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The Jobless Did Not Ask For This!

Who is responsible for jobs? Should we punish the jobless? Is welfare a right or a privilege? These are the questions the Government is too gutless to ask. By accepting the Government’s answers to these issues without question, it may be shaping a future we haven’t asked for. The Jobless didn’t ask for this!

The term “welfare” is often touted as synonymous with the word “problem”. The question we are not asked is, “Is welfare a problem?”

The Government is asking us to argue vehemently over answers to a question they are too gutless to ask. We should ask the Government questions.

Welfare Reform is a complex issue. However, the wider narrative has a huge impact on how we address reform in this space.

Welfare ‘Reform’

The Welfare Reform Bill currently before the house, is focused on using punishment as a blunt force to solve the ‘welfare problem.’ The Government is quite brazen in no longer hiding punishment as a measure.

One system of punishment is a demerit point system. Another is drug testing. Therefore, the Government has predetermined, that the jobless ‘do the wrong thing’.

The Liberal National Coalition have successfully chipped away at society, along with the opposition in some respects. That is, to create a sub-human welfare class who society appears comfortable to punish.

Punishment sits well with a large section of society. This is due to continuous stigma aimed at the jobless. In the words of Erving Goffman, we have actively inflicted upon the jobless a ‘spoiled identity.’

The Labor opposition opposes these measures. However, since the late 1980’s the Labor party has joined with the Liberals with the same mantra.. That is, the onus is on the jobless to find a job, rather than the responsibility of Government to sustain an economy offering jobs for all.

In short, the narrative over the last 30 years is that jobseekers need a paternalistic guiding hand to motivate them. Therefore, the Government shuns the notion of the jobseeker’s own intrinsic motivation.

Who is Responsible For Jobs?

The answer given to us over the last 30 years is that the jobless are a problem. The Government(s) place the burden on the jobseeker to find jobs, although these jobs may not exist. Where jobs do not exist, the Turnbull Government believes the jobless should create their own job. For ideological reasons, the Government shuns Government intervention and job creation.

The Government(s) have given us answers without asking any questions. They assume that we, in society, simply agree that the jobless are a problem.  The Government assumes that we agree that the Government is blameless. They assume we are completely happy with the amount and types of jobs available.

The questions the Government(s) are too gutless to ask is:

“Is the Government doing enough to ensure there are enough jobs for the people?”

“Is the Government skilled enough to implement the right solutions to increase available jobs?”

“If the Government does not believe it is their role to create jobs, is self-determination to create our own job by starting our own business, a practical solution for all?”

“Do we aim for a society where large pockets of ghost towns exist, along with a number of over-populated vibrant cities for workers to transition to, or do we aim for a society where the Government places the same commitment to develop all regions equally?”

Should We Punish the Jobless?

The answer given to us over the last 30 years is the we should punish the jobless. The punitive approach intensified during the Howard era, particularly financial penalties. The level of punishment today is very paternalistic and draconian. 

The problem posed is that the jobless lack motivation. The assumption is that inaction by the Government is acceptable. However, the Government does not ask us if we agree.

Over the Abbott-Turnbull period, the level of punishment aimed at the jobless is unacceptable. From the jobless starve for six months policy, to the demerit system, to restrictions on volunteer work for over 55’s, cashless welfare and drug testing are aimed to develop a society, I do not recognise as an Australian society. This causes me a deep level of concern.

The questions the Government(s) are too gutless to ask is:

“Is it fair to punish the jobless, if the Government fails to provide enough jobs?”

“Should the Government punish the jobless, if they do not have the skills or capital to start their own business, if they cannot find a job?”

“Is it fair to punish the jobless if the Government has not provided an adequate jobsearch system to support the jobless to match them to available jobs?”

“Although studies show that extrinsic motivation factors such as punishment, affect psychological well-being, hinder job search and not assist it, is it acceptable to punish the jobless?

Is Welfare a Right or a Privilege?

The punitive approach of successive Governments aim to reduce spending in the welfare space. It is evident that the Abbott-Turnbull Government’s aim is to reclassify those on welfare into a sliding scale. This scale appears to bracket those on welfare from ‘acceptable citizens’ to ‘bludgers’ to ‘drug addled sub-humans.’

The Government had one other criteria “genuine jobseekers”, prior to this bill. However, all jobseekers now fall into the realm of bludgers. Every measure in the current bill, is underpinned by a suspicion the jobless individual may be prone to deviant behaviour.

The punitive measures in the current reforms are very much focused on financial penalty. They seek to exclude or restrict access to unemployment benefits. This is done by classifying welfare recipients into normal behaviour (reward) and deviant behaviour (exclusion).

In short, to save money on the welfare bill (which we all pay for, including the jobless), the Government has provided us with the answer of normals and deviants.

They haven’t asked us the question. However, it is clear their answer is ‘normals and deviants’.

The Government knows that Australians will always apply the ‘fair-go’ to normals, but not deviants. In short, it is a simple equation.

Jobless+30 years of stigma = Deviants
Normals-Deviants = Less welfare spending

This question I have left until last because it is crucial to how we see our future as a society.  Most importantly, I ask readers to please ponder upon this question. This is because the Government tells us everyday who we are. We need to stand up and tell them who we want to be.Therefore, it is crucial to argue if welfare is a right or a privilege. This is intrinsic to who we are as a society.

The question the Government(s) are too gutless to ask is:

Menzies Welfare

As you can see from the excerpt above, unemployment and sickness benefits were introduced in Australia as a right, not a privilege.  Three generations later, the Abbott-Turnbull Government speaks of welfare as a privilege and not a right. They have changed the definition whilst we were not looking. Additionally, they again, provided us with an answer without asking us a very important question.

“Should Welfare continue to be available as a right to all people in society, from the recently redundant to the most disenfranchised in society, or do we aim for a society, where the poorest class are further divided by the Government into entitled humans and excluded sub-humans?”

Real Reform

Real welfare reform will begin with asking confronting questions and shifting away from arguing over the answers the Government provides without them posing an actual question.

If the Government took on the burden instead of the jobless, our conversations around the dinner table, would be very different. Importantly, these tiny conversations are powerful enough to shape public policy.

It is evident from some of the emotive speakers within the Labor opposition and crossbenchers, speaking to this bill, that the punishment regime has gone way too far. However, after 30 years of placing the burden on the jobless and praising punishment as a motivator, why is anyone speaking to this welfare bill, angry or shocked?

Real Welfare Reform can only happen when a leader dares to stand apart from the pack. This leader will remove the burden from the jobless. They will lead us by being brave enough to take ownership and responsibility for job creation. Most importantly they will not stand idly by and allow the jobless in our society to suffer from stigma in silence. They will unite us and not divide us.

They will look back over the last 30 years, look back to us and with true emotion say “Under a Government I lead, the jobless will never be punished again.”

I Just Want A Sally McManus T-Shirt!

I don’t know about you, but I have not felt like this in a long time! Sally McManus is a real life hero. Sally is a bringer of hope.

It Cuts Deep

Equality and fairness cut very deep for me. I was one of six children and my father was on the disability pension. I was raised in housing commission in a regional town, in Queensland. One thing my Father used to say to me is, “On the pension, you can’t improve. This is it. There is no more money than what they give you.’ I understood life was different for us.

From the moment I could read, I took a keen interest in politics. I would sit at the table and trawl through the Australian and Courier Mail, turning the pages (which were almost as big as the table). Amongst the political stories, I searched for hope.

I would stare intently at photos of Malcolm Fraser and Joh Bjelke Petersen. Through the eyes of a child, they did not even have kind faces. They looked important but uncaring.

Day after day, there were never any stories about hope for kids like me, or for mums and dads like mine. Did they not see us? Did they not know we were here?

A New World of Fairness

One day, I was sitting cross legged in the middle of the lounge room floor (like you do as an eleven-year-old). A man appeared on the television and he was talking about fairness.

The feeling I had inside was overwhelming. I felt very, very emotional. Finally, in the world of huge newspapers and two television channels, here was one of those important men on the television, but I liked him. He was so much different.

I do not remember his exact words, (I am sure there will be a speech somewhere), but this man said that he would fight to make sure everyone was equal. He would make things fair.

I knew he understood us, without even knowing us. He saw us.

I turned around to Dad and said, “Who is that man?”

“That man is Bob Hawke. He was head of the ACTU. He’s a very smart man and by God Ish, he knows what he is doing. Bob Hawke is going to be our Prime Minister one day.” 

In the world of six o’clock news and huge newspapers, I finally existed.

I drew his words in.

Finally, I had hope.

I felt hope.

Starved of Hope

As I have travelled through life since Bob Hawke, I have not felt that same moment of overwhelming hope. Of being seen.

My first real understanding of the opposite of Bob Hawke was John Howard and Work Choices. My first real protest was fighting against Individual Contracts imposed on University workers.

The Howard Era for me was an era of oppression. Of really pushing the working class to the floor. Of making sure if something went wrong, it was too bad. Suck it up losers! A world thrust upon us where we could not speak up and find justice if wronged. We just had to ‘cop whatever employers decided to give us.’ Even the sack. 

It didn’t matter if you were loyal, or really good at your job and worked hard, the threat of the sack loomed dark over everyone’s heads and you could tell others felt it every day too. They were dark times.

I will never ever forget Work Choices. Ever.

Still Starving

The night Kevin Rudd won office, I was deliriously happy. To cut a long story short, I was still sitting on the footpath at six in the morning.

Although Rudd knocked down the bad guy. I never had that same feeling of hope. No emotions stirred within me. I was not looking up to a man fighting for fairness. The same with Gillard.

Tony Abbott destroyed my soul. Enough said. I don’t need to explain.

Malcolm Turnbull has the personality and empathy of a cardboard box. One thing you pick up on when you grow up poor is fake people. His fakeness – his insincerity demoralises me on a daily basis, because every single day, I think of today’s kids that are kids like I was. He never will understand the world these kids live in.

I was starved of hope again. The desire to feel hope again was strong.

Sally

Fast forward to 2017. The biggest news was Sally McManus was the first female secretary of the ACTU. I had waited all day for her interview on ABC 7.30 Report.

Leigh Sales, a journalist known for interrupting Labor politicians was the interviewer. I felt trepidation. What games would be played? Was the aim to tear down another woman? Did Sales have trick questions up her sleeve? Would Sales cut Sally off to leave misinterpretations hanging in the air?

I watched intently as Sally answered the questions. A calm, clear, steely resolve. An explicit air of knowing her stuff. Of intelligence, higher thought and compassion. A voice of fairness.

Traits I search for in women to admire were before me in abundance. I was stoked!

The emotions that welled inside me, took me back to my childhood sitting on the floor. Here I was sitting, in the lounge room again, watching ABC again and hearing words about the ACTU and fairness again. But this time, it was a woman. How good is this, Right?

Then the words boomed out of the screen….

“It is okay for workers to break unjust laws.”

I drew her words in.

Finally, I had hope.

I felt hope.

I Just Want a Sally McManus T-Shirt

Ever since this day, I have watched intently and Sally McManus is everywhere. Fighting the good fight. Travelling all over Australia. Standing with workers. Speaking words of hope. Fighting for workers. Standing in Solidarity with the unemployed. Fighting for all of us. Knocking down walls. Smashing the insidious thought that has permeated our culture since Howard, that “Workers will get what they are given.” 

Telling us to stand together to not back down. A consistent strong unwavering message of hope and fairness, every, single day. Every, single day.

My desire to feel hope is finally fed.

An iteration of Howard and Work Choices will never ever rise again under Sally’s watch.

And that makes me feel bloody good. For me and for kids today who were like kids like me. I feel good for the workers. For the jobless. For everyone doing it tough.

I no longer search for hope. No longer do I desire to be fed. I wake up every day and eat hope for breakfast.

Sally sees us. We exist. She is present.

Sally McManus IS a real life hero.

I echo my Father telling me about Bob Hawke, the man from the ACTU but now about Sally McManus, the woman from the ACTU:

“Sally McManus will be our Prime Minister one day.”

I just want a Sally McManus T-Shirt!

House Music: The Rise of Ministerial Advisers

The rise of Ministerial Advisers is examined by Dr Yee-Fui Ng. Peta Credlin, Kevin Rudd and Children Overboard are interesting inclusions. This week I also introduce a new element in House Music – Senate Occasional Lectures. Senate Occasional Lectures are part of the Seminars and Lectures Series in Parliament House.

Dr Ng is a lecturer at RMIT. Her research interests are in the areas of political integrity and law. She has worked as a Policy Adviser to Prime Minister and Cabinet and as a Senior Legal Adviser in the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet. Dr Ng is the author of Ministerial Advisers in Australia – The Modern Legal Context. For this book, Dr Ng interviews 22 former and current Ministers and Members of Parliament, including four former Premiers, two former Treasurers, five former Senior Ministers, one leader of the Greens and two former speakers. Dr Ng uses theming to explain the findings in this lecture. I have paraphrased Dr Ng’s lecture below. The video link is provided.

House Music is a weekly blog where I discuss various Bills, Committees, Petitions and try to raise awareness of the valuable resources on the APH website

A New Political Class – Introduction

The 1970s saw the development of the modern Senate committee system. Therefore, this also saw the introduction of Senate Standing Committees and Estimate Committees. Importantly, the significance of this change is Senate Committees could hold the Government to account. This era marked the shift from Ministers relying solely on Departments for advice to the introduction of a new political class – the Ministerial Adviser. This new political class stands between the Minister and the Public Service.

The Role of the Ministerial Advisers

“It’s very hard to feel sorry for politicians” (Dr Ng)

In this opening statement, Dr Ng explains the complexity of a Minister’s role. Modern day politicians have many different responsibilities including, policy, the media and political issues. Advisers meet with stakeholders and interest groups as well as constituents. In addition, they must work with their Prime Minister, Members of Parliament and their political party. 

Furthermore, new Ministers face a complex system of bureaucracy inherited from the previous Government. Although the public service is impartial; Ministers may not trust a public service which has just served the outgoing Government. As a result, Ministers may seek partisan support from advisers who they can trust. This has led to the rise of the Ministerial Adviser. The Minister directly appoints their Ministerial Advisers.

Ministerial Advisers

The beginnings of Ministerial Advisers were in the form of the Kitchen Cabinet in the 1970s. A group of the Minister’s trusted colleagues ‘sat around the kitchen table’ and passed on advice to the Minister as well as developed political strategy. This has since formalised into the role of the Ministerial Adviser. 

This was a distinct shift from the Minister seeking advice from the impartial public service to a partisan adviser.

Ministerial Staff have increased by 173 percent over the last 40 years. in 1972 there were 155 Ministerial Staff. In 2015 there were 423 Ministerial Staff. 

Ministerial Advisers – Influential and Powerful

Ministerial Advisers are influential and powerful and work across a range of functions. Some Ministerial Advisers such as Chief of staff to the Prime Minister and very Senior Ministers were more powerful than many ministers and members of parliament. 

