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Tag Archives: Unemployment

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.”

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.

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

 

The Fiction Of Unemployment

“This is actually why Smith’s (Adam) work is so important. He created the vision of an imaginary world almost entirely free of debt and credit, and therefore, free of guilt and sin; a world where men and women were free to simply calculate their interests in full knowledge that everything had been prearranged by God to ensure that it will serve the greater good. Such imaginary constructs are of course what scientists refer to as “models,” and there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with them. Actually, I think a fair case can be made that we cannot think without them. The problem with such models—at least, it always seems to happen when we model something called “the market”—is that, once created, we have a tendency to treat them as objective realities, or even fall down before them and start worshipping them as gods. “We must obey the dictates of the market!”

Debt: The First 5,000 Years by Dave Graeber

Back in the 1980s, people spent a lot of time discussing the future of work. One thing I remember being told was that we needed to be ensuring that students knew how to use their leisure time because with the improvements in technology, we’d all be working fewer hours.

Of course, we all presumed that meant that the working week would be shorter for all of us rather than the situation where the employed are expected to work longer while the unemployed have so much leisure time that we feel it necessary to compel them to go for a large number of jobs which they’re unlikely to get rather than actually using their time productively. Simply, even though there aren’t enough jobs to go around, we want to make sure that nobody feels ok about not working; they need to blame themselves rather than changes in the economy.

It was William Gibson who said, “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” In his book, “The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future”, Kevin Kelly suggests the following scenario:

“First, machines will consolidate their gains in already automated industries. After robots finish replacing assembly line workers, they will replace the workers in warehouses. Speedy bots able to lift 150 pounds all day long will retrieve boxes, sort them, and load them onto trucks. Robots like this already work in Amazon’s warehouses. Fruit and vegetable picking will continue to be robotized until no humans pick outside of specialty farms. Pharmacies will feature a single pill-dispensing robot in the back while the pharmacists focus on patient consulting. In fact, prototype pill-dispensing robots are already up and running in hospitals in California. To date, they have not messed up a single prescription, something that cannot be said of any human pharmacist. Next, the more dexterous chores of cleaning in offices and schools will be taken over by late-night robots, starting with easy-to-do floors and windows and eventually advancing to toilets. The highway parts of long-haul trucking routes will be driven by robots embedded in truck cabs. By 2050 most truck drivers won’t be human. Since truck driving is currently the most common occupation in the U.S., this is a big deal.”

He goes on later to tell us:

“In fact, any job dealing with reams of paperwork will be taken over by bots, including much of medicine. The rote tasks of any information-intensive job can be automated. It doesn’t matter if you are a doctor, translator, editor, lawyer, architect, reporter, or even programmer: The robot takeover will be epic. We are already at the inflection point.”

Now this leaves the question of what “unemployed” in a future world where it’s those who own the means of production who acquire even more of the wealth, and then complain that they need to pay taxes to support those who have no meaningful way of supporting themselves. At least with the industrial revolution workhouses were a possibility because there was still work to do, but in a world where technology can do the vast majority of things, we may need to rethink the whole way the economy is shaped. Otherwise, we may end up with governments suggesting that certain companies need a billion dollars or so, because they didn’t benefit from the tax cut owing to the fact that they haven’t paid tax for years, while the rest of us are left to our devices.

There are no simple answers, but it’s clear that the answers we’ve been trying for past few years won’t work into the future. When the Liberals have been tell us that they support Jobs, somebody needs to tell them that he died a few years ago and Apple is run by someone else now.

Whatever the answer, maybe it’s time to do more than think outside the box; we need to think outside the clichés too. The following video isn’t a solution, but it might be some sort of start:

P.S. If you’re a teacher, you might find this blog interesting:
https://rossleigheducation.wordpress.com/2017/01/22/creative-commons-ok-its-not-clickbait-but-if-you-dont-know-what-it-is-you-probably-should-read-this/

Politics Driven Fear and the Pain it Brings

People are expressing the increasing need to separate themselves and self-identify as situated above certain groups. They feel the need to paint others as lesser. This need is fed by fear driven politics and it is causing a loss of focus and it is causing a lot of pain.

Memes used to be funny. They were quirky, sometimes delightful, sometimes thought provoking and sometimes so funny one would cry from laughing. Now memes are more about social status. Sharing to place oneself in a better class.  A class above Jobseekers, Unionist, Muslims, Indigenous and LGBTI people who just want to get married amongst other groups.

