a $96 million plan to outsource “new, novel and brave” ways to break the cycle of welfare dependency in Australia, when in doing so, he concedes that the Government does not have the answers.
One might admire his approach as “new, novel and brave”, in admitting the matter is beyond the government’s ability to solve, but the plan to outsource the problem and ask others to fix what is essentially a failure of government, exposes the dearth of initiative within cabinet.
The minister has already identified that to solve the problem of welfare dependency one must focus on early intervention and get “at risk” groups into training or jobs. That’s not new by any measure. Patrick McClure submitted a welfare report to the then Howard government back in 1999 that first called for the initiative Porter has now resurrected.
If it’s that good, why has it taken 17 years for someone to action it? And why allocate $96 million to solve what you already know to be the problem? Why not simply outsource the training and provide the jobs? Isn’t that what you should be doing anyway?
Porter’s plan is to entice academics, state and territory governments and non-government groups to tell him how to do his job. That is a pretty serious admission of failure.
There’s no doubt stakeholders will pitch their ideas and happily take the money for their efforts, but we know what they will be offering. It will be some short term fix that simply kicks the problem further down the never-ending road of welfare dependency.
The real fix is a job guarantee. Why invest $96 million looking for answers when you could invest that in actual jobs? Every local council in Australia could employ more young people and provide on the job training if their budgets could afford it.
Every local fire brigade, ambulance, hospital, legal service and school could employ these “at risk” groups if they were subsidised by a federal government payment. Every small business would relish the opportunity to increase their workforce if not for the cost of hiring.
The government should be creating the jobs, not wasting money asking various agencies to tell them something they already know.
One of the groups identified “at risk” is carers. 11,000 carers currently receive approximately $12,000 a year. That sounds remarkable cheap compared with the cost of professional care in a hospital or nursing home. Why is this not considered to be worthwhile employment?
$96 million could employ 4000 young people for a year, get them off welfare, give them a taste of something they would enjoy doing, help them learn a skill and create the foundation for a potential career.
Whatever ideas emanate from those who respond to Porter’s suspect initiative will involve setting up new programs that might or might not work. Porter acknowledges that. Programs that don’t work will be discontinued and others tried. The expense will balloon and probably go well beyond the costs associated with a job guarantee.
A job guarantee releases everyone looking for work from welfare support. It ensures the work they engage in is worthwhile, builds confidence and restores self-esteem.
A basic job guarantee for every young person now on welfare is the answer Christian Porter is seeking. It is staring him and his government in the face and no one, it appears, can see it.
This is not a true initiative. It’s just another cost cutting exercise. Spend a little, save a lot.