Often the Ministerial Advisers you find in the Prime Minister’s and Premier’s offices are more powerful than some Ministers. The Head of the Media Unit the Chief of Staff and maybe one or two advisers in Prime Ministers and Premier’s office, are more powerful, have more influence on the decision makers in most cases, than certainly Junior Ministers and more than most Ministers. (John Thwaite – Former Deputy Premier)

Intimacy

In addition, Intimacy develops between the Minister and their Ministerial Advisers. This is due to long working hours and high political pressures. 

There is an intimacy in the Ministerial office. People work ridiculous hours, you are living in each other’s other’s pockets, it is a relatively small area. You are under intense pressure. (Lindsay Tanner, Former Minister)

Dr Ng says that this environment is conducive to this type of intimacy. This intimacy gives more access, trust and bond than someone who is coming in to see you every two days.

Minister’s may see their Advisers more than they see their partner. (Steve Bracks former Premier)

Dr Ng describes this as a relationship forged in fire. 

Peta Credlin

Peta Credlin Ministerial Advisers

To demonstrate the power of Ministerial Advisers, Dr Ng offers Peta Credlin as a key example.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Chief of Staff Peta Credlin is a well-known example of a formidable former ministerial adviser. Credlin was once rated as Australia’s most powerful woman. There were frequent media reports about Credlin giving directions to and berating Ministers and Members of Parliament. Credlin also sat in on cabinet meetings and vetted Ministerial staff selection and media appearances.

She’s tough. She is the player, she makes demands, she gives directions, she balls people out. (Liberal Insider)

Credlin undoubtedly had more power and influence than most Ministers. Dr Ng concludes that “The Star of Ministerial Advisers has well and truly risen.”

Reduction of Power in the Public Service

Dr Ng explains the important inclusion of Ministerial Advisers is the link to the reduction in influence by public servants.

For example, Kevin Rudd would ignore his department for months at a time. Ministerial advisers were Rudd’s primary source of advice.

Dr Ng also demonstrates an observable shift. A Departmental Secretary physically moved to give the front row seat at an important function to the (Premier’s) Chief of Staff.

A key point of difference is that Public Servants operate under a strict administrative and compliance structure for accountability. Ministerial Advisers operate in a largely unregulated framework.

The public service reforms of 1980s were intended to bolster the position of ministers compared to public servants, as well as to increase the responsiveness of the public service. (Former Prime Minister – Paul Keating.)

and

Intent of the Ministerial staff system was to counter the impact of the imperial public service that was not elected and an excessive influence of Government and was not under the control of the elected Government. (Former Minister Dr David Kemp)

The implementation of the Ministerial staff system was to reduce the influence of the public sector. Dr Ng explained increased efficiency was another reason.

Children Overboard – Efficiency over Accountability

Children Overboard

However, Dr Ng argues that the rise of Ministerial Advisers is the triumph of efficiency over accountability. The appearance of Ministerial Advisers before Parliamentary Committees is used to demonstrate this. 

In some instances, Ministerial Advisers have been banned from appearing before Parliamentary committees. This happened in the Children Overboard Incident.

In 2001, Prime Minister John Howard claimed that asylum seeker passengers threw their own children overboard. 

Within several days the public servants found out the children overboard story was false. They advised the Ministerial Advisor to the Defence Minister this story was false. However, Ministers continued to keep making statements that Asylum Seekers threw their own children overboard, as part of an election strategy. The press secretary for the Defence Minister asked the public servant to email photos to him. The photos were from Navy Sailors who had rescued terrified asylum seekers and their children when their boat sank. 

The public servants made it clear that these photos were not of the Children Overboard incident but as part of a rescue operation. The Minister released photographs of “children thrown overboard”. Although, the Ministerial Adviser was notified this was not the case.

(Photos of the Children Overboard incident were used in the 2001 election campaign.)

Escaping Scrutiny

A Senate Committee enquiry was formed to investigate the Children Overboard incident. The Government refused to allow Ministerial Advisers to appear before the Committee. The Senate Committee was highly critical of this and argued this move shunned accountability.

This means they do not need to provide an explanation for accountability. Ministers can effectively escape scrutiny for their actions and deny responsibility.

Dr Ng explains that this creates an accountability gap and Government seeking to ensure executive accountability is undermined. Dr Ng argues this is a failure at a systemic level and Ministers can avoid their own responsibility to Parliament.

Constitutional Conventions

Dr Ng explains the complex nature of constitutional conventions and the different powers between Standing and Select Senate Committees. She explains that the belief system of politicians plays into whether Ministerial Advisers should appear before committees. Dr Ng points to a conjuncture between law and politics.

Within the interviews, former Ministers Kim Carr and Peter Costello objected to Ministerial Advisers appearing before Parliamentary Committees on the basis it allows Ministers to evade their own responsibilities to Parliament.

It would look very weak if you sent your Ministerial Advisers in for you (Peter Costello – Former Minister).

Anna Burke, the former Speaker of the House, argued that Ministerial Advisers should appear before parliamentary committees for a variety of reasons. Burke argued that Ministerial Advisers should have appeared in the Children Overboard inquiry.

Belief or Law?

Dr Ng explains the disparity of belief about conventions and the decision in the Children Overboard inquiry about Ministerial Advisers not appearing before Senate Committee.

For example, a former Liberal Senior Minister said that conventions are only practised until they are broken.

Conventions can be in the eye of the beholder and do not survive a brutal assault driven by political reasons. On an issue of this kind, people tend to do whatever suits their short term political interests. (Former Liberal Senior Minister)

Dr Ng argues that various parties will adopt contradictory positions with regard to conventions.

Either the Minister needs to accept responsibility for what their staff do. You cannot say they are responsible to me, but I don’t care what they do. I am not going to tell you what they do because it is nobody’s business. (Dr Ng)

Dr Ng argues there is no legitimate reason to exclude Ministerial Advisers from appearing before Parliamentary Committees.

Ministerial Advisers are an important part of the system and in that sense, I think that they are accountable the same way as Ministers are accountable to the public interest. The public interest is protected by Parliament and when Parliament enquire into something, they should get all the evidence that they need. It has never been an issue in Western Australia. (Geoff Gallop – Former Western Australian Premier)

Dr Ng explains that it is only the Commonwealth and the State of Victoria that makes the case that Ministerial Advisers are prevented from appearing before parliamentary Committees, through a constitutional convention.

Conclusion

Dr Ng concludes:

There are failings at an institutional level in the Australian system of public administration. This has been exacerbated by the rise of Ministerial Advisers in the Australian system of Government, the manipulated behaviour of politicians and the unreflective adoption of the public management efficiency approach.

We are caught between law and convention, continuity and change. (Dr Ng)

Dr Ng’s full lecture can be viewed here:

Source: Senate Occasional Lecture – Dr Yee-Fui Ng – 21/07/2017 12:07:00 – Parliament of Australia

Originally published on The Red Window

 

Post-Coal Theming and Preventative Unemployment

The Anti-Adani protest has generated divisive anti-worker rhetoric. Preventative unemployment should be a key focus towards a post-coal world. This article discusses the importance of themes in the narrative towards a post-coal world and explores the approach to preventative unemployment policy.

Say No To Adani Is Just the Beginning

The anti-Adani movement is growing. It has progressed from a place of prominence on social media to a place of prominence in main stream media.

I have spent countless hours trying to engage with the Anti-Adani movement. I have persisted for a long period to bring the topic of jobs to the centre of the discussion. Placing the worker at the centre of the framework is crucial, as we move towards a post-coal world.

This is crucial because the Anti-Adani movement’s aim to shut down the Adani mine is just the beginning. It is not the end. A move towards alternative energy and away from coal is evident. Protests against existing mines are just a matter of time. The industrial landscape will change forever.

However, any discussion regarding jobs is dismissed and not taken seriously.

Screaming to Shut Down Jobs

Every Adani protester is protesting to shut down jobs and is part of a wider movement which will build and push to shut down even more heavy industry.

The wider narrative in the Anti-Adani movement, when the point of jobs is raised, makes this issue much bigger than Adani by default.

The Theming of Rebuttals

I have engaged almost every day in the Adani debate online, across various platforms for at least a year. In my experience, the rebuttals towards any argument put forward regarding jobs fall into a number of themes. The post-coal world is the framework for these themes, not just Adani per se.

Divisive 

This rebuttal insists that only Great Barrier Reef workers hold any importance and these workers are more important than Coal Workers.

Dehumanising

This rebuttal dehumanises coal workers as a lower status of human. Job creation for this group is not considered. There is the assumption that these workers work in a dead industry and it is up to them to get out. Some insist it is up to the current coal mine owners to transition employees out now. Protestors see coal as an ugly and dirty industry. Therefore, stigmatisation of coal workers occurs.

Externalising Blame to the Coal Worker

This rebuttal is related to the above and shifts the blame of climate change to the actual worker. ie Coal workers are ruining the planet.

The Assumption of Automatic Transition

Coal workers will all automatically transition to a renewables job and this is the best fit for ex-coal workers is the assumption.

The Assumption of Geographical Transition

The assumption is that renewable energy companies will hire the ex-coal workforce. The other assumption is the same location will house the new industry. See above.

The Dismissal of Impact

This rebuttal rejects that coal mining has any significant contribution to the Australian economy and renewables will generate much more revenue and jobs than coal. Also, local economies will remain unchanged. This rebuttal also assumes that small business or the allocation of public services funding and infrastructure funding will not change.

Sacrificial Lamb

This rebuttal insists that we must sacrifice all coal jobs for the greater good; because if we don’t then there will be no world and no jobs.

Personally Directed Themes

When I raised jobs as an issue, the following themes occurred.

Personal investment – The major theme is ‘pro-coal‘. It is my observation that participants in this movement are unable to differentiate between pro-jobs and pro-coal.

Another theme is “Queensland Bias” as it is my home state.

Guilt – The other major theme is guilt. This is usually a counter-argument after jobs are raised. For example, accusations relating to; not caring about the Great Barrier Reef, GBR workers, First Nations people and land rights and not caring about Farmers.

From my perspective, it is important to include the personally directed themes, as these themes are quite prevalent. In addition, I would argue that these types of retaliations are an active part of a phenomenon which dismisses the worker by delegitimising the concern of the pro-jobs advocate.

Political Difficulty

This poses problems for any politician who tries argue the point for jobs. Not just at this moment regarding Adani, but as this movement progresses towards the insistence of more closures of heavy industry. On Qanda, the panel and audience ultimately dismissed Senator Canavan when he raised the issue of high unemployment for local areas near the mine.

Political Theming

The theme around this post coal transition within politics is largely devoid of any conversation around the transition of jobs and skills. The political themes are:

Climate Change Targets – This theme is central to reducing carbon emissions.

Alternative Energy – This theme is central to exploring the use of alternative energy, rather than the importance of transition of jobs within this shift.

Renewables the Best Fit – Renewables as the best fit for coal workers is assumed. Attracting other industry is not discussed. The redistribution of the public sector is also not discussed.

The Importance of Themes for Transition

I have highlighted these themes, as I see them, as I believe they play a central part ensuring the recognition of the worker occurs. 

Through the attempt to understand the current phenomenon using theming, we can then identify the actors within the phenomenon and what impact the phenomenon has as it develops. We can use this insight to shape society.

The worker will remain in the background unless we reflect upon these themes. Therefore, the worker will be an accidental casualty of the movement towards a post coal world.

In addition, these themes contribute to the way we insist that political parties approach a transition. For example, the emphasis placed on skills transition and profession transition.

Most importantly, whether political parties implement curative or preventative unemployment strategies to address unemployment.

Preventative and Curative Unemployment Policy

Policy development towards unemployment takes two forms, preventative and curative. Essentially, preventative policy enables measures to prevent unemployment. Curative policy development is reactionary and punitive and seeks to address the consequences of unemployment.

On the Road to Somewhere

It is essential that political parties develop a solid transition plan based on skills and jobs. However, there is not enough detail in the current Labor and Greens transition plans. A focus on energy rather than jobs is evident. I have been unable to source a transition plan by the Liberal National Coalition Government.

The Greens’ transition plan discusses the rehabilitation of mines as the main alternative job for ex-coal workers.

Labor’s transition plan takes a more holistic approach. However, I would argue that some points such as redeployment and relocation do not focus on community.

A detailed transition plan consisting of where the new industry will be developed, a jobs and skills forecast, including projected employment types, such as ongoing and casual should be developed. In addition, an examination of the reconfiguration of new industry and public services should occur.

The road to where we are heading, how we will get there and what happens when we get there is now urgent.

Preventative Unemployment Strategies

The Shorten Labor Government does discuss preventative unemployment strategies as part of their transition plan. However, this is more implicit, rather than explicit. We urgently need a strong voice pushing a detailed jobs narrative.

Increase in Demand Side Employment 

As the transition away from coal jobs occurs, an increase in the demand for labour is essential. A forecast of job losses in coal areas should enable political parties to develop a blue print for planning.

Business incentives to encourage businesses to relocate and set up in local areas could be advantageous. In addition, job creation through Government intervention would be beneficial.

National Skills and Career Development Strategy

Often skills development is discussed from a curative point of view of ‘getting the unemployed skilled for work’. However, within a preventative strategy, the addition of career development is an essential addition. The development of new skills to supply labour is essential as the transition away from coal assumes an increase in unemployment. This shift is structural and understood. Therefore, the worker can complete career development programs during their employment with a coal based employer.

A focus on preventative unemployment would see a national strategy employed where employers are subsidised to release existing labour for new skills development training.

Funding of Universities to develop appropriate courses and recruit staff ahead of time is also vital.

Reconfiguration of the Labor Market

A micro approach to local economies should examine the requirements to reconfigure the labour market within Australia. Within a preventative strategy as alternatives or additions to renewable jobs and how this should be configured should be examined. For example, in conjunction with renewable jobs, local government areas may be identified as specific hubs. Such as telecommunications hubs, community sector hubs, aged care hubs.

A reconfiguration, redistribution and a reassessment of public sector need and staffing establishments required to adequately service the population should also be considered. Regional unemployment figures, rather than national unemployment figures, should be a measure of success.

A Strong Supply Side Voice in a Pluralistic Framework

The changes required towards a post coal world, including an increase in labour demand, a change of career and wages for many workers and a loss of increment/experience level is perceived.

The suppression of voice of the supply side of labour is a dangerous pressure from Liberal National Governments. They may argue that secure employment and strong labour regulations may reduce the desire for employers to employ more entrants into the new industry. They may argue that new industry in a new market is volatile and wages should be kept as low as possible and work as flexible as possible to enable growth.

However, a preventative framework should be a pluralistic framework. Therefore, the Government, employers and unions should work together to set the standards and improve worker security in new industries and in transitioning local economies.

From Punitive to Preventative Unemployment

Punitive measures underpin curative unemployment strategies. These have become increasingly harsh and prevalent since the 1990’s. Curative policies focus on the unemployed rather than the labour market. Therefore the motivations of the unemployed are questioned (and punished) rather than a recognition that there is not enough demand for labour in the market.

