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Tag Archives: Green army

It seems easy to me . . .

Poverty and unemployment can make Christmas a very bleak time for some folk. While thinking about their struggle I was overwhelmed by how we have demonised and abandoned so many who need our help, so I did what I so often do, escaping to my world of numbers, knowing there has to be a better way.

The Federal Employment Minister Eric Abetz said:

“… it should be the task of every job seeker to make it their full-time job to gain employment … Because the data is overwhelming … If you are unemployed, the physical health, mental health, self-esteem, social interaction of that individual are all diminished.”

As Bill Mitchell wisely observes:

“If the unemployed have a responsibility “to make it their full-time job to gain employment” even though the income support payments the Government provides leave most of them impoverished (and deliberately so), then the Government has a responsibility to use its fiscal capacity to provide sufficient work.”

So here are some numbers to contemplate as some of us digest our Christmas feasts.

The Commonwealth spends $7.5 billion on Newstart Allowance each year and the number claiming is rising by about 5% annually. It has also committed to give $5.1 billion to Employment Providers over the next three years and $525 million for the Green Army.

At present, the Newstart Allowance supports approximately 740,000 people without a job.

The national minimum wage is currently $16.87 per hour.

Instead of forcing unemployed people to work 15 hours a week to get their Newstart payment (with a possible additional payment of $20.80 a fortnight to help with costs of taking part in the Work for the Dole activity), why don’t we give them real jobs for 20 hours a week starting at the minimum wage. This would give them a wage of $674.80 a fortnight, give them some work experience, and also allow them some time to be studying or looking for other work. Considering the maximum payment a single person with no children can receive now is $515.60 a fortnight, this would be a significant boost.

If 500,000 people were given jobs under these circumstances it would cost us about $8.8 billion a year, less than we are already spending ($9.4 billion), and the same as Joe Hockey gifted to the RBA. It’s less than we spend on Operation Sovereign Borders and much less than Tony is spending on foreign built fighter jets and submarines… get half a million people into work and one step closer to moving out of poverty.

There are hundreds of thousands of jobs that can be created which meet current unmet community needs and would help people and the natural environment and which would be accessible for any skill level.

All it takes is for a government to have the brains, courage and heart to do it.

We need the Wizard of Oz.

The Grey Army

Young people starting out in life are a great resource for our future. Investing in them, giving them a helping hand to get started, is the responsibility and obligation of this generation. We must nurture them while they learn not only skills for employment, but life skills. When they fall, we must help them get up, dust themselves off, and help direct them on a better path. We must give them hope and reinforce that opportunities are available – help them to prepare for and recognise them and take advantage when they come around. They must have choices. The social and productivity benefits of this are obvious.

Cutting funding for the Gonski reforms, closing trades training centres, removing the tool allowance, saddling students with huge debts, cutting off the dole for 6 months a year, compulsory work for the dole, defunding youth advocacy groups and employment assistance programs – none of these measures seem to meet our obligation to our young people. They have been given an ultimatum -“EARN OR LEARN” – but many crucial programs that would assist them in doing this have been abolished.

We are offering them the Green Army or the Gap Year Real Army or find someone to support you for 6 months and get good at taking rejection.

At the same time, we are raising the pension age to 70, indexed to prices rather than wages so progressively diminishing comparatively, driving more people into poverty in the future.

Because less than half of the population between 55 and 64 has any kind of paid job, and only 30 per cent has full-time work, we are also offering $10,000 to employers to take on an over-50 employee. At the moment 400,000 fit and willing Australians over the age of 55 can’t get work.

I understand their stated reasons for doing these things, I just don’t think they have really thought it through or examined repercussions or alternatives. They have also exaggerated/lied about projections (quel supris), at odds with the ABS, which may add another reason why funding to our national bureau of statistics has been slashed.

Hockey said that the number of Australians between 65 and 84 would “quadruple” by 2050 but on the ABS’s high-growth projection (they do high, middle and low) there will be 2½ times as many people in this age group by 2050 than there were in 2010.

Hockey said “the percentage of people of working age supporting those over 65 will almost halve”. Using ABS projections, the proportion of people “of working age” (defined by the statistician as 15 to 64) was about 67 per cent of the population in 2010 and will be 63 per cent in 2050. (This figure is based on the ABS’s middle projections.)