Not an hour goes by on social media when I do not scroll by some defamatory post about Muslims (mostly aimed at degrading Muslim women) or how jobseekers are bludgers and should just get a job. Then I scroll by more shares about how unionists are self-serving, dodgy criminals. Then I come across those who belong to the special group who believe they are more Australian than the Indigenous Australians who were here in the first place.

Every day we scroll through the privileged Olympics, but there are no winners. Only losers.

The privileged I am talking about here, are not the Turnbull type of privileged; but so many every day Australians who share derogatory memes about various groups on a daily basis. These people come from all walks of life. They are not necessarily rich and they may be poor.  Wealth status is not the issue here.

These people are privileged by default, because they do not belong to the group that they and others scorn, ridicule, shame, shun, ostracise and stigmatise. It is like every share elevates one to being a gold card member of the ‘in-group.’

The problem is that the privileged do not see. They are blinded. They cannot calm their egos enough to bring themselves down to another level to try to understand the life of another.  They do not attempt to listen and empathise; they are on autopilot with judgement and ridicule.

Social media has made it so it is so much more important to hold dear to the opinion originally developed, than to attempt to understand an issue enough or look at it through different eyes; to recognise it is causing harm and change that opinion.

If we are complaining we haven’t progressed since Whitlam, it is largely our fault. It is our fault that there are so many people in pain, because every day I see stereotypes and stigmatisation shared around to approve and contribute to the infliction of pain on others.

We pit the oppressed against the oppressed when a meme is shared to give the homeless more than refugees. How does one judge the value of what assistance should be given? What drives us to choose between a person who has seen their entire family raped, tortured, slaughtered and burnt and fled their homeland or give to a person in desperate need of shelter, food, clothing and care? Do they both not deserve love, kindness and generosity?

What fear is within us that makes us share such memes as representations of our thoughts that we play judge and jury and decide who is not worthy of care and assistance? Is kindness such an ugly emotion that we reject it? Is it a fear that others may judge you as being too kind?

No, it is the fear driven politics that has led us to believe that a Government and its citizens cannot be generous enough to help both. It is the fear that if they do, we would somehow be worse off. It is fear driven politics that sees us remain silent on the generous assistance to the wealthy banks and business, whilst we verbally bash the poor.

We glorify a free-market-worker-hating-Government every time we share a meme about the ‘pathetic’ unemployed and how they are bludging and living off our taxes. We kick the worker every time we contemplate how unfair it may be that some  greedy workers are getting paid penalty rates and how terrible this is for business and their profits. Pass me a goddamn tissue.

The Abbott-Turnbull Government is the epitome of the greedy bourgeoisie and there are every day citizens working so hard to work with them and for them to shove the worker and those who are jobless down as far as they can be kicked.

We have come to a peculiar space in time where the plebs themselves are standing with the bourgeoisie. For if they do this, then being a pleb, is better than a prole or the “hoi polloi.”  The common worker, consumed by politics driven fear is tearing their own class apart.

“Workers United will never be defeated….” Go on…say it….it means something real.

What is the fear that drives us to glorify a Government who insists that the unemployed (human beings in case you have forgotten) should starve for a six months, six weeks and now a month?

Is it a fear that we may lose something if jobseekers are offered assistance from the public purse?

Is it a fear that we may just not have one more submarine to build if a jobseeker can live on real meat instead of noodles?  Is it a genuine fear that Gina Rinehart might have less billions and that would somehow hurt us?

Is it the fear that we may confront the uncomfortable truth that our judgements reinforce the message that turning to sexual favours and even suicide is a reality for these individuals who are finding it so hard to survive in a world of  not just poverty, but scorn and condemnation?

Above all else, it is the politics driven fear that those living in poverty are stealing something from us. It is the fear that they are getting something for less effort than us. It is the fear reinforced by the LNP message that there will be fewer hospitals, fewer schools and fewer jobs if we treat the unemployed with dignity. It is the politics driven fear that assisting jobseekers will result in less jobs; because that means we could one day be them.

There is no point attempting to provide input of an opposing view.  Try to tell someone to be angry at the Government for not creating jobs, instead of blaming the unemployed. It is an interesting exercise. Contrition is not an emotion that we appear to embrace as Australian citizens.

This politics driven fear is also blinding us. We are losing focus. The fear of people from different lands and different religions is so critical we cannot take our eyes off them for a second. It is vital to share, share, share anything we can find, made up or not on the internet. It is critical to continuously reinforce this fear as legitimate and worthy to defend.

It is more important to have conversations on social media that can last days about how the viewpoint of one radical Muslim is the view of all Muslims; than to really engage thoughtfully and productively about how we can lift good Australian people out of poverty.