This transitional shift to a post coal world could also transition the job search framework. In a preventative system creating labour demand to match the under-utilised supply would be the focus. A preventative unemployment strategy would see a Government motivated to intervene to create jobs, invest in skills and career development.

In a curative system, the underlying assumption is punitive. The jobless are blamed for their own unemployment. This is usually a lack of motivation and intrinsic propensity to learn or work. ‘Curing’ the causes of lack of motivation or desire to work are the strategies employed. Currently, these are financial penalties and working as free labour for welfare benefits.

In a preventative system creating labour demand to match the under-utilised supply would be the focus. A preventative unemployment strategy would see a Government motivated to intervene to create jobs. Also, invest in skills and career development of new and transitioning workers and incentivize business.

The Worker Front and Centre

A consideration of the themes identified in the narrative in the shift towards a post coal society is critical to transition towards a narrative which places the worker front and centre in the climate change framework.

We need a detailed transition plan urgently. The implementation of preventative unemployment strategies will ensure a smooth transition to a post-coal world.

Suffer in Ya Jocks! Turnbull Scoffs at Disaster Funding

A natural disaster has hit Rockhampton every two years since 2008. When a Prime Minister thinks natural disasters are not a national issue, he needs to go. 

The Prime Minister has made another attempt to divide Australians and pit state against state. Frustratingly, he has turned his back on Queensland by refusing to assist with Disaster Funding. Explicitly, the Prime Minister does not see disaster mitigation as a national issue. In other words, Turnbull believes that if bushfires rage through NSW, that is a problem for NSW. Similarly, if floods and cyclones hit Queensland, therefore, it is a problem for Queensland.

Clearly, Turnbull’s leadership on this issue is pathetic. The People’s Prime Minister he is not!

Disaster Mitigation

Fires, Cyclones and Floods happen in Rockhampton, Central QLD. They aren’t just words on a screen. In essence, they are terrifying and destructive natural disasters that can leave families stranded, with no shelter, food, power and water. The frail and elderly in dire need of help. For some, it is complete devastation as they lose everything. Also, businesses close or are on the brink of closure.

I think everyone agrees that preventing death, destruction and massive blows to the local economy are all in the national interest.

Turnbull seems to believe that the free market will just always sort things out. However, Turnbull’s free market doesn’t help in in a disaster. Turnbull’s free market’s role is for you, the pensioner, the unemployed, the worker, the small business owner to dig deep into your own pocket and donate after every disaster.

In short, Turnbull doesn’t want to do a thing to prevent natural disasters.

Do we want a Prime Minister who will step up and help prevent the death of innocent people, the frail and elderly stranded in their homes without power, businesses copping massive losses as they shut their doors in times of disaster or one who does nothing and then cries into the camera in the face of the aftermath and then tells you to pull out your wallet?

Regional Towns in Central Queensland need urgent assistance to mitigate the impact of future natural disasters.  Rockhampton has faced fires, cyclones and floods, every two years for the last ten years. It feels as if we just get over one disaster and another is knocking on our door.

Mitigation saves lives. Queensland needs this funding now.

Category D Funding Application

The Palaszczuk Government submitted an application for joint funding with the Commonwealth to fund infrastructure and mitigation projects in regional Queensland.

The proposed funding includes:

  • $135 million Recovery to Resilience – Local Council Package to help the hardest hit local government areas undertake key infrastructure projects that will generate employment, boost the local economy, drive community recovery and build resilience.
  • $60m Recovery to Resilience – infrastructure package (Betterment) to enable important infrastructure that has been damaged by STC Debbie to be rebuilt to a stronger more disaster resilient state.
  • $15m Recovery to Resilience – environmental package to ensure the recovery of impacted environmental areas, recognising the important contribution our unique environment makes to the Queensland and Australian tourism industry.
  • $10m Recovery to Resilience – economic package, to support the recovery of industry and businesses in and around impacted areas that experienced significant disruption and damage.

Queensland Short Changed

The Palaszczuk proposed the package of $220 million. With the Federal Government proposed to meet half the funding of $110 million. On the 14th July, the Turnbull Government announced it will only fund $29 million.

That is a shortfall of $81 million dollars. I propose the Prime Minister stops dissing mathematics because that is a very large shortfall.

Christensen Vs. Landry

landry christensen

Turnbull, backed by Capricornia LNP MP Michelle Landry has refused to assist the QLD Government with category D funding, post cyclone Debbie.

Controversial LNP MP George Christensen, who recently crossed the party room floor on penalty rates, has voiced his disappointment with Turnbull’s decision and will fly his regional Mayors to Canberra to insist on more funding. 

Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen, whose own government signed off on the funding, was also “gutted” at the size of the kitty.

 

 

Michelle Landry, MP, has turned her back on her community. Landry, who holds her seat by 1,111 votes appears more concerned with gauging what locals think of the flood levee. The community has had a divided opinion regarding the flood levee for a variety of reasons.

Landry has bled every last political drop in every natural disaster since she was a candidate in the 2013 election. This includes blaming councils for fraudulent disaster funding claims and constantly blaming the State Labor Government.

Peak Flood Level? Peak Level Stupidity!

Landry’s argument is that Category D Funding is not for new infrastructure.  Landry’s rationale is that if Rockhampton already had a flood levee, then money could be used to fix it. However, Landry is opposed to money building a new levee to prevent the extensive damage flooding causes in the first place.  

“The State Government know very well that under Category D that there’s no new infrastructure built. If we had an existing levee and it was damaged, the money would fix it up.  (Michelle Landry Daily Mercury 13/05/17)

Landry might want to ask George Christensen where she can find some leadership and insist on this funding to keep people safe and businesses open. The temporary flood levee in Rockhampton recently saved many homes, which would have previously been inundated.

In 2015, Tony Abbott provided a meagre amount of funding under category D post cyclone Marcia. The basic idea which underpins category D for funding such as the QLD Betterment fund is:

The intent of betterment is to increase the resilience of Australian communities to natural disasters, while at the same time reducing future expenditure on asset restoration, reducing incidents, injuries and fatalities during and after natural disasters, and improving asset utility during and after natural disasters.

To insist that councils can only use this funding to rebuild an asset that has been destroyed and not build modern infrastructure to prevent further assets being destroyed by the next disaster; is most certainly a hair’s breadth away from reaching the level of peak stupidity.

Barnaby says Yes – Turnbull says No!

Barnaby Joyce backed the Rockhampton flood levee. However, Turnbull said No! Clearly, Turnbull simply does not understand regional Queensland. Why didn’t Michelle Landry say no to the disaster funding during this media opportunity?

Suffer in Ya Jocks

The Abbott-Turnbull Liberal Government have fought against helping regional Queenslanders post disaster in every disaster. They have cut assistance to individuals and families by removing Labor’s clauses for assistance criteria.

Sure Landry, O’Dowd, Barnaby, Canavan and Turnbull like to strut around town post disaster, like the lacklustre five. Their cowboy hats on and their concerned game face on point. However, that is where their hands stay – on their hats. Indeed, they find it too difficult to reach into their pockets to provide funding to actually help. Their postured concerned frowns and faux empathy we can do without.

In short, Rockhampton has experienced a natural disaster ever two years since 2008. If the Liberal National Government does not understand we need this funding because the recovery time between disasters is short lived, and we barely get back on our feet before the next one, then clearly they are completely out of touch with Queensland.

I imagine Turnbull lazing around in his Sydney mansion, pouring expensive champagne, raising his glass to the chandelier and with a smirk he says – “Queensland – Suffer in ya jocks!”

To Turnbull and Landry, I say

Rockhampton Flood Disaster

A Look Back at the Natural Disasters in Rockhampton
since 2008

2008 Floods Rockhampton


2009 Rockhampton Bushfires

2010-11 Floods Rockhampton

2013 Floods – Rockhampton

2015 Cyclone Marcia

2017 – Floods post Cyclone Debbie

House Music: Income Management QLD

Income Management is a hot topic of concern. This week, in “House Music” I discuss Income Management and the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs. I will also discuss the FRC in Cape York. The FRC is the Families Responsibilities Commission. This commission has input into income management restrictions in their community.

House Music is a weekly blog where I discuss various Bills, Committees, Petitions and try to raise awareness of the valuable resources on the APH website.  

Income Management Bill (QLD Commission)

The Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs considered the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Queensland Commission Income Management Regime) Bill 2017. This Bill passed through both houses on 26th June 2017.

This Bill amends the Social Security Act (1999) and it includes an extension to income management in Cape York, Queensland until 30 June 2019. Cape York communities are participants in the Cape York welfare Reforms.

Cape York Income Management areasThe communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hope Vale and Mossman Gorge are the original participating communities from 2007. The community of Doomadgee was added in 2015.

This Bill enables Family Responsibilities Commissions (FRC) to make a determination regarding income management for individuals in their community.

Cape York Welfare Reforms

Cape York Welfare Reform

Cape York Partnership Empowering Families

 

The Cape York Welfare Reforms initially commenced in 2007 through the Cape York Institute’s federally funded project headed by Noel Pearson.  This legislated reform commenced in 2008, once Pearson secured Government support. Therefore, this reform had tripartite support between Cape York Institute, QLD Labor Bligh Government with the support of the Rudd Labor Federal Government.

In addition, the outgoing Howard Government was very supportive of this project. The Howard Government funded the initial trial project, including funding for additional housing.

Four communities partnered with the Cape York Institute and the Queensland and Federal Governments in a Welfare Reform Partnership.

The main aim of this reform is to enable people in these communities to have empowerment and personal agency. Primarily, the aim is to achieve this through Indigenous authority, developing a culture of social norms and positive behaviour and improvements in living conditions.

A theme I discuss often is the negative narrative of the Government and their labelling of people on welfare.  The Cape York Partnership sums up powerful decision makers as they negatively describe those on welfare as ‘bludgers.’

This mentality is also shared by bureaucracy that sees people on the ground as incapable. Instead of simply providing resources and facilitating decision-making and action at the ground level, it hoards power and responsibility.

However, I personally do not agree with the term ‘passive welfare’ which the Cape York Institute uses in their final report. It is my view that welfare dependency is not about passivity because welfare is within a system of power which disables empowerment, agency and personal power.

A Different Type of Income Management

The theme of community driven self-empowerment is evident in the FRC reports.

A number of reports have been issued since 2011 about the progress of the reforms, including an ABC Four Corners documentary.  Moreover, the contrast of comments in the 2011 report to the current FRC reports, shows that years later, more of the community members are on board than at the time of implementation. In addition, a key theme in the 2011 consultations was that this needed to be a long term approach. ‘Things won’t happen overnight’.

Chris logan.JPG

 

 

“It is great for us to finally have income management in Doomadgee. We have issued 28 conditional income management orders to our clients and they have been well received.

 

and.. We know that income management is a necessary tool to see our community grow and we look forward to seeing the positive results it has for our clients.

 

We know we have many challenges ahead, but our team is strong and we will continue to work together to improve the lives of and prospects for the children of Doomadgee.”
Doomadgee Commissioner Christopher Logan

Family Responsibilities Commission

The Family Responsibilities Commission is a Statutory Authority under the Family Responsibilities Act 2008 (QLD). Respected leaders or Elders within the community make up the FRC. Importantly, the FRC has consultations or conference with community members to reinforce positive social norms.

The aims of the FRC are:

FRC objectives

The FRC receive notices from various departments about a breach of community standards, i.e. a child not attending school.

Decisions made at the conference are made fairly and with the best interests of the client and their family in mind. At the conclusion of the conference, Commissioners may decide that no action is necessary, reprimand the client, encourage the client to enter into a Family Responsibilities Agreement (FRA), direct the client to relevant community support services or place the client on a Conditional Income Management (CIM) order.

The key difference between this Income Management Program and the blanket roll out of income management that is being discussed at the moment, for example in Hinkler; is that the community owns and runs the program.

In the Senate Committee Hearing it was noted regarding ACOSS’ conclusion:

For example, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) has acknowledged that the Cape York model of income management was not imposed by the government but was developed by the affected communities and that the FRC plays a unique role in case management, assessment and only refers individuals to income management as a last resort.

Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs

senate committees

The Community Affairs portfolio coverage includes Health and Social Services (including Human Services).

The Committee convened to consider the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Queensland Commission Income Management Regime) Bill 2017 [Provisions] on 22nd June 2017.

Committee Members

Senate Committees include representatives from various parties.

Chair, Senator Jonathon Duniam Tasmania, LP
Deputy Chair 
Senator Rachel Siewert, Western Australia, AG;

Members
Linda Reynolds (Senator) Western Australia, LP
The Hon Lisa Singh (Senator) Tasmania, ALP
Dean Smith (Senator) Western Australia, LP
Murray Watt (Senator) Queensland, ALP

Legislative Scrutiny

Other Committees also report through Committee in regards to the Bill.  The Scrutiny of Bills Committee had no comment on the Bill.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights made comment on the Bill. They noted that income management limits equality and non-discrimination, the right to privacy and family. They noted that the Cape York Reforms are different to the Northern Territory’s income management.

The Human Rights Committee also noted:

Notwithstanding this, the human rights committee noted that the application of income management in Cape York may be compulsory rather than voluntary and therefore drew the Parliament’s attention to the human rights implications identified in the 2016 Review of Stronger Futures Measures report.

An excerpt from the Stronger Future Measures Report states:

A human rights compliant approach requires that any measures must be effective, subject to monitoring and review and genuinely tailored to the needs and wishes of the local community. The current approach to income management falls short of this standard.

Consideration of Submissions Received

The Committee received seven submissions and all submitters supported the Bill and extension of the reforms to 2019. The Committee heard through submissions that the crucial role the FRC’s play in the reforms and the community, the increase in school attendance and child well-being, including better nourishment, were some of the main drivers behind continuing the reforms.

Extension to the Reforms

Since 2007, Cape York Communities have extended income management four times.  A crucial aspect is, under the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 (Cth) only the FRC can impose income management on an individual.

The Bamanga Bubu Ngadimunku Aboriginal Corporation supported the extension:

When the time does come, the people of Mossman Gorge need to be empowered to drive what happens next so that we can stay on this road of positive change. The government can’t just suddenly decide to end Income Management and the FRC, without letting us plan so that we keep going forwards and don’t go backwards after making such hard won gains.

Income Management

The Committee considered the component of income management as a key measure in the Bill.  In addition to ACOSS’ comment above, all submitters agreed income management should continue.

This is not rolled out across all of Cape York. The submitters impressed that it only applies to at-risk individuals in communities as determined by the FRC.

Also, the FRC noted that individuals lose the right to ‘choice’ however, it is the FRC’s view that the benefits outweighed this. 

The Department of Social Services also agreed with the Bill and advised that a previous review of the reforms showed that 78% of individuals surveyed agreed that it had improved their lives.

The Committee recommended the Bill to be passed.