Hockey predicted that only 37 per cent of the population would be of working age in 2050, yet the best available estimates from the ABS show it is in fact is between 61 and 63 per cent. Even if age-employment ratios stay as they are now, if productivity keeps rising at its present rate, average wages will rise by 56 per cent over that time. So those in full-time employment will be better able to provide support and services to the rest of the community.

Increasing the pension age to 70 will see a large increase in the number of people on the disability pension. A higher proportion of people aged 65-69 will have a disability compared to those aged 60-64. It would also give us the oldest retirement age in the world. Several countries have moved to 67 as Kevin Rudd suggested, the UK is going to 68, but 70 is pushing it too far.

It is also inequitable. Indigenous Australians have a much lower life expectancy than non-indigenous Australians. Males 67.2 years and 78.7 years respectively, Females 72.9 years and 82.6 years respectively (ABS 2005-07). The majority of Indigenous people would not make it to pension age at all unless we can close the gap. People from lower socio-economic strata also tend to have a lower life expectancy, as do remote rural areas compared to urban living.

Australia currently has the fourth-lowest level of public pension spending of any OECD country and is projected by 2050 to have the third-lowest level of pension spending. Where Australia is unusual is that it has by far the highest level of tax concessions for private pensions in the OECD, at four times the OECD average.

An increase in the pension age reduces the pension wealth of lower-income groups proportionately more than it reduces the pension wealth of higher-income groups. It favours the wealthy who are able to invest in superannuation. Under current regulations, they can start drawing on this at age 60, get very large annual incomes paying far less taxation than workers on similar incomes, perhaps invest in a new family home, which will not be considered an asset should they find themselves eligible for a part pension when they hit 70 which, because they live longer, will be an expense on the public purse for longer.

As it will not come fully into effect until 2032 it also does nothing to help the current budget deficit. On its own, it will not do much to help with future deficits as tax concessions for superannuation are set to outstrip it in a few years’ time. Many complementary policies will need to be considered, including a requirement that superannuation be taken in the form of lifetime annuities to ease the pressure on age pensions. Affordable long-term care would also appear to be essential in preparing for population ageing, possibly through some form of long- term care insurance.

As with young people, this should be about choice and utilising a valuable resource, rather than viewing both our young and our old as a welfare burden due to some number on a piece of paper. Older people should have the option of working and flexibility in their employment to allow for carer’s responsibilities for elderly parents, disabled spouses, or grandchildren. They should not be in competition with young people, fighting over a dwindling pool of jobs. Their experience, expertise, knowledge and service should be recognised, celebrated, and used in more creative ways.

Currently much volunteer work is done by retired people. Upping the retirement age to 70 would see us lose some of that vital workforce. Rather than a Green Army, we could have a Grey Army of volunteers who could transition to retirement or supplement their pension or superannuation with volunteer work that attracted some remuneration or concessions. This work is often more attractive to older people who may be more suited to it and they could mentor younger people who may be interested in joining them.

Defunding Landcare and then tendering out the Green Army to private service providers (who collect a handsome fee for their free workforce with no workplace entitlements) is a decision that continues to baffle me. They were such an obvious meld, dedicated passionate people teaching the young to value their environment and using their labour in meaningful ways.

Young people could teach older people how to use modern technology like computers and mobile phones and even remote controls. This would vastly enhance the lives of elderly people and foster mutual respect rather than disdain or antagonism.

Obviously, the best solution would be to create more jobs and to close a few tax loopholes rather than forcing people into poverty, and to accept that there will always be some people who need our help, and always a small minority who will abuse our help. Dealing with that small minority should not dictate social policy.

Our children and our aged have every right to expect our help and support and we have an obligation to continue to protect a society that sees this as an investment rather than a handout.

Earn or Learn

A society where every person between the age of 16 and 70 is either working or studying is an unrealistic nonsense even in the best of times. Considering the Coalition are trying to tell us that we are facing the worst of times, I fail to see how they hope to achieve this goal. What makes it even more incongruous are their policy decisions which are actively working against this aim.

The budget has ripped $80 billion out of funding for the States for education and health. The Government’s justification for this (read Credlin-prepared spin) is that they don’t run any schools or hospitals. They seem to ignore the fact that citizens pay income tax to the federal government to pay for our schools and hospitals. I would much prefer that revenue to be spent in those areas than in defence.

They have also deregulated University funding and cut the Commonwealth’s contribution. This will have the effect of turning over our most prestigious universities to the wealthy who can afford the fees. Course selection at other universities will narrow. Decisions will be made on the basis of profit rather than benefit to society and certain areas of study will become exclusively the domain of those who can afford it.

