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Someone Told Me That Team Australia Is An Anagram of Tony Abbott is Right, But I Don’t Trust Everything I Hear!

Subtext! One of my favourite things. Now what do you think is the subtext in this little quote from “The Age” this morning?

According to a draft of Australia’s action plan obtained by Fairfax Media, the Abbott government nominates five key commitments that underpin its pledge.

“Employment welfare reforms” is ranked as the No 2 commitment, and notes that the changes will “strengthen participation and activation strategies”.

By cutting payments entirely to some unemployed and requiring jobseekers to search for more jobs to qualify for payments, the government argues it will spur the unemployed to look for work rather than live on welfare, thereby boosting economic activity.

The government argues it will spur the unemployed to look for work. Because that’s all they have to do – look for work. And the only reason that they’re not doing it is because nobody has spurred them. Or said “Giddy-up”.

I’d like to suggest to the Abbott nuff-nuffs that instead of spurring the unemployed to look for work maybe they should encourage them to look for the wish fairy. Ok, there is no wish fairy, but there ain’t enough jobs to go round either.

The idea that it’s wrong to be on welfare is a moral discussion, not an economic one. From a moral point of view, it can be argued that we shouldn’t have “freeloaders” who don’t contribute to society while the rest of us work… Unless those happen to be wealthy enough that they can just consume. Then they’re not “freeloaders”, they’re consumers. You don’t have to agree with this argument, but it is at least an argument about values, rather than economics.

However, from an economic point of view, the unemployed are surplus to requirements at the moment. This may be because they lack basic skills or don’t have the requisite skills in the areas where there are shortages. Whatever, people are unemployed because there are no jobs. If there were jobs which the unemployed don’t wish to accept, then the government has the power to strip them of benefits.

We all know this. So why do we shake our heads when the media present some poor bastard who seems content to live on a pittance as the modern day equivalent of Jack the Ripper?

If we were to consider the unemployed as just another part of the means of production, the absurdity of bringing the moral argument becomes even clearer. If a factory were to have an oversupply of what they create – let’s say they create widgets – we’d expect them to slow down production. We wouldn’t have “A Current Affair” running a story on how this factory is idle for much of the day, and how – while the factory down the road is operating 24 hours a day – the widget factory doesn’t even run a night-shift.

Or perhaps we could use an analogy that Tony might understand – a sporting one. When somebody is made the 12th man in a cricket match, you don’t suggest that he’s not working hard enough because all the others are batting and bowling, and he just has to field occasionally and bring out the drinks.

Some of you undoubtedly remember the concerns of the 70s:. Thanks to technology, people were going to working less hours, so how would we be spending our leisure time? Of course, technology has made us more efficient, but this hasn’t translated into more leisure time for the majority. Just for the lucky(?) few who get to be unemployed.

We’ve chosen to structure the economy a certain way. We’ve chosen to say yes to a society where you work harder in order to accumulate more. And we’ve chosen to allow some people to become unemployed, rather than structure the economy so that this is temporary thing. These are value judgments.that we’ve made.

And still we can have a government that seem to think that economic activity will increase if we just “spur” the unemployed into looking harder. If that doesn’t work, perhaps we could try whips and chains.

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  1. Kyran

    At the risk of sounding pedantic, nuff is a misnomer. The original expression, as told to me many years ago, was based on an acronym. Needing Urgent Psychiatric Help – Nuph. I only offer this as the context in which you use the expression is absolutely spot on. Otherwise, love your work!

  2. Loz

    Loved the nuff nuff and now I know its true origin, like it even better. Abbott and co are without doubt idiots.

  3. John Watters

    On a 7.30 feature 28/05/2014 (
    MICHAEL OSBOURNE, ROBOTICS RESEARCH GROUP, OXFORD UNI.: forecasts that within 20 years almost half of the current workforce will be replaced by robots. That is about half of 11,592,200 seasonally adjusted in October 2014 (

    This doesn’t look good for life as it is in Australia at the moment for a lot of Australian workers. Our politicians indeed have a serious problem to solve and quickly.

  4. stephentardrew

    Kyran after living with this lot of despots I am definitely in line for Nuph.

  5. stephentardrew

    John Waters:

    Google the Venus Project developed by Jacques Fresco. He offers a fully developed engineering model of the future in which employment will become a thing of the past. Technology will not only relieve us of jobs it will free us up to live in a cashless society where everyones basic needs can be met. Just takes some vision and lateral thinking. Extremely visionary however he has attacked many of the practical engineering problems need to reach this goal. Another interesting source is Ray Kurzweil and his demonstration of exponential growth in technology so it will not take that long to see dramatic changes in social constructs.


  6. Jason

    There is something seriously screwed up about Tony Abbott & his fellow travellers. Next they’ll come up with the great idea of getting the poor into ‘Workhouses’ so they can be put to doing something useful…

    This would appear to be the first step in driving down wages, getting rid of ‘entitlements’ like sick leave, annual leave, long service leave and creating an even more casualised work force.