A Significant Bill

The Liberal National Coalition Government is pushing to roll out income management in more trial areas.There is an active protest against income management in the communities of Ceduna and Hinkler. The community I live in, Rockhampton, QLD has had income management in the form of the Basic’s card for some period of time now. However, this does not work the same as the Cape York Reforms. Instead, Centrelink determines who is income managed.

I felt that this is a significant Bill to include in this series because there is a variety of contemporary opinion regarding income management. In addition, as a regional Queenslander, I also think it is important to promote the positive work community organisations do in regional and rural communities. Unfortunately, this is largely unrecognised by the wider media.

Political Positions

The other reason is this can also clarify the position of at least three political parties. The Liberal and National Coalition, Australian Labor and the Australian Greens, all have different positions on income management. 

The Coalition Government is clear they want a blanket roll out of income management. In short, they are keen to implement cashless welfare widely. However, not in the same manner as the Cape York Reforms, but as a Government controlled and imposed measure.

Labor‘s position is that they do not support a blanket roll out of cashless welfare. However, as clarified by Senator Gallagher, they will work with communities that say they want cashless welfare, such as this program.

In contrast to the Coalition, Labor will not support cashless welfare in communities where community members do not want cashless welfare.

Whereas, the Greens oppose all forms of cashless welfare. This includes opposition to programs such as the Cape York Reforms.

A few weeks ago, the Australian Greens misrepresented Labor and implied Labor supported cashless welfare and voted down a Greens motion to stop it.  This erupted into quite a massive social media furore of attack after attack towards Labor.  I clarified Labor’s position, as per above, here.

Australian Greens’ Dissenting Report

The only opposition to the Bill within the Committee was from the Australian Greens. The Green’s reported to the Senate Committee that they have opposed this measure since it was implemented by the Howard Government. Therefore, they do not support this Bill.

One reason was that they believe it is not right for some people to have to conform to ‘somebody’s version’ of social norms. and this “promotes the idea that disadvantage is primarily a result of the individual’s failure to demonstrate the necessary social values and norms.”

I find it very confusing how the Greens argue that this is “somebody’s version’ of social norms. Clearly, from its inception, the people of the Cape York communities are the people who defined the social norms. Also, it is noted that a key success is that the communities own and drive this reform.

Apples and Oranges

The Cape York program of income management is different to other income management programs in Australia.

A recurring theme is that these reforms are viewed as a temporary measure. In addition, some argue that income management is another form of dependence.

Importantly, there is a long term view for communities to work together to the next stage beyond income management.

While income management has had a positive influence on Cape York communities, submitters acknowledged that it would be some time until it could be removed and that more progress could be made.

Discussions surrounding income management should take into account that there are different models. Models such as the Cape York reforms are supported by the community as well as by the people who have their welfare quarantined.

Anti-cashless welfare advocates (of which I am one), should acknowledge that every community is different. In addition, this is largely an Indigenous reform. However, every Indigenous person is also an individual. The commissioner’s approach to individual rights is especially relevant. 

Governments should note that a macro-view one size fits all approach of imposing income management on groups in a blanket fashion does remove agency and choice. Government regulated and forced income management is destabilising and stigmatising without the drivers of community and participant support.

Originally published on The Red Window

Vulnerable Jobseekers Are Invisible

Vulnerable Jobseekers need strong leadership. A shift away from a budget-savings model to a compassionate, supportive jobseeker-focused model is needed. The diverse needs of jobseekers, particularly vulnerable jobseekers, are ignored within the jobsearch framework and welfare reforms.  Vulnerable Jobseekers are becoming increasingly invisible.

Vulnerable Jobseekers – Increasingly Invisible

Think of the word ‘Jobseeker’ and close your eyes.  Who do you see?

The jobsearch and welfare framework ignores the diversity of people seeking employment.  The shifts in the jobsearch framework over time have sought to encompass more and more welfare recipients. This is a concern because it neutralises the personal circumstances of the individual. The label ‘jobseeker’ will apply to almost all jobless individuals under the current Welfare Reform Bill.

Vulnerable people in dire circumstances and highly experienced former workers are viewed through the lens of sameness and homogeneity.

Invisible and Inexcusable

The term jobseeker is an active term – one who seeks a job.  This also disguises the involuntary nature of the act of job seeking for many.  Cases of terminally ill individuals forced to seek work have been brought to light over recent years.

The shifts in policy over time, also place a cloak of silence over the most vulnerable in society. Explicit in the current welfare reform bill, and implicit in the language of Government is that the vulnerable people will no longer have ‘excuses’ for not meeting job search requirements.

In other words, legitimate behaviour displayed in the face of complex life circumstances will render vulnerable jobseekers and disabled jobseekers inexcusable. Their normal behavioural response to complex situations, intolerable and punishable by law.

The most vulnerable suffer the most in this type of punitive system.

Increased Participation

The aim of Governments over time is to increase participation of disabled people in work. The Liberal-National Coalition and Labor Governments have supported shifting disability support pension (DSP) recipients off the DSP and transferring them to the lower paid Newstart.

The Welfare to Work reforms, under the Howard Government, is the most significant change-point in the jobsearch framework for disabled people. Reducing welfare debt, by decreasing the number of DSP Recipients, was the main economic driver of these reforms.

‘Disabled people should not be left behind’, has been the mantra of both the Coalition and Labor Governments.

The System is the Problem

There are some success stories for enabling vulnerable jobseekers into new work.  However, people with an episodic mental illness can experience more distress and increased barriers in this system. 

Many disabled recipients are now on the lower rate of Newstart. They do not qualify for the DSP.  A review of the Welfare to Work changes indicated that among people with disabilities, 67 percent experienced no change, 29 percent were financially worse off and 3 per cent were better off. Income losses were up to $99 a week.

In addition, since 2006, the financial penalties for ‘non-compliance’ are more wide reaching and harsh.

This will only become more prevalent under the current Welfare Reform Bill. This is because reasonable behavioural responses to complex life problems are considered ‘unacceptable excuses’.

Financial stress is an identified barrier to employment and positive mental health. This is a serious concern because this group already live 20% under the poverty line. 

Quick Through-Put

Industry concern at the time of the pilot testing of the Welfare to Work Reforms for disabled participants was the shift to outcome-based payments for service providers.

In essence, a concern of a quick churn out culture. That is a lack of consideration for quality job matching or individual job seeker supports and a focus on placing vulnerable jobseekers in any job.

Some eleven years and five Prime Ministers later, after thousands have experienced disadvantaged, unfair expectations and punishment for non-compliance; the Reference Group for Welfare Reforms (McClure et. al) have highlighted quick throughput as an issue.

The Government recommendation in 2015 was to increase payments linked to outcomes. Seventy percent of funding is now linked to 26-week outcomes. A change from 40% previously.  However, this is not particularly ideal.

A Change in Funding Approach

The other change John Howard implemented was a shift from block funding to the outcome-based funding of employment services.  Once again, five Prime Minister’s later, this approach has become increasingly accepted and embedded.  I despair at the acceptance of this approach by both major parties, with little review or criticism.

Arguments for outcome-based funding models are usually from an economic-centric rationale focused on budget savings – rather than a client-centric rationale – focused on quality outcomes from the client’s perspective.

An Enabling Environment for Attacks on Jobseekers

I would strongly argue that outcome-based funding is a serious contributor to the deteriorating support and cultural attitudes displayed towards jobseekers, as reported by organisations such as the Australian Unemployed Workers Union.

There is a plethora of personal recounts by vulnerable people in extremely dire circumstances. Involuntary jobsearch and financial penalties apply to this group.

Personal Recounts such as:

“I came close to committing suicide because of the way Max treated me” – A First Hand Account  and

Centrelink and Job Agencies Discriminate Against the Sick

Are heartbreaking recounts where privately contracted employment agencies not only exacerbated mental health conditions but seemingly were the reason the mental health condition was introduced in the first place.

Absolutely unacceptable.

A Stronger Shift To Outcome Based Funding

Personally, since the late 1990’s I have expressed concern about the shift in funding models.  I have had a consistent concern since its inception that the personal financial breaching of jobsearch participants, impedes outcomes and punishes individuals unnecessarily.

I express serious concern that a higher percentage of 26-week outcome-based funding for employment agencies, is more likely to increase punitive measures on vulnerable participants. It is more likely to see vulnerable jobseekers with an episodic disability placed in the too hard basket and increased penalties applied, and less complex clients given more time and attention.  

Most outcome-based employment services contracts have tiers of payment, where people who face more difficulty finding and sustaining work attract higher payments (Department of Employment 2015Lu, 2014). Despite this, several studies found that the incentives to service the most difficult clients were insufficient: these clients had poorer outcomes, were underserved, or ‘parked’ (Business Council of Australia 2014Koning and Heinrich 2013National Audit Office 2015). At the other end of the spectrum, ‘cream skimming’, the practice of favouring easier to serve clients, was also evident (Davidson and Whiteford 2012). (Emma Tomkinson, 2016)

An Empty Echo Chamber

The jobsearch framework has evolved into an empty echo chamber. Complex life-situations of homeless people, women escaping domestic violence, individuals recovering from sexual trauma, the physically disabled, those with psychiatric disabilities, silent disabilities and homeless young people, for example, are all viewed as ‘excuses not to seek employment’.

There are many recipients now on Newstart who have undiagnosed mental health conditions. Also many with diagnosed mental health conditions in regional and rural areas cannot access the appropriate services and treatment. In turn, they are financially penalised for this lack of investment in support.

There are many individuals who are treated blatantly unfairly, financially punished and driven to the depths of despair, exacerbating mental health conditions and some committing suicide.  This is absolutely unacceptable.

This is a very under-reported phenomenon in the mainstream media.  These individuals receive little voice by way of organised protest. These vulnerable citizens receive little attention in the political space.

When a situation such as the Robo-Debt disaster occurs, there is a furore about mistreatment and unfair and harsh measures.  However, largely, politics ignores the unfairness and punishment jobseekers experience.

Strong Leadership is urgent now, to completely review this system and develop in its place a jobseeker-centric model of employment support. 

A Jobseeker-Centric Model

The Welfare Reform changes occurred in 2006 and further reiterations of Howard’s model have occurred over time.  These reiterations are by both the Liberal-National Coalition and the Labor Governments.

Specialised support services have deteriorated, such as JPET. The Gillard Government moved to a one size fits all one-stop shop model. Also, smaller community-based organisations were less likely to win contracts. In their place, much larger ‘financially stable’ organisations won tenders. This saw the merger of many smaller community-based employment services and the demise of some. Lost under these changes were local knowledge and expertise and a community-centric focus.

The current shift by the Abbott-Turnbull Government imposes further difficulty on vulnerable jobseekers. This is through a higher compliance for employment services for 70% 26-week outcomes. Agencies will leave complex jobseekers behind and pursue the outcomes which fund them.

The shift to wielding a much bigger stick by focusing on ‘unreasonable excuses and compliance’ for vulnerable people and more punitive measures, is frankly, quite frightening. The shift to homogenise the diversity of jobseekers is a major concern, as to the future ramifications of this move.

A shift to a client-centric model focused on quality outcomes as self-reported by the client is now urgent and essential.

Strong Leadership Urgent!

Strong leadership in this space is crucial and quite urgent.  A shift towards a jobseeker-centric model requires an enormous shift in thinking by political parties. 

It requires a shift from a budget savings approach. A shift from the underpinning thought that jobseekers do not want to work. The satisfaction of jobseekers and a focus on needs-based supports and outcomes is crucial. A shift towards recognising episodic illness and complex life situations.

Crucially, a shift away from forced participation. An objective underpinned by financial penalties for vulnerable people. Vulnerable jobseekers are in complex circumstances and are already living under the poverty line.

It is simply hypocrisy to participate in the CEO Sleep Out during Homelessness week and actively contribute to the harsh regime that contributes to it.

Intimidation and Bullying

The Government frames jobseekers as potential employees. However, the bullying, intimidation and punitive measures imposed upon them, in the most unreasonable manner, would not be acceptable in any organisation.

How can a Government remain unchallenged in this space?  Should privately contracted companies receive a reward for the harsh treatment of vulnerable jobseekers?

Why is the mistreatment and harsh punishment of vulnerable people, considered a ‘positive outcome’ in this policy sphere?

Jobseeker Satisfaction

Organisations that value their employees take job satisfaction seriously. Jobseeker satisfaction should be central to jobsearch models because it will enable jobseeker focused continuous improvements.

Assessment of job satisfaction for new workers is vital. Vulnerable workers self-reporting workplace bullying also a serious concern. Corporate culture and attitudes towards long-term unemployed new workers is also critical to understand.

Visible Jobseekers

A jobseeker centred model will push the current model out of the comfort zone it has been in for twenty years.  A model which gives voice to jobseekers will push Governments to respond to build a better model focused on supportive outcomes.

A jobseeker centred model is essential because it will make jobseekers visible again.  It will give jobseekers personal agency.  Vulnerable jobseekers will have a stronger internal locus of control. They will give voice to the access and supports they need.

Exposed will be the urgent need for Job Creation.  This will place pressure on lazy Governments who do not meet their responsibilities in this space.

I hope for future where the privately contracted punitive outcome based model is extinct and a nationalised public sector operated, jobseeker centric model, focused on quality supports and jobseeker satisfaction exists in its place.

Welfare Reform: Turnbull is No Menzies

Turnbull’s claim that the Turnbull Liberal Party is a party embracing Menzies Liberalism, is a self-delusional fallacy. In terms of progressive welfare reform, the Menzies Liberal is dead. 

The neo-liberal/conservative successors of Menzies are the insidious pathogen that flows through the Liberal party’s veins to sustain its current mutant form. Menzies views on social security and Turnbull’s stigmatising and punitive approach are poles apart.

Deviants and Outsiders

Since the 1990s The Liberal Party of Australia has embraced the Thatcherist concepts of framing the jobless as ‘deviants and outsiders.’  Increasing punitive measures imposed upon the jobless has existed since Howard. Howard embraced Thatcherism and punitive measures have spiralled out of control since then, with each successive Liberal Government. Turnbull’s Welfare Reform Bill, currently before Senate Committee is increasingly worse and is no exception.

I will use Adam’s Equity Theory to explain how those who embrace the tenets of Thatcherism, encourage societal divide, anger and acceptance of punitive welfare.

Equity theory

Equity Theory is based on the logic that humans will make social comparison’s between themselves and others. In doing so they assess effort exerted for reward gained.

Social division is created through the use of negative narrative. Categorisations such as ‘bludgers, loafers, lazy and more recently ‘the taxed not’, forces humans to make a comparison with others. To determine if one is in the ‘in-group or the ‘out-group’ is a natural reaction.

Therefore, they encourage the public to actively compare their personal input into society against those on welfare. Is their personal effort (work) for reward (income) equal with those who receive financial ‘reward’ for no effort?

A stigmatising narrative drives the view that reward is equal. When in reality it is not.