I understand that students can choose to go into debt on which they will pay interest. In fact they have extended this privilege to tech courses. Foregoing income for several years and starting working life with a $100,000? debt and no assets would be very daunting for many people.

The government has also backed away from its “unity ticket” on needs based funding for schools by refusing to honour the agreement signed with the States. This move has gutted billions of dollars from education and reneges on an agreement signed in good faith and the commitment made during the election that “on education there is no difference between Labor and the Coalition.”

But it gets worse.

Hundreds of thousands of students in Queensland and New South Wales are expected to lose key opportunities to learn a trade while at school after the Federal Government axed $1 billion in funding for Trade Training Centres. According to estimates by the Opposition, NSW will lose 277 proposed centres and Queensland will lose 123.

AEU federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said students in struggling communities and regional areas would feel the brunt of these changes.

“(The centres) are vital right across Australia but are very important in regional centres where we need to ensure future development, future employability of our students and productivity of our regions. One would have thought this is the time to invest in skills development for their future and for the future productivity of Australia as a whole.”

Senator Kim Carr said Prime Minister Tony Abbott has broken vows made before the election there would be no cuts to education.

“Communities across Australia know how valuable Trades Training Centres in Schools are – they keep our kids in schools and give them the skills they need to get a job. Ripping $1 billion from Trades Training Centres means a generation of students will simply miss out.”

With unemployment rising and cuts to education, I cannot see how we are going to find jobs and courses for everyone. But for those who cannot find work, or who are not able to do a course for whatever reason (feeding their family perhaps?), how will they survive if they only receive income support for 6 months of the year? They are already below the poverty line. Are we forcing young people to stay in abusive homes or to live on the streets and survive by whatever means they can? Nothing has been done to address the affordability of housing. In fact the Coalition stripped $44 million from the capital works of the National Partnership agreement on homelessness – money that was to be spent on building accommodation for the homeless.

What sort of future does this offer to our young people? Has no-one in the Coalition ever had to struggle? Have all of them come from wealthy privileged families who can buy them a unit in the city and a car to run around in and pay for the cleaning lady to come in once a week? They do not understand the despair and fear that some young people feel when they find themselves on their own for whatever reason. Or they become an additional burden on their family who may well be living at subsistence level.

Since the Coalition came to power we have witnessed an unending stream of job losses – manufacturing, mining, public service, Qantas, charities to name a few. The only strategy to combat this is to spend tens of billions building roads that have had no cost-benefit analysis prepared or viability studies done. They are also recruiting almost 3,000 people for the military which adds nothing to productivity or the nation’s wealth.

Add to this the Newman government’s decision to axe $4.5million from programs after Skilling Queenslanders for Work (SQW) funding was cut. The programs, ranging from Green Army work placements helping flood recovery around Goodna to literacy programs, involved 918 participants.

15,000 of our young people will be conscripted into a Green Army which is essentially a workforce that is paid at half the minimum wage. These people were supposed to work with volunteer groups but the budget then slashed funding to the National Landcare Program which will lose $483 million of its funding over five years.

The remaining Landcare money will have to fund several programs new to its area, including cane toad eradication in Western Australia’s Kimberley, $9 million of fishing programs and a strategy to protect the Great Barrier Reef, the $40 million Reef 2050 plan.

It is unclear how, or whether, Landcare groups and the Green Army will work together but there is a whole new industry opening up in being a ‘service provider’ ie you organise the Green Army teams and send them out as free labour for which you will be paid a handsome cut along with being given the money to pay your staff (who get no benefits like superannuation) and to buy the equipment they need. I am sure that will be a very lucrative business. I wonder for whom?


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The Coalition Plan for a Better Australia

The first thing we need to do is get rid of the toxic carbon tax. It is destroying the joint. After all, emissions went up. Ok, I know that greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector are down about 7.6 per cent since the carbon tax was introduced, or the equivalent of about 14.8 million tonnes, and that demand has dropped as businesses and individuals adopt energy efficiency methods, but emissions from coalmine expansion and new gas plants have been soaring. And that’s what we want! More coal and more gas to make our country better.

And as for renewable energy, competition like that is bad for the country. It puts up prices. I know normally one would consider competition a good thing but not in this case. Have you seen those wind farms? They are U.G.L.Y they ain’t got no alibi they ugly uh huh they ugly. I know there was some talk of 1 million solar roofs before the election. That information was purely a discussion paper that was inadvertently leaked by a junior staffer who has since been counselled.