    There is just something appalling and wrong about this government and its seriously messed up world view.

  7. dcaustraliaDC

    The thing that pisses me off about conservatives is that they believe in neo-liberal economics which is fundamentally flawed and can be proven wrong with either classical economics, real life experamentation, modern economic theory and common sense.

    Their classic response to anyone defending the rights of the unemployed and working poor is always an anecdote about how there are still jobs out there and getting off you’re arse will get you that job. But that does not account for the fallacy of composition meaning the false assumption that what works for one can work for all. The reserve bank is tasked with keeping the economy within inflation rates of 2-3%. What that essentially results in is that the reserve Bank will always put the breaks on economic activity before all the unemployed can be put into work. Maintaining inflation below 3% tends to require some unemployment. Exactly how much is also dependent on other factors such as global economic trade and the ‘readiness’ to work of that pool of unemployed.

    So while any one individual in that pool unemployed ‘reserve players’ that our modern economy requires may certainly be able to find work by trying harder, they cannot all do that as there will always need to be some unemployed. This being the case we have an obligation to provide a safety net for those very people who could one day be yourself or someone you care about. But those from very wealthy families never have to worry about a safety net as their families can look after them if they ever fall into a rough patch. They are all too happy to justify this kind of welfare if it ever happens.

    There is only one satire show on TV that portrays the Abbott Government as the extreme fascists that they are and surprise surprise it just got cancelled. If you have not sen it it is cancelled the Roast, it was on daily for 10 minutes each week night on ABC2. They strted online before thaht and I really home they continue in some format and gain popularity,so long as they stay as sharp, funny and brutally honest as they have been. I urge all to explore their youtube and facebook pages. They illustrate the point above better than I could ever think of;

  8. Möbius Ecko

    Just got a piece on my phone news reader that Hockey has a $51 billion black hole over MYEFO. No details, but as they have added $54 billion of their own spending on PEFO I assume this $51 billion is on top of that, which would make sense considering the unfettered spending and cuts in revenue they have been engaging in. Normally I would have no problems with the additional spending, but as far as I can none of this spend has gone into anything constructive, structural or social to assist with the economy and the long term well being of the country.

  9. Billy muddle maudlin

    Surely the fixing of unemployment figures for the team means accepting a 50% wage cut so that the employer can employ someone to work another 8 hours for 45% of your current wage thereby keeping you happy because you are earning more than someone else for the same job. The 5% will go for admin costs! If there is a fiddle with overtime, sick leave and holidays then leisure time concerns will disappear into the shelf stacking, hospitality moonlighting when electricity, medical and fuel bills kick in. But, eventually, all this will disappear under the weight of the education rip off and student debt.

  10. Annie Byam

    Rossleigh – great article – excellent writing – as per normal.

    One thing I disagree with though ………

    ,,,,,,,,, ” Of course, technology has made us more efficient, but this hasn’t translated into more leisure time for the majority. Just for the lucky(?) few who get to be unemployed. ,,,,,,,, ”

    I get your meaning – for the few ‘lucky’ enough to be unemployed .( sarcasm on my part ) …… a horrid state of affairs.

    But …. technology has NOT made us more efficient. If anything it has stultified many, it has made us LESS efficient …. and it has produced an overall laziness of mind and intent.

    Those who would have had to work hard to find a job, research, study, improve quality and production, improve breeding of stock and growing of produce, and to challenge our minds to those ends. Technology has allegedly made things so damned easy ( apart from when the computer / laptop / iPad / iphone chucks a hissy fit and blows up ) that our minds are now focussed on the ‘easy way of doing things’ …….. something that has NEVER helped humanity – through the ages. i.e. to have at one’s finger-tips, all easy solutions without having to be inventive, without having to use ones’ brain power and imagination, without having to call upon our own initiatives.

    Sorry – but technology has literally buggered things up ……. but then that’s only my opinion. No doubt many would disagree.

    And I expect they just might – on this thread.

    Otherwise Rossleigh – your article is as always, a fantastic read.

  11. Billy muddle maudlin

    Dear Annie,
    Us old Luddites love your ‘technology buggered things up’. When the councils brought in the computer which would speed up processes and be of great benefit to mankind, it took one visit to register my children’s little bitser to show how obvious it was that this was a con. Instead of giving the clerk the form and the money, getting a receipt and leaving, I stood in line whilst the clerk, asked and typed and tapped and tapped and changed screens and typed till it was my time to wait and watch as she tapped and typed, eyes riveted to the screen, no space for a smile or interaction. When there were no customers then the recording filing etc was done. The technology obviated these tasks, put the recording time onto the customer and reduced the work force! Still if life was meant to be easy we wouldn’t have the technological rabbott as PM. If life was meant to be hard we wouldn’t have an opposition. QED.

  12. WendyJoy Smith

    No wish fairy? Oh come on!

  13. Win jeavons

    The end product of ‘efficiency’ is robotised workplaces, with 99% unemployed. What then?

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