The first Thatcher government was able to launch an anti-welfare campaign by tapping into deep-seated resentment of `something for nothing’ welfare beneficiaries, to especial effect when it could be suggested that those in receipt of the state’s generosity were largely `outsiders’ (Phillip M. Larkin)

Enabling An Angry Society

Equity theory is a motivational theory. However, it also belongs to the grouping of justice theories. This is because the construct of justice underpins the motivational factors and behavioural response.

How an individual perceives distributive justice shapes our culture.  This sets down the parameters of the socially acceptable response to express anger at unfairness.

For example, union activism is (largely) a socially acceptable way to express anger and protest unfair work laws. The behavioural response is anger. The motivator is to achieve equality for those worse off.

Manufactured Unfairness

In the context of welfare, the perception of unfairness through the lens of distributive justice is manufactured by those in power who have an inherent dislike for those on welfare.

The use of a negative stigmatising narrative creates this enabling environment. The perception that those on welfare receive an equal reward for no effort is championed by influential politicians and political commentators. Therefore, this creates an enabling environment for the public to express anger towards those on welfare.

In the seminal research of distributive justice and relative deprivation, the connection between perceived injustice and aggression is clearly evident. If a state of injustice exists and it is to a person’s disadvantage – that is they person experiences deprivation – he or she will display anger. (Einarsen et. al)

However, in the instance of manufactured unfairness, deprivation is a subjective perception.

In this instance, the collective views those on welfare as ‘better off’ (as they expel less effort for the perceived ‘same’ reward). Therefore, the collective considers their situation as ‘worse off’ and unfair (deprivation).

As Newstart is 20% below the poverty line, in reality, this is clearly not the case. However, the negative narrative and the layering of punitive welfare measures over time, masks this.

Punitive Measures Creep

In contrast to the union activism example above, the collective’s behavioural response is largely influenced by what I term as “punitive measures creep”.

This is the gradual increase in scope and intensity that punitive measures are imposed on welfare recipients by the Government.

The collective accepts increasingly harsh punitive measures. This is because they perceive these measures redress the unfairness. It is a fair punishment for the lack of exertion in exchange for the ‘same reward’. In essence, they no longer feel deprived.

Therefore, the collective is content with widening the scope of welfare recipients who must comply with punitive measures. They also accept the harshness or intensity of the measures as justified.

For example, although the opposition parties successfully prevented the implementation of Abbott’s ‘starve for six months‘ reform, there was some acceptance amongst the public.

Radical versus Incremental Policy Innovation

I would strongly argue that Abbott’s six-month wait also saw a large movement of rejection because it was not a gradual change.  Whereas, historically, the changes to punitive welfare measures are gradual.

As with the development of products, sometimes radical innovation is rejected. (A famous example is Apple TV). Incremental innovation is generally low risk and more acceptable to current users (i.e. IPhone 4,5,6, and 7).

Turnbull’s current welfare reform Bill falls into the realm of incremental innovation (if we can reach across the divide and apply this term). This Bill widens the scope of those who need to participate in ‘job search compliance’.  It also widens the scope of the types of welfare recipients who are labelled ‘jobseekers’. Sickness Benefit recipients, for example.

This Bill also gradually increases the intensity or harshness  of measures, by removing what is deemed ‘an acceptable excuse.’  For example, those with the classified disorder of drug addiction will no longer be exempt.

So Mr Innovation is actually innovative – just in a really shitty way.

Menzies On Social Security

Menzies Welfare

The Robert Menzies viewed through the lens of his election speech in 1946, is no comparison to the values displayed by the Turnbull Government.

Throughout his speech, Menzies framed the jobless as a ‘temporary necessity.’ 

Unlike the Turnbull Government and Abbott Government, Menzies recognised that there was not enough work for everyone. Menzies spoke of full employment. His view was to create enough jobs for everyone. Not to punish them for his lack of job creation. However, Turnbull does. 

A Necessary Incident

Menzies Quote 1

In this excerpt above, Menzies demonstrates that he understands that there is not enough work and his passion is to change that.

The Turnbull Government Obsessed with Social Security

Below, Menzies is detailing his intention to invest in Australia and build jobs, rather than focus on welfare.  Although this is the mantra of the Turnbull Government (Jobs and Growth) it is not evident in their actions.

Menzies Quote 2

It would appear that as there are 17 job seekers for every job vacancy and the Government has submitted another Bill with a focus on imposing more punitive measures on the jobless, therefore it would appear that the Turnbull Government has “turned its back upon these matters and devotes all its attention to social security.”

The concentration on punitive welfare instead of investing in real jobs and opportunity is a hallmark of the Liberal Governments of Abbott and Turnbull. It appears these were not Menzie’s values at all.

Turnbull’s idea that his leadership represents Menzies, is a self-delusional fallacy. The Menzies Liberal is dead.

The Mutant Form with No X-Gene

The Abbott and Turnbull Governments are a mutant form of what once was. The Marvel Comic Mutants, we know as the X-Men and their nemeses, exist in their current form as they are ‘post-human’ because they carry a special gene.

The X-Gene is a ‘super-human’ gene. In the example of Menzies, we will frame the gene as Menzies frames himself. For the purpose of the argument, if we were to view the X-Gene as a super-human who has a vision of progressive values and compassionate towards those on welfare; then Turnbull evidently does not carry this gene.

The closest Turnbull will ever get to the X-Gene is his adoption of X in MacGregor’s X-Y theory. This is because he views those on welfare, as unmotivated and unwilling to work and he needs to come down upon them with punishment and authority.

If Turnbull perceives Menzies beliefs as reflective of his own leadership; and believes he has the capacity to champion this now, he is a bit late to lead this change.

Turnbull is the late starter stuck in the barrier and Shorten is a length away from winning the race.

House Music: Welfare Reform and Drug Testing

This is the first of a weekly blog about Parliamentary Business. This week: Social Security Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill, Senate Committee Inquiry and a Petition against Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients.  

Every week, I will discuss selected Bills,Petitions and Committee Inquiries. Where appropriate, I will discuss Matters of Public Importance raised in Parliament. Through this weekly blog, I also hope to create awareness about the APH website and encourage active interaction.

Bills

welfare reform bill

Social Security Amendment Bill (Welfare Reform)

Quick Recap: (Not the entire list)

  1. Will remove seven current payments and reduce them to one jobseeker payment.
    (Remove: Widow B Pension, Wife Pension, Bereavement Allowance, Sickness Allowance, Widow Allowance, Partner Allowance) and
  2. Establishment of a drug testing trial and
  3. Removal of exemptions for drug and alcohol dependence and
  4. Changes to Reasonable Excuses and
  5. New Targeted Compliance Framework and
  6. Claim Provisions (Benefits will no longer be backdated to date of claim)

Discussion

Please note: this section is a discussion, therefore it is from my own point of view. Please read the official Explanatory Note because this will explain the information as tabled.

Streamlining Payments – Everyone is a Jobseeker

It appears the Government’s aim is to punish as many welfare recipients as possible. Even those with a reasonable excuse.

Therefore, bereaved, widowed and incapacitated due to illness are all now “Jobseekers” under this Bill.

Even those genuinely incapacitated will need to participate in jobsearch.

jobseeker payments

These individuals will be scooped up into the same nauseating bucket the Liberals carry around at their sides filled with condemnation and labelled “Bludgers.”

Widow and Wife’s Pension

age2bdiscrimination

Since at least the 1990’s Governments have changed access to the Widow’s pension and Wife’s pension.  These pensions are primarily the domain of women, because they are now unable to rely on a husband’s income due to his illness or death. This is another move to completely cancel these payments. Hence, my view is that they should be revisited and reinstated – not abolished.

These recipients, mainly women, are not bludgers.  They are often active in family life and the community. Individual case managers should support Mature-Aged jobseekers in a voluntary program. A 20-year-old at a counter telling them that they haven’t done enough, should not exist. They should not live in fear they will be ‘cut off’ because they are the mercy of the system.

A Blow to Mature Aged Jobseekers

Mature-aged jobseekers are currently able to participate in voluntary work. This will no longer be the case. Are the Liberals suspicious this is a ‘loophole’ to avoid paid work? That is how The explanatory note reads to me. The vile deep bucket labelled “Bludgers” now includes volunteers.

Schedule 9 – Changes to activity tests for persons aged 55 to 59

volunteer

The Liberal Party does not value the contribution of volunteers (particularly women). Many mature aged women and men, who have not worked, would have a history of active participation in the community and schools. In addition, they often perform caring duties for grandchildren, because formal childcare is difficult to access and punishment is ludicrous, because this is a valuable contribution to society.

Mature Aged Jobseekers, seek employment, often because of illness, death and/or bereavement of a loved one and therefore should participate in voluntary jobsearch. Jobsearch can have an emotional toll on a mature aged individual, therefore, specialised case managers who understand this demographic need to support this group.This is because the sudden requirement for jobsearch can be a shock and furthermore is a huge disruption to their regular routine.

Financial Penalties – Every Single Time – For Everyone

financial penalties

The nature and extent of jobseeker compliance is harsher in terms of punishment and wider in the scope of recipients it is proposed to encompass.

I would describe the widening and intensity of financial penalties as ‘welfare punishment creep.’

This term describes the growing number of welfare recipients financial penalties apply to and the increasing lack of consideration and reasoning for which penalties are applied. 

This new Bill recommends a financial penalty to all jobseekers, with no consideration for a reasonable excuse, it appears.

This Bill proposes:

compliance

and

compliance 2

This section in the explanatory memorandum reads as if the Liberal Party has the assumption that every welfare recipient is trying to rip off the system, and they will find any excuse to get out of working‘.  Do the Liberals see all welfare recipients as underhanded and dishonest? Did you really think they would stop at cheezel eating X-Box players?

Drug Trials

drug testing welfare

This Bill also introduces the ‘infamous’ drug testing for welfare recipients. Also, see here for previous posts relating to welfare and drug testing and false positives.

 

Welfare recipients are required to agree with participation in drug testing:

drugs

The Government’s Mantra

The Government is implementing these drug trials under the premise that drug tests will show that jobseekers are not willing and able to participate in jobsearch.

A one off drug test may not show any indication of long-term or chronic drug use. Drug tests may not indicate the individual is unable to participate in jobsearch. In addition, as different tests test within the limitation of different time frames and this will not always ensure natural justice.

Urinary Drug Testing
This picks up drugs in a person’s system 3-4 days prior. This does not indicate chronic drug use or the inability to jobsearch or indicate impairment to work.

Hair Testing
This will only show drugs used at least four weeks prior 

This means that not only are the most recent three to four weeks invisible, but so too are drugs used prior to the growing time of the hair tested.  This approach approximately samples from a month prior to hair collection back as far as four months prior to hair collection depending on the length of the hair sample.

This means that a jobseeker is penalised, even if they are in a period of cessation.

..if the cessation of drug use does not extend back to further than four months prior to sample collection, the subject may argue that any drug found reflects use prior to the time of cessation

The other concern is that chronic drug users will simply shift to drugs because they are not detected in hair testing or urine testing.  Especially relevant is one such drug is GBH (liquid ecstasy).

GBH is the drug that saw 21 people hospitalised earlier this year.

Testing requires rigorous standards. Otherwise, contamination can occur. The NATA information paper also indicates that false negatives and false positives can occur.

Vulnerable People and the Right to Fairness

It is vital that welfare recipients experience compassion and fairness.

Another concern is jobseekers who are on psychiatric medication can return a false positive (see linked article above).  Statistics also show that many individuals who are drug dependent have a comorbidity of mental illness.

The Australian Government’s own Department of Health and Aging reports that:

Comorbidity or the co-occurrence of mental disorders and substance use disorders is common.

The DMS-5 classifies Drug and Alcohol Abuse as a disorder.

“substance use disorder describes a problematic pattern of using alcohol or another substance that results in impairment in daily life or noticeable distress.”

Therefore, individuals are at greater risk if they have a psychiatric disorder, with a co-morbidity of drug addiction, or have a substance abuse disorder.

In addition, it is this specific group who are most likely to not have the self-efficacy to use the complaints system.

Fairness is an issue.  When we are dealing with the most vulnerable in society, this is a major concern.

If the Government is concerned about substance abuse, they should invest in prevention and support services and not punitive welfare.

Please see the petition below and sign it!

Australian Liberals – Wanna Be UK Tories

Malcolm Turnbull Theresa may

These types of measures of consolidating payments is in line with the approach of the UK Conservative Party.  This was largely rejected by the Social Welfare Sector in the UK.

The Sickness that is the UK Conservative Party is on display right now. That is thanks to Jeremy Corbyn. No credit to the former UKLabour party given. Do we really want to vote for a Government that follows suit?  We are the country of the fair go. Not a country of abject poverty.

Senate Committee Inquiry

senate committees

The Social Security Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill has concluded it’s second reading and is now referred to the Senate Standing Committees on Community Affairs.  This committee covers Health, Social Services and Human Services.

Individuals and organisations can submit their opinions or proposals to the committee for consideration.  Here is the information on how to write and submit a submission.

Submissions should be received by 4 August 2017. The reporting date is 4 September 2017.

There is not a lot of time to participate in feedback on this Bill, therefore, if you are against these changes, I would encourage you to write a submission as a direct protest.

Signing change.org petitions and sharing memes have their purpose, however, a submission is a direct voice to the Committee considering the Bill.

Petitions

petitions

Many people regularly sign online petitions using platforms such as change.org, however,  I would like to raise awareness that there are always petitions online in Federal and State Parliaments.

In fact, The House can only accept e-petitions that have been submitted via its e-petitions website. Signatures from other electronic or paper petitions cannot be added to your petition.

The petitions page is worth bookmarking.  Submitting petitions to parliament (State and Federal) and supporting official petitions submitted to Parliament is also critical in the stand against an issue.

To support a Petition:  Click on the Petition Link.  Complete your details, tick the terms and conditions box, go to your email and confirm your signature.

Standing up for progress – Achievement Unlocked!

Petition: Drug Testing of Welfare Recipients

We ask that the House reject the Government’s proposed trial, preventing the invasive and stigmatising practice of mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients.

Petition Number
EN0256

Petition Address
To the Hon. Speaker of the House of Representatives and Members of the House of Representatives

Petition Of
Certain citizens of Australia

Petition Reason
The petitioners request that the House reject the Government’s proposed trial of drug testing for welfare recipients.

The petitioners request that the House reject the Government’s proposed trial of drug testing for welfare recipients. The suggested “random” selection of subjects by profiling people thought to be high risk will lead to discriminatory selection, while income quarantine and compulsory treatment are ineffective measures that will further marginalise the vulnerable. Rather than supporting people into employment, this will force those with substance abuse problems to disengage with the system and seek other means to support themselves. This reflects the experience of other jurisdictions, where mandatory testing has proven expensive and ineffective. Such resources would be better targeted towards supporting our overburdened treatment sector, as metropolitan and regional service providers continue to be understaffed and underfunded.

Petition Request
We ask that the House reject the Government’s proposed trial, preventing the invasive and stigmatising practice of mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients.

I hope you enjoyed this first weekly review of Parliamentary Business. Until next week….