And that mining tax has to go because it is stopping investment. It may not have raised much money but it has scared off mining companies who will take our resources offshore to develop more cheaply – I’m not sure how, but they will. Don’t you worry about THAT, you people.

It’s a well-known fact that people don’t appreciate something unless they have to pay for it. I don’t mean you people who are fraudulently claiming business usage on your cars – we know you love your BMWs. I mean those lollygagging sick people. We will introduce a luxury tax on doctor’s visits and medications so sick people will truly appreciate the help the doctors and chemists are giving them.

It is also obvious that we can no longer accommodate all those people who are claiming they are old because of some vague family connection in the past. Far too many people have been using their age to claim entitlements that the rest of us don’t receive. To stamp out this reverse discrimination we have changed the definition of old to “too old to work”. Rather than seeking handouts, we will liberate those who were previously known as old to seek work usually given to other age brackets or to retrain for a new career. Training fees will be deducted from their estate.

Our greatest priority is to defend our borders against everyone and everything – asylum seekers, sharks, coral – who knows what deadly menace is around the corner and under a tree. To that end we are amassing squadrons of attack fighter jets, packs of submarines, armadas of orange life rafts, and a whole fleet of fishermen with mates and eskies. They will complement our Navy who patrol our Northern Shores searching for boats that have stopped and our Airforce who patrol the Southern Oceans searching for the Mary Celeste. This will be given an unlimited budget that will go up by whatever the generals ask for each year.

We are conscripting our youth into a homeland defence force known as the Green Army which can be deployed to any mine that may be a possible target for whoever is invading – maybe the crown of thorn starfish who already knows that Greg Hunt means business!

To help the unemployed get jobs, we will make everyone part-time, pay them less, and make them move away from family who could provide accommodation and friends who could help with transport or share the cost of living. Those who choose to commute, we will make them truly appreciate the cost of petrol by increasing the fuel excise so we can build more roads. This will not apply to anyone making over $1 billion a year.

To show that we are all making sacrifices, rich women will only be given $1,923 a week to have babies. Corporate Australia will pay for this through a 1.5% levy on some businesses in conjunction with a 1.5% decrease in company tax for all businesses. That should work….I think.

Any shortfall between government revenue and the subsidies and tax breaks that we give to mining companies, banks, private health insurers, and Gina, will be made up equally by all those who earn over $80,000 who don’t have an accountant. Those of you who do have an accountant may continue negative gearing because you are the rock upon which this nation is built.

This is our vision, this is our mission…..

Vive les riches!

The truth about the ‘carbon tax’

Firstly, let’s remember that from June 2007 to December 2012, before the introduction of carbon pricing, average electricity prices rose by 70 per cent, so the big hike we all endured had nothing to do with action on climate change. A 2012 report by the Productivity Commission found network services, or poles and wires, to be the single most costly component of electricity supply accounting for around 45 per cent of total electricity prices from 2007-2012.

Next, let’s get the terminology straight. We have a fixed price emissions trading scheme which was slated to move to a floating price in 2015 under Gillard, moved forward to 2014 under Rudd. This means that our current system has two months to run, after which time we were going to align with the EU market which is estimated to move to about $9 per tonne this year, a significant reduction from our current carbon price.

Abbott said “the average power bill will be $200 a year lower and the average gas bill will be $70 a year lower.” He went on to say the average family would be $550 a year better off with the rest of the saving supposed to come from a general reduction in prices of goods and services passed on by other businesses, many of whom claim they had not increased prices because of carbon pricing and would therefore be unable to reduce prices.

The Queensland Competition Authority’s report estimates that, if the carbon tax is repealed, the average electricity user can expect their bill to increase by 5.4 per cent, or about $76. This is less than if the carbon price remained, but prices will increase not decrease nevertheless.

Gas prices in the eastern market – Queensland, NSW, Victoria, South Australia, ACT and Tasmania – are projected to rise sharply in the coming years as exports and demand for domestic consumption increase.

Energy Australia said it is important for the government and community “to be aware there is no guarantee that final energy prices will move proportionately with the average carbon price reduction in wholesale energy market”.

AGL Energy says that it usually needs a lead time of months to make price changes, and that “non-carbon” factors will drive prices after July 1 this year.

A joint submission by power and gas companies cast doubt on Tony Abbott’s promised price cuts of 9 per cent for electricity and 7 per cent for gas from the abolition of the carbon tax warning “it is difficult to specify exactly how much electricity prices will fall once the carbon price is repealed”.

The submission argues the carbon price impacts vary by region, by supplier, by retailer and in many cases by individual contract. The carbon tax applies to the cost of electricity generation where fossil fuels are burned, which represents about 30 per cent of the electricity price. Network charges for transmission represent a “significant portion” of retail prices and these could rise on July 1, except in Victoria, and this will have an impact on electricity prices that may reduce any cuts associated with carbon tax repeal. In Western Australia and the Northern Territory the electricity price is determined directly by the government, so regulatory changes will take time to implement.

So when Abbott, Hockey and Corman tell us we will be $550 a year better off they are talking crap, plain and simple. They use a price that won’t apply after July 1 and ignore industry advice that prices will not go down. Even if we didn’t move to a floating price until 2015, any supposed savings would only be for one year.

Instead of collecting about $13 billion in revenue from polluters over the next four years we will be paying over $3 billion of taxpayers’ money to polluters. As Mr Abbott has chosen to keep the compensation package, this means over $16 billion difference to government coffers, or about $450 per household per year. Add to that the fact that every single expert has said Direct Action will not achieve our targets without a far greater expense if at all, and we will patently be much worse off financially and environmentally.

Frank Jotzo, Director of the Centre for Climate Economics and Policy at the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy, believes we should keep the fixed price on carbon.

“If it wasn’t for the poisonous politics of the “carbon tax”, the best option would be to stick with the gradually increasing fixed price, and keep it for longer. The effect on cost of living from the $23 carbon price has been minor, and most households are better off financially because of income tax cuts and welfare increases.

Impacts on industrial competitiveness have been negligible. Keeping the fixed price would cause no further impacts. The carbon price immediately reduced emissions from the power system, because it made some of the dirtiest electricity plants too expensive to operate. Lowering the price could undo many of the gains, bringing old clunkers online once again.”

The fact that companies are still announcing closures, even with the promised repeal of the carbon tax, shows how small a factor it plays.

Global investment in renewable energy dropped 11% in 2013, according to EY’s latest quarterly Renewable energy country attractiveness index (RECAI), with policy uncertainty in particular reducing investor appetite across many markets.

China closed the gap on the US at the top of the index, installing a record-breaking 12GW of solar capacity in 2013 and ramping up its consolidation effort to accelerate market recovery.

Germany remains in third place, but lost ground following the announcement of subsidy cuts and watered-down renewables targets by the new coalition government. Rapid solar market growth and a burgeoning offshore sector helped Japan to replace the UK in fourth place.

Ambitious targets and a series of large-scale project announcements have seen India jump to seventh place. Competitive bidding trendsetters Brazil and South Africa have also risen in the index thanks to a plethora of new projects awarded in 2013 auctions.

Australia has dropped from sixth to eighth spot in the rankings, off the back of the expected repeal of the carbon tax and review of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) creating an uncertain investment environment, particularly in regard to large scale renewable energy, EY said.

Australia’s largest renewable energy company, Hydro Tasmania, has posted a record $238 million operating profit. The state-owned power generator says it made $70 million from the carbon tax, exporting record amount of clean power to mainland Australia. The company was able to pay a $116 million dividend to the State Government. This will be jeopardised if carbon pricing is removed.

Nathan Fabian, head of the Investor Group on Climate Change, told the Senate Committee looking into Direct Action:

“My members are looking at the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, France and some South American countries as having more stable investment environments for low-carbon opportunities. Direct action is not an investment grade policy.”

Tim Buckley, from the US-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, told the same hearing that Australia was missing out on hundreds of billions of dollars being invested every year in renewables, in energy efficiency and in development of these new technologies, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs being created in China, Germany and in America.

When the economists agree with the scientists it is surely time to start thinking well this is the way to go, or should we decide what’s best on the basis of talk-back radio hosts and polls printed in the Telegraph.

So to sum up, removing the carbon price will not lower your bills, nor will it save businesses. Direct Action will not lower emissions. Uncertainty about the renewable energy target is costing us investment in a growing industry of the future and the jobs that go with it. And we are now seen internationally as lightweights, easy prey to corporate greed and unwilling to share the global burden of action on climate change.