PATH: Proles Accursed To HELL! Enough!

Since time immemorial, the worker has fended off constant attacks. PATH is another chapter in the Liberal’s playbook where they accurse the Proles to hell.

A Worker’s Labour is Valuable

The Liberal Party of Australia formed to oppose the workers’ parties.  How Liberals and Labor view the worker are worlds apart. PATH is a clear example of this.

Australian Liberals

The basis of the Liberal ideology is to enable growth in the free market. They believe the cost of labour should be as low as possible. Turnbull’s Liberals believe a worker’s labour should be a cheap commodity. The incessant need to eradicate workers’ unions and weaken industrial labour laws are a testament to this.

One could strongly argue that the aspiration of full employment is not on the Liberal’s agenda. High numbers of unemployed people result in a much larger labour pool. This, in turn, drives wages down. Or in the case of PATH – the creation of an opportunity where labour is utilised for free.

As Sussan Ley said on Qanda: Governments don’t create jobs

The neo-liberal ideology aim is to purchase a worker’s labour as cheaply as possible. Ideologues like Turnbull and Cash, view a law passed to create a pool of free labour, such as PATH, as an exciting achievement.

Australian Labor

The Australian Labor Party was borne from the struggle of the worker. They believe that a worker’s labour is valuable. In simple terms, they believe that the ‘supply’ side of labour has the right to participate in setting the value of the labour. Hence their close connections with the unions. In simple terms, Labour Unions are there to protect the working class from the disintegration of rights and fair pay as imposed by the ruling class.

From this perspective, laws that negate this right, disempower workers and remove individual agency.

This is a punishment inflicted upon the working class.

The Rise of the PATH

The Turnbull Government introduced the PATH Program in the 2016 budget. This bill passed the Senate on 10 May 2017; with the assistance of Cory Bernardi, Derryn Hinch, Nick Xenophon Team, Jackie Lambie, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation and Family First all supporting the Government.

Only David Leyonhelm opposed the Bill, along with Labor and Greens.

The PATH to Nothingness

The PATH program offers young job seekers an internship by contract with an employer. This contract legally reduces the value of a young jobseeker’s labour. The taxpayer pays the intern at a rate of $4.00 per hour.

This is $14.29 an hour less than the minimum wage.This is $6.04 less than a 16 year old junior and $16.08 an hour less than a 21-year-old level 1 employee rate set down for many industries detailed on the Fair Work Australia payment guides.

The PATH scheme enables an employer to decrease the value of the intern’s labour by a minimum of 80% based on the scantest of entry-level wages in the country.

intern wage decrease

Business is at the Centre of the Framework

Internships are often painted as ‘work experience.’  However, work experience places the worker at the centre of the framework.  Work experience is usually a short-term experience in a workplace.  This enabled the worker to determine if they should invest in developing skills to seek future work in that industry.

PATH places business at the centre of the framework. An internship is:

The internship is designed around the needs of the host organisation and the intern’s skills, experience and interests. (Item 4, Sample Path Internship Agreement)

The employer must sign off to agree that they have a vacancy available now or in the near future. They have already identified that they need staff to meet operational requirements. 

The employer is already in a willing position to outlay money on recruitment and selection of new staff. They are already in a position to employ a jobseeker in a casual, temporary or permanent capacity.

This is not an incentive to increase staffing. PATH is an incentive to reduce recruitment & labour costs for staff that the organisation has already identified are required.

Additional Cost Savings to Business

Businesses can make considerable savings in induction, training and performance management costs during the probation period, in addition to recruitment and selection savings.

The PATH program enables an employer to try a number of potential employees for free. This also frees them from all the associated costs during the probationary period.  

Businesses are able to increase profits through the tax payer funding the PATH program. This is not the same as work experience or on the job learning, such as an apprenticeship or traineeship. This is a free labour program dressed up ‘helping the jobless who seek to work.’

Lower Labor Costs Equal Increased Profits

The PATH program strips workers of their own agency. The worker has forced upon them, a lower dollar value in exchange for their labour. Employers have an opportunity to reduce costs and increase profit.

Labour, raw materials and other overheads are the inputs in the production of goods or services. The through-put is the phase that mixes all inputs, including labour, together.

The output, being the end product or service is purchased or consumed by the consumer at the point of sale.  The employer factors into consideration the costs of all labour and materials at the input and throughput stages. The final product or service is sold for a percentage amount above the cost to produce that product or service.  This is the profit.

The cheaper labour is, the greater the profit for the employer.  The Government is creating a legal way for employers to reduce the cost of one factor of production.

The PATH program simply offers employers a way to reduce the cost of developing their product or service, enabling them to make a greater profit.

No Employment Guarantee

The PATH program offers no guarantee of future secure employment.  It does not offer a qualification that may be determined by the worker to be a sufficient value to trade for the monetary value of their labour.

What are the impacts on the emotional health of a young worker, if they are not retained?  What are the supports in place?

Experience as a payment does not automatically equal the same value of labour. Labour is given in exchange for money, conditions and other benefits. There is no formal equivalent offered to the value of the loss of wages, such as a degree that has a beneficial use to enable the worker to sell their labour to another organisation. 

There is no solid case that this experience will be valued by the young worker so much that it will negate any negative affect the young jobseeker will experience if they are not retained.

My main area of interest is emotions in the workplace.  I would encourage other bloggers to approach the PATH program from the aspect of the emotional well-being of the intern. I strongly believe we need as many people as possible investigating this issue.

Work. Struggle.

We are working people.
Work.
Struggle.
Even laugh about it sometimes.
None of us are winners.
We’re survivors
(Cameron Wolfe – Fighting Ruben Wolfe by Markus Zusak.)

These six lines boom, boom, boomed like a heart beating in the middle of page 25.

Marus Zusak has captured the essence of so many Australians. This is who we are.

The struggle of the working class in this country is a dire story. Sure, we have a history of hard fought victories. But as long as free marketeers live and breathe on the parliament floor, this struggle is endless.

Past struggle lives like a dormant beast within every single worker.

The scars that punctured the body and mind, the endless nights staring at jail cell walls and the lives lost, of those before us, embodies the beast which stirs within the heart of every worker.

The Beast of Past Struggle

When Liberals and Conservatives think they can take away agency of the jobless. When they insist upon total control of their spending with a plastic card. The beast of past struggle stirs.

When they deny us and our children the opportunity of a skilled education, to learn a trade or a profession. The beast of past struggle stirs.

When they make a rule that says the weekends are only important to people who can afford to not work on the weekend. the beast of past struggle stirs.

And when they think they have the right to tell young people who are desperate for work that their labour has no value. The beast of past struggle stirs.

When the beast of past struggle stirs in many of us, the beast of past struggle ROARS!

In a civilised society, labour is purchased for its determined worth, not stolen through the rule of badly designed laws.

 

Originally published on The Red Window Blog

 

A Kiss for Lee. A Punch in the Face for Tones.

A kiss on the cheek for Lee Rhiannon and a punch in the face for Tony Abbott. Two opposing ideologues tell the same story. Two very different reactions.

The Story of Lee

During the last sitting week of Parliament, the Turnbull Government tried to pass their version of the Gonski education reforms through the Senate. The Greens initially had indicated they would vote to support the Government.

However, at the time of the vote, the Greens voted against the Government. The turnaround pleased many. However, ideology it appears was not the reason.

As the week unravelled, Greens Senators accused NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon of white-anting, for campaigning against Gonski 2.0.  Senator Rhiannon was subsequently reported to the Green’s National Council and on June 28 she was ‘temporarily excluded from party room discussions and decisions on contentious legislation.’

Senator Rhiannon defends her position and is a strong advocate for grassroots-based democratic political leadership, where members have a say.  The Senator also proposed in light of the UK, we should take a stronger view of socialism and insisted it is what young people are asking for.

This is a direct ultimatum to the NSW Greens: either get with the increasingly right-wing program of Greens leader Richard Di Natale and his backers or piss off.  (Red Flag)

 

A Kiss on the  Cheek for Lee

Many praise Senator Rhiannon for staying true to her convictions. Standing up for her constituents and telling the truth.

Senator Sam Dastyari tweeted his support with a kiss on the cheek.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie Tweeted:

and all over social media, we saw a similar story to this of many people angry at the Greens and Richard Di Natale for their treatment of Lee Rhiannon:

Another theme on social media is that the Greens are angry at Rhiannon, as they did not get their Greens “We Did It” to claim the glory of their negotiations. The cross-benchers who voted with the Government get their ‘We Did It’ moment instead.

and some are highlighting the ‘cosying up to the Liberals’ by the Greens is becoming all too frequent.

An Ideological Stance

In short, Senator Rhiannon is reaping loads of praise and a kiss on the cheek for staying true to her convictions of leftism.

The Story of Tones

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was overthrown by his own party and lost the Prime Ministership on 14th September 2015.  In Abbott’s final statement as Prime Minister he said:

“There will be no wrecking, no undermining, and no sniping. I’ve never leaked or backgrounded against anyone. And I certainly won’t start now.” (SMH)

However, since that day Abbott has continued to contribute conservative commentary in response to the Turnbull-led Moderates Government. Over the last few weeks, Abbott has delivered an increasingly strong conservative narrative.

What’s at the Heart of Abbott’s Narrative

Through a series of radio interviews, including an address to the IPA over the course of the last year and even a new slogan; Tony Abbott shares with the public a consistent and strong narrative.  One that speaks to the urgent need to return conservative values to the Liberal Party.

Abbott is also calling for changes to the Liberal party to make it more democratic where members have a say.

The deep conviction to the ideology of small Government, reined in spending and individual freedom, is at the heart of what Abbott sees as the core values of the Liberals and what he believes is needed to move Australia forward.

Mr Abbott is urging conservatives to “take our party back, make it a party of the people again and then we can win the next election”. (Paul Bongiorno – The New Daily)

A Punch in the Face for Tones

The Former Prime Minister receives a decent amount of backing from right-wing conservatives in the MSM and social media for his current stance. There is also a noticeable ‘Pro-Abbott cheer squad’ on Twitter and in Newspaper forums.

Despite the Abbott loyalists, Abbott is copping some big blows. From the left to moderate right, he is copping a punch in the face.

There are many who consider Abbott as disruptive, chaotic, out of control and a threat to losing the next election to Bill Shorten.

Senator Cormann described Abbott’s contributions as “Unhelpful.”  Senator Sinodinos conceded that “the Liberal party can’t control Tony Abbott.”

Barrie Cassidy (Insiders Extra) said, “Tony Abbott is running amok and it’s causing the Liberal Party a world of pain.”

There are reams of anti-Abbott posts on social media.  Not in the sense that they are backing Turnbull over Abbott; but posting reminders of when Abbott was in power.  The main message is a rejection of the return of the Abbott Ideology as Prime Minister.

Similar Stories. Very  Different Reactions

I am asking readers to put aside their personal values/political ideology to one side and consider what is central to Rhiannon’s and Abbott’s stories.

Both are displaying a deep conviction for their political ideology.

They are both championing change for their respective parties to become more inclusive.

For Abbott his deep convictions see him pushing for what he sees as the way forward for Australia – Conservatism.

For Rhiannon her deep convictions see her pushing for what she sees as the way forward for Australia – Socialism.

However, the pattern in the response narrative I am picking up is that Rhiannon is a politician who is desperately doing what we need politicians to do. That is to stand up what they believe in, in times of adversity.  The momentum is there behind Rhiannon for her to triumph over the stronger faction led by Di Natale.

The response narrative to Abbott is peppered with the insinuation that he should sit down, shut up and resign. He should not stand up for his true values of conservatism. He should not fight for what he sees as right in times of adversity. There is a momentum shouting down Abbott to bow down to the stronger faction led by Turnbull.

For those who oppose either ideology and want to rise above it in power, leadership is the key. (Bytheway Di Natale  – leaders who punish dissent are sooo 1980s – Schein says it leads to crisis and dysfunction).

The Greens and the Liberals must fight this out within their own parties. The dissent must be allowed to enable the pathway to a clear direction. It must be allowed to showcase or condemn the leadership abilities of the respective leaders. Otherwise, the cracks will turn into canyons.

Leadership is as Leadership Does

There is a plethora of Leadership theories.  However, in very simple terms, what you put into leadership is what it does. 

If your leadership strategies are about unity – you will unite.  When your leadership strategies are about championing change. You will enable change. If your leadership strategies are transformational, you will empower others and develop a strong culture where people champion and truly believe your vision.

One thing Bill Shorten is not given credit for is his very strong leadership qualities. The Rudd/Gillard/Rudd years were in the not too distant past. The Labor party at that time was in the same disarray. Shorten has utilised all of the leadership strategies outlined above. For the past four years, Shorten has led a strong, unified movement, which most said would never recover from the deep factional divide of the Rudd-Gillard years.

If Turnbull was as strong a leader as Shorten, Abbott’s push for conservatism would be as insignificant as the score at half-time in the State of Origin decider.

Liberal Bludgers Should Engage in Job Creation

The Australian Liberal Party are the champions of welfare bashing. If we treat the Liberals like they treat the unemployed, will they do the right thing and actively engage in job creation?

Tax Payers Funding Liberal Dependency

Most taxpayers don’t mind supporting Liberal Politicians who are doing the right thing. However, studies have shown that a wide number of these MP’s have become non-compliant. The public should take tough measures to ensure Liberal politicians are not just looking for a handout.

The compliance system delivered by the public is very simple. Job Creation, Fair Wages and Conditions for all Workers and properly funded Public Infrastructure and Services. This system is designed to ensure that Government’s capable of Job Creation – Do Job Creation.

The public is sick and tired of excuse after excuse. Spending too much time wining and dining corporate donors, or blaming Labor are not acceptable reasons to shirk working on Job Creation projects.

Weak-Minded “penalties” such as a constant thrashing in Newspoll is not a big enough stick to prod them along.

As of 1st July 2017, the average Australian Taxpayer needs to work 215 months (17.9 years) to generate enough taxes to support one Liberal politician on their base wage a year, based on the average Australian earning $60,082 a year.

It is clear that when the Liberals are in Government, the lack of desire to engage in Job Creation or even to attend a job creation brainstorming meeting is a significant problem. Is it a lack of leadership? A lack of ideas, or are they just plain lazy?

The Liberal Government Debt is spiralling out of control and they just keep putting their hand out and expect hard working people to pay for their lazy lifestyles.

We talk about some classic examples below:

Turnbull Liberals – A Drain on the Nation

TV Show “DumbRise” has reported that Brian Anderson – an average punter, uncovered a secret ghetto where Liberal cheats and bludgers breed – the Liberal Party Room in Canberra.

This isn’t naming and shaming. Concentrations of Liberal MPs not getting off their wallet laden posteriors and getting down and dirty in job creation projects, funding schools and hospitals properly and looking after our homeless and veterans and delivering a fair go for workers, is no laughing matter for hardworking Australians.