Oh and just a heads up on a potential new rort – You may now become a “Service Provider” with the government’s Green Army romp. You can submit a tender for as many projects as you like and you will be paid $192,500 per project, $22,500 for administration, and provided with a workforce that you pay between $10.14 and $16.45 per hour with no superannuation. How many employers will decide it’s far cheaper to be a “Service Provider”?


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When is a job not a job?

Have you heard the joke about Abbott’s Green Army?

Answer: They’ll be working for half the minimum wage, but to make up for that they’ll be exempt from Commonwealth workplace laws, including the Work Health and Safety Act, the Fair Work Act and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act.

Relax! It only applies to people who are between the ages of 17-24. It’s not like the Abbott government expects older people to be part of this government initiative. It’s just a way of showing everyone that the Age of Enlightenment is over.

And it hasn’t come in yet. When it comes to politics, governments often float an idea and when the opponent’s campaign against it, they bring in a less objectionable form of the idea, and while this doesn’t mean that everybody’s happy, it does take the wind out of the sails of the protests. “No, we were never intending to include human babies in our live meat export – that was just hysterical nonsense from the loony left – we’re only going to remove restrictions on live animal exports and ban graphic film of animal slaughter, because only a truly sick individual would want to see animals being slaughtered.” Mind you, in the Abbott government’s case, quite a few of their decisions have been worse than the ones they’ve floated. For example, there was the idea that ministers would be prevented from speaking their mind by Abbott’s office, but, in fact, Christopher Pyne was allowed to share his thoughts.

So, what’s the logic behind the Green Army being paid less than the minimum wage? (Mm, not sure if that’s an oxymoron. I mean, if they’re working, and that’s what they’re being paid then doesn’t that mean that we have a new “minimum wage”?)

If you look at it from the point of view that it’s a legitimate job, and part of the election manifesto of of Coaltion, then what’s the justification for not treating it in the same way that you’d treat any other election promise? They didn’t, for example, ask the Committee of Audit to work for less than the minimum wage. Why, also, the exemptions from the Work Health and Safety Act, the Fair Work Act and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act? Surely, if it’s something you see as important then surely you’d resource it and pay for it like any other infrastructure project. And, what’s the plan if they can’t find 15,000 people willing to work for such workhouse-like wages?

On the other hand, if you look at it as part of a “work-for-the-dole” scheme, it makes the Direct Action promise of the Green Army to combat climate change seem just a bit half-hearted. If someone suggested that we use a similar scheme to improve healthcare or protect our borders, we’d be told that we need professionals for such an important job. Climate action, on the other hand, just grab a few long-term unemployed to bung in a few trees and pick up rubbish. There! We’ve kept out promise AND reduced youth unemployment for those who “really want to work”!

Yes, I’m sure that we’ll have some hard-hitting report about the laziness and lack of initiative of our young:

“He said he wasn’t coming back because he got sunburnt and he was concerned about skin cancer. I suggested that he buy himself some sunscreen, but he said it wasn’t worth it on what he was paid, but I notice that he still found himself enough to buy a cup of coffee before coming to work.”

A cynic might suggest that this is part of a plan to drive down all wages – that this will make young people more inclined to accept other jobs for slighter higher money. But do that at a time of rising unemployment when employers hold the whip hand anyway? And why would a government concerned with the Budget bottom line want to do that? After all, the more we’re paid, the more taxes we pay. (A bit simplistic, but why should I let the Liberals have all the fun when it comes to reducing economics to slogans?)

At no point do I remember the Liberals telling us that their Direct Action, their Green Army was just a “work-for-the-dole” scheme named by a PR consultant. I do have their “Real Solutions” booklet, and while it does talk about creating higher wages and getting young people back into the workforce – admittedly, not in the same into the same paragraph – there’s no suggestion that the Green Army is something that relies on having a pool of young unemployed to draw on.

Mr Hunt found it “bizarre that anybody would oppose, at this time, a youth training program that helps the environment and increases, significantly, the youths’ wages.” This, of course, is only if that youth is unemployed or working part-time. Still, I thought Mr Hunt was Minister for the Environment and Inaction, not the Minister for Employment.

In a similar vein, will we see schemes where the Minister for Education, rather than being concerned about the quality of teaching, praises schemes where young unemployed people get the chance to improve their skills by being put in charge of classes. Or the Health Minister? Or the Science Minister…

Oh, yeah, that’s right! I forgot.


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Abbott’s Army



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Instead of spending all that money on your green army

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

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

Are Tony Abbott’s matters of public importance still important?

With thanks to Open Australia here are the Hansard transcripts from 18 June on Tony Abbott’s matters of public importance. The then Prime Minister had already called the election for September 14 and Tony Abbott had submitted to the House a matter of public importance. The importance, of course, being the election of an Abbott Government. The following is self-explanatory:

Photo of Ms Anna Burke Ms Anna Burke (Speaker)

I have received a letter from the honourable the Leader of the Opposition proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The urgent need for stable government to build a stronger economy for all Australians.

Photo of Tony Abbott Tony Abbott (Warringah, Liberal Party, Leader of the Opposition)

With the standing of the government and respect for this parliament at near record lows I regret to say that this parliament, the parliament now drawing to its close, has been a low and dishonourable one.

At the beginning of the life of the current government, the Prime Minister stood and said to the Australian public that she would be:

… faithful to the trust that has been extended to us.

In 88 days time the public will finally have their chance to pass judgment on just how the Prime Minister has been faithful to the trust that was placed in her. I suspect that that will be a critical judgment because, wherever you look, this is a parliament which has let down the Australian people and a government which has betrayed the trust that the people extended to it—only just, nevertheless, they did extend to it—at the last election.

There is the carbon tax that was never going to happen, which did happen. There was the surplus—the ‘no ifs, no buts surplus’—that would happen come hell or high water and that has never happened. Instead, we have a debt that is now racing towards $340 billion. There is the mining tax, which has achieved the extraordinary outcome of damaging investment, damaging confidence and employment, without actually raising any revenue.

There was the live cattle ban, in panic at a television program—perhaps the most disastrous decision ever taken towards one of our near and important neighbours in our country’s history. There was the political execution of an excellent Speaker because it suited the political convenience of the Prime Minister. We have had three leadership challenges in three years. We have had the protection racket that has been extended towards the member for Dobell by a Prime Minister only too familiar with the operation of union slush funds.

There was the Australia Day riot, which turned out to have been orchestrated out of the Prime Minister’s office. But, above all else, there was the failure that will haunt the memory of this parliament and this government: the ongoing disaster on our borders, a disaster that the Prime Minister promised to fix on 24 June 2010.

We have had almost 45,000 illegal arrivals by boat—more than the population of Gladstone, more than the population of Coffs Harbour, more than the population of Shepparton and more than the population of Mount Gambier. No-one wants to see any Australian government fail. No-one wants to see any Australian government give up on governing but that, I regret to say, is what this government has done.

We have 88 days until the election. The people will then have their chance to pass judgment on this government. They will have a choice between an incompetent and untrustworthy government and a coalition that will stop the boats, that will repeal the carbon tax and that will get the budget back into the black. That is the pledge that we make to the Australian people and that is a pledge that we will honour.

As things stand, the Australian people are frustrated and angry. They are frustrated and angry with a government that has let them down and a government that has repeatedly betrayed them. Indeed, Labor people—decent, honourable Labor people—are embarrassed and even ashamed at the performance of this government. I am pleased that the member for Hotham has stayed in the House to listen to this MPI, because the member for Hotham called it for Australia. That is what he did: he called it for Australia when he said he could no longer serve on this Prime Minister’s frontbench. I regret to say that this particular government is now beyond cure. This particular government is now past the point of no return. The poison is so deep, the division and dysfunction so deep that there is nothing that can save the contemporary Labor Party except time out to decide what it actually stands for and what it now believes.

The Australian people are an optimistic people. We know that better times can come. We know that better times are ahead of us but what we need is a government that you can trust and a government that is competent to deliver effective administration. I want to say to the Australian people: I am proud of the team that I lead. I am proud of the fact that the team I lead is representative of the breadth and depth of the Australian people. I am confident that there would actually be more former tradesmen on this side of the parliament these days than on that side of the parliament. I am proud of the fact that the first Indigenous member of the House of Representatives is sitting on this side of the parliament for the Liberal Party. I am proud of the fact that, if every coalition candidate in this election were to come to this parliament, the most common name in the Liberal Party party room would be Nguyen. It is a sign of just how much the modern Liberal Party is standing foursquare with the decent people of our country.

I know that our team is ready to form a stable and competent government. My team does not need to learn on the job, because my team has done the job before. Sixteen members of the shadow cabinet were ministers in a government that did stop the boats, that did bring the budget back into the black, that did get taxes down, that did abolish unnecessary taxes. We have done it before and we will do it again. We understand in the marrow of our bones that you cannot have a strong society, you cannot have strong communities without a strong economy to sustain them, and a strong economy pivotally depends upon profitable private businesses. We understand this. We get this. We know that it is not government that creates wealth; it is business that creates wealth. No government has ever taxed a country into prosperity. Plenty of governments have taxed a country into the ground. Not one has ever taxed a country into prosperity.