Instead, most of these Liberal bludgers are holed up in their offices eating Cheezels and playing WOW: RotAK (World of Whiteness: Return of the Abbott King). An MMORPG where they get to live out a fantasy life. They join factions, go to neutral territory “Auction House” where they can trade preferences with One Nation. They then spend hours in group ‘Raids” where they get to take down Union Bosses and can be “Knighted” with an achievement title under their name.

We have learnt this type of behaviour from the Liberals is very common.

Job Creation Cheats and Bludger Hotspots

Barry Anderson, a local cleaner, casualised because of the Liberals unfair labour laws; took it upon himself to test the urine in the sewers below the Liberal party room on a shift he should have been working as he was underemployed. The cut to his penalty rates sees him branching out. He is hoping to pick up additional work as a urine tester, with the Government. However, his initial findings may just have cost him the job!

Barry said his testing revealed the urine found in the sewers under the Liberal party room highlights a huge problem.

He said, “honesty, public good and job creation, found in the urine of politicians ‘doing the right thing‘ is largely absent. “These initial tests show there are large pockets of bludging Liberals. Wider testing should apply in all Liberal seats.”

Anderson revealed there were noticeable quantities of the following drugs:

  • The recreational drug ‘IPD’ – A drug that causes users to participate in massive infighting and party divide
  • DGAF – A drug which makes politicians insular and uncaring about workers and the poor and
  • FIGJAM – A drug that causes politicians to apply as guest stars on rival TV show Sunrise.

More alarmingly, the Party Drug MDNA (Minteds Doing Neo-Liberal Austerity) is highly prevalent. This drug makes Liberal politicians so high, they hallucinate and believe Job Creation is someone else’s problem. If people are out of work, ‘they can just innovate and create their own job”. They live in a dream state. One where giving rich people more money makes poor people better off. This includes cutting wages.

Anderson’s discovery may actually highlight the historical problem of inter-generational Liberal tax-payer funded salary dependency.

Crackdown on Relationship Fraud

Liberals collect tax payer funded salaries on the pretence that they are in a good relationship with the public. They are best friends with Medicare and an even better friend to the workers. However, Parliament Inspectors are on their case. Secret recordings show they are constantly cheating on Medicare and Workers.

 An unnamed source has photos of various Liberal Party members’ boots outside of the Office of Private Health organisations, corporate donors and the Australian Building and Construction Commission.

Yes, they use excuses such as “Productivity Commission Reports.” How they “feel deeply sympathetic to the private sector and construction bosses.” And just how they are just helping out a mate. The public is not buying it. Liberal MPs, including the Prime Minister, will need to prove they are not in a relationship.

Coupled Politicians will need to prove they are faithful and not in multiple relationships, particularly if they are Catholic. Hard-working Australians cannot afford to fund Liberal Government MPs who are actively participating in multiple relationships and breeding swarms of Young Liberals.  

Taxpayers simply cannot sustain supporting breeding this type of generational entitlement, IPA membership and endless pairs of pastel dress shorts.

This is extended to relationships with others in and out of the party room. A source, we can now name only as “Hansard” has identified that Pauline Hanson’s One Nation is always in bed with the Liberals.

Greens Leader Di Natale tried last week to jump into bed with the Liberals, but factional opposition Lee Rhiannon hunted him down and blocked the romance with the expertise of Joey Greco on cheaters. 

A close source has indicated a sensational expose is forthcoming on Too Much Tonight.

Tough Measures For Lazy Liberal Leaners

A series of Crackdowns will be put before the People’s Parliament next month. These measures are not punitive as such.  They are made to “lift the Liberal MP up by the bootstraps” so they engage actively in Job Creation, Funding Public Infrastructure and Services adequately and acting in the public good by rejecting Austerity.

Parental Support Measure

Parental support is a key reform. Mum and Dad should support the lifestyle of lazy Liberal MPs, until the age of 51 which is the average age of a politician, if the are not fully participating in job creation. This will save taxpayers at least $200,000 per year per bludging Liberal Politician.

If mum and dad have the capacity to pay for them, they bloody well should. Mum and dad don’t deserve to finally have their pay to themselves after their little Liberal comes of age.  These parents will have to wait until their little Liberal decides to go job creating or turns 51. Whichever one comes first.

Salary Wait Times

Liberal Politicians who enter Parliament as a Liberal MP will have to wait six months for their first payment.  This is not a punishment. It is meant to encourage Liberal MPs to transition properly. Going from just being a son or daughter of a wealthy donor, member of the IPA or political staffer to being a Liberal politician who is actively engaging in Job Creation and serious budget work to adequately fund public infrastructure and services, without austerity.  This should help rein in the debt they caused in the first place.

Demerit Points System

Liberal politicians already receiving a salary will have a demerit system imposed on them. Just like bad drivers, this is meant to imply ‘they are all bad’.

If they fail to sign a mutual agreement plan, that they will create jobs: – 3 demerit points

They fail to actively participate in job creation – 3 demerit points

If they blame high unemployment rates on Labor – 4 demerit points

When they privatise public assets – 5 demerit points

If they accumulate seven points, their salary is cut. That is until they can prove they are re-engaging. They must participate and deliver decent Governance to Australians.

Cashless Welfare

 A roll out of Cashless Welfare in all Liberal held seats is imminent. Blue Ribbon seats will be the first to take up the card.  This card is designed to help Liberal politicians who struggle with participating in the community. Job creation and delivering outcomes for the public good, is an expectation of mutual obligation.

The Institute for Pontificating Affairs champions this measure as an excellent strategy to ensure Liberal Politicians don’t take their hand out for granted.’

Under this cashless scheme, the public can control what the Government MPs spend their ‘salary‘ on and use data matching, including hacking smartphones, to weed out the most devious of cheats.

‘At risk’ Liberal politicians are the focus. Everyone will know they are not working to the best of their ability. At the checkout and at the servo. No more brown paper bags filled with cash as they stare forlornly at the ATM.

  • Fancy Dinners with Donors
  • Expensive Clothes
  • Free Travel
  • Wining and Dining
  • Helicopter Rides
  • Overseas Junkets
  • Multiple Property Buying
  • Luxurious Office Fit-Outs
  • Campaigning or Book Launches disguised as Charity Events
  • Gambling with the Lives of Workers
  • Paid Union Bashing Advertising or
  • Alcohol

Are all banned items for Liberals placed on this card.

The Struggle to Pass These Measures

One Nation Leader Pauline Hanson strongly opposes these measures. “The Public and Labor are always picking on Liberals. This includes Liberals who have started their own parties like me and Cory,” She exclaimed shakily.

We stand in solidity (sic) with Liberals and value their commitment to Austerity and bloody decent rorting. I mean, if they come for them, they will come for me and my plane next and who will be left to speak for the racists and union bashers? Not the bloody ABC, that’s for sure.”

A Liberal Party spokesperson has advised that they are in talks with The Australian Greens. Greens Leader Richard Di Natale said he will adopt whatever ever measures will make him look good to the Liberals. Keeping the Liberals cashed up to woo donors and stay in power, means the Greens will remain a strong voice for those who want to protest against the Liberals and PHON.”

In any case, I won’t be standing over there with bloody Labor and their ‘worker this and worker that’ and that lefty-pinko Rhiannon.” He said.

A Pitchfork for Setka. A Soft Kitty for Hanson: A Tragic Tale

As the media chase CFMEU John Setka down the road with their pitchforks, they stop to slip a hero’s cape over Senator Hanson’s shoulders. Our National Conversation is a tale of two cities. One which contrasts how bigots are protected and those who speak up are condemned.

A Soft Kitty for Hanson

Time and time again we hear Pauline Hanson vilify and deride the vulnerable. Media and Politicians alike then protect her derision and hail her as a hero.

The ‘Autism in Schools Debate’ is a mark where the media and politicians aren’t all beating the same drum.

However, there are still a number of commentators and journalists staying true to the traditional mantra. “Pauline has it right” and “This is what Pauline actually meant.”

Hanson is prone to Dog Whistling – about well anything now. No vulnerable group is immune it seems.

There are those who like to throw Soft Kitty at the Dog Whistle, to muffle it and silence it.

They do this by taking it upon themselves to falsify the meaning of what Hanson said and then explain it to the public as something good (which she did not say).

Soft Kitty Warm Kitty

Singing Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty, makes everyone feel better. Those who agree with Hanson, don’t need to be ‘labelled’ as racist, xenophobic, or ableist. Those who cling onto the hatred espoused by Hanson, are touted as the ‘thinkers.’ As the one’s who ‘know’, but never say it.’ AKA  – The Silent Majority.

From “the conversations we need to have” to “This is what Pauline meant to say. There are those who continue to stroke the shitty opinions of those in agreement, by singing this song:

We do not need journalists singing their readers and listeners a soothing song.  We can all cope with discussing the harshness and contempt of Hanson’s words.

No other politician is afforded this type of pandering. None.

Singing Soft Kitty

The “Autism in Schools” debate is peppered with hailing Hanson as a hero who highlights the issue of funding on the basis of inclusion. It was not. It was about exclusion and segregation.

Some consistently falsify the meaning of Hanson’s words to mean something she did not mean. Why?

Insiders on Sunday 25th June (see from 25:10) also put a positive spin on Hanson’s intent.

This example of falsification of meaning from Insiders:

“People got a better sense of Autism from this if there was a positive aspect to it all” (Barry Cassidy)

“…If in a class with an Autistic child or something, it can take up more of the teachers time…..you need an extra teacher or extra resources or staff…. Hanson I think was trying to say all that but it came out all wrong and mean…..it just came out all terrible and that is why everyone jumped ugly on it” (Phillip Coorey).

You can watch the entire ABC The Drum Segment Here.

This example from – The Drum

“……..I don’t think that is what she meant.  I think that what she meant was that it is very, very difficult in a mainstream school. If you are not funding the classroom and funding the teacher and funding the aides to take care of large numbers of children with special needs”

These are examples of respected journalists on widely watched programs. They falsify the meaning of Hanson’s segregation speech as one of ‘misunderstood goodwill.’  It was not. So why reconfigure it?

Pauline Hanson knows exactly what she is doing. She knows her words cause division, upset and harm to others. Her speeches over 20 years which poke and prod at minorities are not just a coincidence.

Hanson means every word she says.

Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty, purr, purr, purr…..

Pimping our National Conversation with Douchebaggery

Hanson also said in her speech that “we can’t hold these other kids back”  She spoke about the fear of ‘other kids’ missing out on jobs due to kids with disabilities in the classroom getting too much attention. This means “the other” kids will lose their jobs to overseas workers. 

Take note from 14:00

Why is it a part of our national conversation that Hanson’s racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and now ableism is ‘because she means well?”  Media reporting and discussing Hanson in this manner is simply pimping our national conversation with bucketloads of douchebaggery.

Hanson does not mean well at all. For over 20 years she never has. Never will.

If Bill Shorten or Malcolm Turnbull said what Hanson said, would they have excuses made for them? No. No, they would not.

The constant falsification of “What Hanson said” is delegitimising the experiences of anyone who is offended by Hanson’s words, particularly those who are the target of her words.

*No disrespect to the journalists who actually stand up against trash talk by Hanson.

A Pitchfork for Setka

In a compare and contrast, a Union Official emotional at the high number of worker deaths in construction and angry at the Government implemented ABCC which only makes workplaces more unsafe; is slammed backwards to sideways by all and sundry, for an emotionally laden shout down to ABCC Inspectors.

The media have reconfigured Setka’s words to mean something he did not say.  That his main intent was to ‘be a thug’ for the sake of it, rather than highlight the plight of workers.

We have seen Malcolm Turnbull’s rant at the Liberal Love-In this week.

There have been countless headlines condemning Setka, focused particularly for including children in threats and a referral to the Police.

Setka threatened to expose who the secret ABCC inspectors were to family, friends and footy clubs.

“The’ve gotta lead these secret lives because they are ashamed of what they do…We will lobby their neighbourhoods, we will tell them who lives in that house and what he does for a living, or she, and we will go to their local footy club. We’ll go to their local shopping centre. They will not be able to show their faces anywhere. Their kids will be ashamed of who their parents are when we expose these ABCC inspectors” (ABC 23/06/2017)

Setka Clarified his  Speech

Setka has clarified the emotion behind his speech.

“But as a family man and father of three beautiful children, if my comments were taken out of context or if they came across in a manner that was threatening, then I truly apologise,” he said.

“We’ve never gone to people’s homes or involved their families and we never would,” Mr Setka said in his statement.

“The thought of anyone going to someone’s home is reprehensible. My speech reflected the depth of anger construction workers feel about the persecution they face from the ABCC.”

What Setka Really Means is…

Imagine if the media treated John Setka the same way they do Pauline Hanson. Imagine if they listened to his accusation that he was deliberately taken out of context. (ABC 23/06/2017)

Imagine if they pandered to Setka and excused him. Just ‘An uneducated do-gooder, who just can’t can’t get his words right.’

What if the media reconfigured Setka’s speech and framed it all about ‘what he really meant?”

Imagine if the media and politicians framed Hanson as a thug whose words threaten and intimidate minorities and may incite hate crimes and insist she is referred to the police – every time.

What If?

What if Setka was just a man “Brave enough to say what the Silent Majority think?”

If only panel shows around the country discussed that, “He meant he was just angry at the ABCC being a tool of the Government – A Government that clearly shows they have contempt for the working class. A tool that provides an enabling environment for more injury and deaths of workers and rendering the Union powerless to prevent them.’ 

What if they said – Yeh – we should talk about that?

What if Setka was framed as  “A well-intentioned man who just wants to highlight that workers deaths are a huge issue and no one is talking about that?”   

Imagine if workers, risking lives every day in a high-risk industry, made even more dangerous by the ABCC, were treated as the ‘Silent Majority.”  

Imagine if Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese instead of agreeing with Turnbull that the this is just ‘Thuggery’ stepped forward and shouted down the Liberals and the ABCC.  

What if they said that they don’t agree with the way Setka said it, but understood the emotion behind it and then insisted the ABCC be abolished and this is what he really meant?”

If only all Labor MPs and media used this speech as the impetus and insisted we need to have a national conversation about safety at work.

What if the Media chased Turnbull with a pitchfork and insisted he explains the high number of worker deaths?

What if….

A Soft Kitty For Setka

If the media and politicians sang Soft Kitty the way they do for Pauline Hanson and spoke about what they ‘assume’ the underlying intention was, then more conversations would look like this, instead of tirades about Unions being thugs and good for nothing else. Workers deaths and Worker Safety would be highlighted as a real issue of national concern.

Bosses threatening Unionists who are trying to ensure the safety of workers on site, dangerous conditions and worker deaths and how to prevent them, would be the topic of talk-back shows and panels all around the nation.

A Tragic Tale

We have heard post the Grenfell Tower Inferno phrases used such as ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ contrasting the treatment of the poor and the wealthy in the UK.

Our National Conversation is also a tragic tale of two cities. One where the powerful bigots with platforms can demean already vulnerable groups. These bigots then have more powerful people cover up their bigotry. They falsify the meaning of what bigots actually say into something ‘nice’ they did not say and then explain “What they really meant.”

Then we have the underdogs, screaming for someone to notice their plight. Trying to highlight what the rich and powerful are doing to those who do not have full agency, who are not empowered, who do not have a voice.

Whether this is workers, the unemployed or asylum seekers or any other vulnerable group. The same powerful people be it politicians or media, cover up this contempt for these groups, and label them thugs, bludgers and terrorists.

Corbyn’s For the Many, Not for the Few – is not a platitude. It has the ability to change life as we know it. It is time we too, looked at our own national conversations through the lens of a Tale of Two Cities, where the powerful reign and the powerless suffer.

Environmental Elitism and the Inconsequential Worker

Bolman and Deal’s “Reframing Organisations” encourages leaders to look through various ‘windows’ to reframe and solve problems.  The Author argues that climate change activism is led from a position of privilege. To counter this, the worker must be central to the climate change debate.

The Rise of Climate Change Activism

Climate Change Activism is not a passing phase. Warnings about climate change have progressed since the 1980’s. Aerosols and cows expelling gas would destroy the earth. Climate change activism has become increasingly more prevalent in politics, media, and society.

The current phase, post-Paris Agreement, is a particularly strong phase of climate change activism. This is globally pushing leaders to implement legislation and regulations to mitigate the impact of climate change.

The Force of Change on the working class

The vocal aim of activists to shut down entire industries, such as coal (and some say beef is on their radar as well), places climate change as a (negative) force of change on the working class.

We are no longer in an era where we are debating the reality of climate change. The majority of people accept that climate change is real and we must act on climate change.

Many activists still operate in the mindset that any question about jobs equals denialism. They do not try to understand if the other person believes in climate change. Lectures about the merits of climate change stream forth in abundance, regardless.

Abuse and ridicule are common responses to the jobs issue. A strong position is jobs do not matter in the end. They argue fiercely if mining destroys the earth, there will be no jobs at all. This is particularly exacerbated by the current anti-Adani movement at present.

Activists who do try to engage only have one solution – all the coal workers will now work in renewables.  There is no vision to reinvent communities or truly see the human factor and offer diversity and true renewal.

Other activists are quite discriminatory about who deserves jobs. They will respond with the notion that Great Barrier Reef jobs are more important than coal jobs. The notion of job losses in the coal sector is sometimes even celebrated by activists as an achievement.

Rebuttals are in the form of industry that is not yet prevalent.

Oh! They can just go get jobs in the renewabls industry!

The conversation around jobs and regional communities towards a post-coal world is extremely difficult to get off the ground.

Concern for Jobs isn’t Climate Change Denial

Environmental activists must cease the perverse accusation that one is a “climate change denier” if displaced workers are a major concern

(And Malcolm Roberts, by some weird turn of events you read this; despite what you may have read from Climate Change activists yelling at me on Twitter – I am not in love with you).

To achieve positive progress we need to reframe the debate with the worker as the centre. This will highlight the negative impact climate change action has on workers.

Environmentalists must question if their position is so pure that negative consequences, such as mass layoffs are inconsequential.  If mass layoffs are inconsequential, and workers can’t put food on the table, then does one’s activism come from a position of privilege?

The Negative Consequence of Positive Action

Activists generally sincerely value their actions and advocacy as a positive effect on society. I do not disagree that this is the intent with climate change activists.

However, I would strongly argue to value the intent of activism is not enough. I would also argue it is ignorant. Activists must also value the consequences of their actions, not just the intent. Sometimes a positive action can result in negative consequences.

An environmental lens ensures the following remain silent:

Displaced workers, economic loss, increased welfare, homelessness, poverty, despair, an increase in psychosomatic symptoms and even suicide.

Reframing the debate with the worker as central to the climate change debate is essential. This places climate change action as an externality that is a force of change on industry and work. This shifts the worker from an irrelevant byproduct of change to the central focus.

This should serve as the impetus to mitigate harm to the working class co-existent with positive action on climate change.

What does Feminism have to do with this?

I am using this example to demonstrate activism and privilege. Often the negative consequences of positive action, are not recognised. The activist does not have a desire to reframe the debate. It is not until voices push for reframing that the negative consequences of activism are realised.

As a white liberal/radical feminist in the 1980’s, I was oblivious that the activism I participated in had negative consequences. This activism had a negative affect on women of colour and also misrepresented men of colour.

It has been through women of colour persisting with their voices, who created this change. This forced white liberal feminists to reframe their activism and recognise specific feminist issues for women of colour.  Many white liberal feminists now follow women of colour as allies in support of their activism.

Through reframing by women of colour, white liberal feminists could then identify the negative consequences. They recognise their activism was from a position of privilege.

A united and stronger feminist wave was born.

Stop Lecturing and Start Uniting

Activism that spares no thought about how to alleviate harm on the worker is from a position of privilege.

Activism that is not involved in ideas and discussions to mitigate harm to the worker, is a position of privilege.

Persisting with ‘lecturing and convincing others’ and shouting down concerns about jobs is regressive and obstructive.

If this continues, unlike feminism – a new wave will not be born.

Privilege and Elitism

Privilege is a term commonly used in sociology and feminist literature and it is described as:

As a concept, privilege is defined in relational terms and in reference to social groups, and involves unearned benefits afforded to powerful social groups within systems of oppression (Kendall, 2006; McIntosh, 1988).

Within Environmental Literature this concept is defined as “Elitism” (Dunlap, 1986). There are three types of environmental elitism.

  • Compositional Elitism: The suggestion that environmentalists are generally more upper-class and financially well off.
  • Ideological Elitism: The suggestion that environmentalists protect their own interests at the cost of the poor – i.e. Preventing a power plant on land that is beneficial to their own interests.

The third type of elitism is the most relevant for the purpose of this article:

  • Impact Elitism: The suggestion that environmental reform measures that have (intended or not) regressive, distributional impacts on society. (ie job losses, economic loss).

Some examples of impact elitism are:

  • The cost of reducing energy costs benefits the wealthy and excludes the poor. (Older cheaper cars versus newer Tesla cars).
  • Solar panelling and insulation benefits wealthier home buyers and excludes those who rent
  • People from poorer countries live in unhealthy environments. This is because they cannot afford the infrastructure or cost of electricity for a healthier, cleaner environment.
  • Purchasing a set of environmentally friendly shopping bags as a choice between an inedible bag or much-needed food.
  • Wealthier advanced countries advocating against poorer countries accessing fossil fuel energy. Although this may be a step enable fuelling, farming, agriculture and new industry.
  • Activism to shut down an energy intensive plant, even though its closure will result in mass layoffs.

Reframing the Debate

The Climate Change debate would look much different if activists, politicians and media reframed this to a worker-centred debate.

Decisions around budget measures, domestic and foreign affairs, industrial relations, training and the distribution of revenue would look much different.

The continual lecturing and ridicule from activists who are stuck in the view that the majority of people still need convincing are stifling the debate.

The leader of the Labor Party, Bill Shorten, is also guilty of this. Shorten’s narrative concentrates too much on the environmental, rather than the working class.

It is up to the Australian Labor party to lead serious reform in this area. Leave the environmentalism to the Greens.  Australian Labor should be working to mitigate the effects of climate change whilst simultaneously loudly advocating for national reform. Championing the new way we look at jobs, industry and the economy in a post-coal world.

A Serious Transition is Urgent

The Labor party has a transition document available.  However, in my view, it does not go far enough.  The legacy of Labor is about national progressive reform. I welcome a transition plan. However, one that responds within an environmental framework is not enough. The answer is not just about renewables.

We urgently need a visionary set of serious reforms for regional communities.

  • How will revenue be redistributed?
  • How will the loss of coal revenue impact regions?
  • What are the impacts on specific communities, rather than nationally?
  • Should we focus on regional unemployment or a national average?
  • Do education and training need greater investment?
  • Should renewables training colleges be set up in regional universities?
  • Do we fully fund TAFE to secure the necessary training required to reskill for the future?
  • How do we attract a range of non-energy related industry investment to regional communities?
  • Is funded redeployment for displaced workers to existing and new industry an option?
  • Should regionally focused apprenticeship quotas be funded on a national scale?
  • Will redistribution of centralised public services to regions relieve the burden?

These are some questions to be asked.

The Labor Party’s narrative about the world of work in a world of serious climate change action is also non-existent.

Unless we fight and win a region-focused jobs and economic transition plan, the resultant high unemployment, filled with skilled heavy industry unemployed, only risks tipping the balance of power to the employer. This is a huge risk for further erosion of job security, safety and fair wages and conditions.

I have renewed hope now that Australian Unions are speaking up.

Food on the table, rewarding and permanent secure work should be an inherent value we ALL fight for.

A Synergistic Policy Framework

This cyclical fight does not have to continue to be the case.  The “left” appears to be fighting itself to champion one social cause (environmentalism) at the expense of another (the worker).

Mass layoffs and closures will become a prevalent and a visible acknowledgement of successful climate change activism. Without a serious region focused economic and jobs transition plan, this divide will deepen. It will hurt.

Arguments that the worker is secondary give fuel to the ONLY argument that the actual climate change deniers have left. That is pretending to care about the working class as the reason to block change.  We saw that in abundance this week with the Liberal and National Party’s rejection of the Finkel Review.

The absence of narrative about jobs is also partly attributed to the rise of Trump and Hanson. I do not want that to continue. Do you?

Reframing and placing the worker at the centre of the policy debate and self-identifying privilege is the first step. A step towards a synergistic policy framework of positive climate change action united in positive progress for the worker.

Is the Adani seeking funding body – the NAIF some sort of sick joke?

Redcuchulain is concerned that the NAIF – the Northern Australian Infrastructure Facility has various issues to sort through before they decide upon a loan to Adani within the next few days.  This article highlights a petition which calls on the Federal Government to suspend the operations of NAIF.  That is until the Auditor General can conduct an appropriate investigation on the governance of the program.

An Unfortunate Acronym

Dictionary definition: naïf

nʌɪˈiːf,nɑːˈiːf/

adjective
1. naive or ingenuous.
noun
1.a naive or ingenuous person.
naïf

The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility

Of course, we are now more familiar with the NAIF as applied to the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility. With bipartisan support, The Government set up NAIF in July 2016. The aim was to provide concessional loans to finance development in Northern Australia. The fund has over $5 Billion dollars at its disposal. Seven independent board members sit on the board. Based on the Board’s recommendations, the Minister for Northern Australia (currently Senator Matthew Canavan) has the authority to approve the expenditure.

The NAIF board came under fire from critics in March 2017. They had yet to approve a single cent in funding, despite over 80 applications lodged. The NAIF Board had met just four times and had paid the board members a total of almost $560,000. (Under fire: NAIF board members under fire earning over $500k: Rockhampton Morning Bulletin)

Environmental groups have been arguing that the real reason behind the NAIF is to facilitate the transfer of Government money to the Adani Carmichael mine. The Australian Conservation Foundation claim that the fact that five of the seven directors have coal mining industry links are proof of this. Dirty Deeds Video – Australian Conservation Foundation. The NAIF have so far refused to comment on allegations regarding conflicts of interest.  They simply say that ‘all of their Directors are aware of their obligations’.

Conflicts of Interest

The NAIF does have a published conflict of interest document NAIF Conflict of interest policy. Under this policy ‘examples of Directors’ Conflicts of Interest are where a NAIF Director also sits on the Board of another company which is applying for a financial facility from NAIF or where a NAIF Director holds shares in a company which has applied to NAIF for a financial facility.’

These provisions are insufficient.  Particularly in the context of extremely large projects which may increase demand in a particular sector. One could reasonably expect personal gain even if not having a personal interest in an entity applying for funding through NAIF.

Former Treasurer Wayne Swan has described the Governance of NAIF, which was set up with bipartisan support,  being like ‘Lehman Brothers’. Northern Australia Fund Governance as dodgy as Lehman Brothers : Australian Financial Review. The Auditor-General has indicated that a review of the NAIF may take place in the next year’s work program.

Some Shocking Revelations

This was all before the shocking revelations of the past week. The ABC, Guardian and Buzzfeed politics published stories regarding conflict of interest.  The stories allege that one of the Directors, Karla Way McPhail, has a severe conflict of interest with respect to the NAIF decision on Adani. Ms. McPhail is featured in a story (below) in the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin talking up the Carmichael mine. Mining skills shortage threats if we miss training; Rockhampton Morning Bulletin

The articles published over the last week allege that Karla Way-McPhail has:

  • Business interests which place her in a conflicted situation over the Adani mine decision.
  • Appointed because she has a personal friendship with Minister Matthew Canavan
  • Is a hyper-partisan supporter of the LNP and has recently deleted some Facebook posts which would confirm this.

ABC 30th May 2017 – Potential conflict of interests of NAIF Board Members

The Guardian 31st May 2017 – Conflict of interests for Director on NAIF Board

Buzzfeed Politics 1st June ‘Director on NAIF scrubs Facebook posts’

Buzzfeed Politics 2nd June 2017 “Minister appointed Mate to NAIF board”

ABC 2nd June 2017 – “Conflict of interests over approval of $900M loan spark Senate questions

Will There Really Be an Investigation, Barnaby?

Whilst these allegations certainly look concerning and Barnaby Joyce has promised there will be an investigation, is the problem with the NAIF not at a higher level?

How can Matthew Canavan, the Resources Minister, also be the Minister responsible for NAIF? Of course, Senator Canavan wants to get Adani approved. He has put a huge amount of work into the project. He would not be human if he was prepared to see it fail at this stage. Big mistakes are often made in projects and participants are too personally invested. This effect is known as the ‘Sunk Cost’. Recovery of work done is not possible. None of us want to fail.  With failure, Senator Canavan risks a loss of political capital.

We are all human. Minister Canavan and the NAIF board members are as fallible and imperfect as the rest of us. Systems are supposed to be designed in such a manner as to protect us from our own nature.

I am in no way questioning the personal integrity of Minister Canavan, Ms. McPhail or any of the other board members. It is clear that all of these people have passion and drive and have contributed a lot to this country.

The Public Should Have Faith in the System Where Adani is Concerned

NAIF would appear to have been set up incorrectly. With a decision as important as a $900 million loan to Adani, it is imperative the public have faith in the system. A good start would be to split the ministerial portfolios a different way. This is so Senator Canavan, the decision maker, is not conflicted himself. The rest of the process regarding applicant selection, conflict of interest management and how board members should behave in the media I will leave to the Auditor-General. Needless to say, it should be to a standard which should satisfy a former treasurer.

If we fail to get the system right and leave this to the goodwill of the people concerned it may turn out badly for Northern Australia. Of course, there is always a small chance that it has been set up to achieve the results desired and that the choice of acronym is some sort of sick joke. In that case, if we fall for it, we are indeed a country of naifs!

Concerned about NAIF.

Sign the petition now.

https://www.change.org/p/malcolm-turnbull-suspend-the-northern-australia-infrastructure-facility-naif

 

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