So our economic plan starts with abolishing the carbon tax and the mining tax. We will cut red tape. We will boost productivity so that the creative businesspeople of this country can get a fair go to survive and prosper, and so the workers of Australia can get a fair go to keep their jobs and to prosper. A strong and prosperous economy for a safe and secure Australia—that is how this coalition will deliver hope, reward and opportunity should we be entrusted with the government of this country in 88 days time. We will relieve the pressure on families. We will relieve the pressure that we know the families and households of Australia are under. Under us they will keep the tax cuts and pension and benefit rises, but they will most assuredly lose the carbon tax.

This is not just about creating a richer country; it is about creating a better country too. What I want to achieve—what my team wants to achieve—is giving the Australian people confidence that we can come closer to being our best selves. We are all conservationists now. That is why I want direct action to improve our environment, not a great big new tax that will clobber the economy without actually reducing our emissions. As well as an emissions reduction fund for more trees, better soils and smarter technology, there will be a green army 15,000 strong marching to the help of our degraded land and waterways. Anyone who looks at our country knows that land care needs more than the largely volunteer efforts of farmers and of understaffed local councils. We will give our country the workforce it needs if our remnant bushland is to survive and if our creeks are to run clean. We will give idealistic young people and older people a way to turn their environmental commitment into practical action so that our gift to the future will be a country in better shape than that which we inherited.

Should the coalition win the election, I will continue my practice of spending a week a year as a volunteer in a remote Indigenous community. If people are expected to live there, a Prime Minister should be prepared to stay there and senior public servants should be prepared to stay there too. Nothing would focus people’s minds more on the issues of remote Australia than conducting the government from there even if it is only for a week. I do not underestimate the challenges of crafting an Indigenous recognition amendment that will be an advance for Aboriginal people without creating two classes of Australian. No, I do not underestimate the difficulty of this challenge; but, should there be a change of government on 14 September, we will persevere and get this right. In so doing, this nation of ours—this great nation—will finally be made whole.

Everyone knows that I am a late convert to the cause of a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme. I am a late convert, but I tell you I have a convert’s zeal. Why should people get their full pay while on holiday and on sick leave and just a welfare wage while on parental leave? If blokes had babies, this never would have been tolerated. I did not always understand this, but I do now. A fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme is an important economic reform. It is good for population, it is good for productivity, it is good for participation—in fact, all three of the Ps which economic strength requires. Most of all, a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme is an issue of justice—justice for the women of our country that will finally be delivered under a coalition government.

I know I surprised people three years ago with this commitment to a fair dinkum paid parental leave scheme, but serious people do have the capacity to grow and I am pleased to say that I understand this issue much better now than I did a decade ago. I have learned from watching the example of good leaders—people like Bob Hawke as well as John Howard, who made the transition from tribal chief to national leader. I understand that a Prime Minister should never set out to deliberately divide one Australian from another, as we have seen in this current parliament. A Prime Minister should never think that he or she is somehow bigger than the party or the country. Prime ministers must always be the servants of their party and, above all else, the servants of their country.

Finally, should there be a change of government on 14 September, this parliament must be a better place. There has been too much venom and too many baseless accusations of bad faith—and I suspect we might even have a few in a few moments. We are better than that, and I hope to have a chance to demonstrate that we are better than that. After 14 September I am confident that the people of Australia will be able to have more pride in their parliament.

So in summary:

Tony Abbott’s team is ready for the job. They do not need to learn anything.

Tony Abbott will be abolishing the carbon tax and the mining tax.

He will cut red tape.

He will boost productivity

He will deliver hope, reward and opportunity.

He will relieve the pressure on families.

He will deliver justice for the women of our country.

He is now a conservationist.

He will have “green army 15,000 strong marching to the help of our degraded land and waterways”.

He “will give our country the workforce it needs if our remnant bushland is to survive and if our creeks are to run clean”.

He will spend a week a year as a volunteer in a remote Indigenous community.

He will craft an Indigenous recognition amendment.

He will make Parliament a better place.

And of course, he will stop the boats.

Let us see if those matters which were of such public importance to Tony Abbott on 18 June are still important from this day forward.

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