It is more important to remain silent on humanitarian issues,and use our fear of a religion we don’t understand as an excuse, because if we really stop and think about it; we may realise we are actually being inhumane and that is an ugly truth to face.

What fear is driving us that we are content with leaving other human beings in indefinite detention?  Indefinite – without a hope, never to be released – just in case the key word has not hit you yet. Murderers get less.

The irrational politics driven fear that unionists are doing less work than the regular taxpayer for a greater gain, is more important to hold onto, than to stand with unionists who have given us the work-life we enjoy today and that they continuously fight for. This fear culminates and makes us forget that we once stood with pride and dignity and shed tears to remember those workers who were jailed, murdered, maimed, starved and broken just so our labour is recognised as a valuable input in exchange for fair wages and safe conditions.  How soon we have forgotten the pain of John Howard’s Work Choices?

Every single time we share memes, or have conversations that reinforce the politics driven fear espoused by the Liberals and the Nationals, and now the more right wing parties; we are condoning the infliction of pain on the vulnerable.

We have a responsibility to stop and take stock that this rhetoric that is being whipped into a frenzy day after day has gone too far.  It is time to sit up and take notice, that by doing this, we are hurting the people we talk about helping in other conversations we have

It is time to stop and think about those on the right who say they have the solutions, actually don’t.  It is time to really listen to their proposals. Tearing down the worker and punishing those who are unemployed due to Government failure is not a solution. Dividing people by race or religion is not a solution. Clinging to the harmful measures that create more poverty and more divisiveness are not solutions. Why this is not being realised is the real phenomenon.

Choose Populism if you want a Rock Star. Reject it if you want a leader.

Some appear to be genuinely good people. However, politics driven fear is driving some people to throw brimstone and fire at those they want to help, instead of at the Government and other right wing parties who are the central cause of the problem.

It is time to take a stand to honour those and respect those who cannot, to challenge the Turnbull Government and others every time they reinforce the degradation of a vulnerable group.

It is time to stop sharing derogatory memes and start having real conversations about how we can build a nation, and not share our acceptance of helping the Liberals and others on the right tear it down.

It is time to stop dividing and start uniting. It is time for a hand up and to bring back the fair go.

It is time for the mate-ship and camaraderie we apparently as Australians represent.

I miss that. Do you?

Michaelia should read her own reports

In October last year, Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash issued a media release about the China Free Trade Agreement.

“The landmark China-Australia Free Trade Agreement will unlock immense benefits for Australians for many years to come,” Minister Cash said.

“As well as adding billions to the economy and drive higher living standards for all Australians, this deal will ensure thousands of jobs are created across all States and Territories.”

“It greatly enhances our competitive position in key areas such as agriculture, resources and energy, manufacturing exports, services and investment – these are industries that already generate many jobs but importantly they are sectors where we will see extraordinary opportunities for future jobs growth.”

Sounds good, until you read a report issued by the Minister’s Department of Employment last month titled the Employment Outlook to November 2020 which states that, for the five years to November 2020, employment in manufacturing is projected to decline by 45,700 (or 5.3 per cent), mining by 31,900 (or 14.1 per cent), and agriculture by 9,400 (or 3.1 per cent).

The largest fall across all sectors is projected for Motor Vehicle and Motor Vehicle Part Manufacturing  (down by 27,500 or 58.3 per cent), following the announced plant closures by major car manufacturers. A number of other sectors in Manufacturing are also projected to decline such as Clothing and Footwear Manufacturing (5,600 or 34.6 per cent), Other Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing  (4,900 or 7.7 per cent) and Furniture Manufacturing (4,100 or 11.6 per cent).

The report also shows that, despite advertising campaigns by billionaires and compliant politicians suggesting otherwise, mining contributed only 11,300 to employment growth over the last five years and the future is not rosy.

Employment is projected to decline for a number of mining-related sectors. The largest decline is projected for Coal Mining (8,800 or 20.5 per cent), reflecting weak global demand. Employment is also projected to decline in Metal Ore Mining (7,900 or 11.9 per cent), Exploration (6,700 or 18.0 per cent), Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction (4,800 or 6.5 per cent) and Other Mining Support Services (3,000 or 15.4 per cent).

As Barnaby Joyce talks about how well he has done with record prices, Sheep, Beef Cattle and Grain Farming is projected to record one of the largest falls over the period (14,000 or 16.3 per cent).

Over the past few decades the Australian economy has continued to shift away from lower skilled jobs towards a higher skilled, service based economy and this trend is projected to continue over the five years to November 2020, with the strongest employment growth, in percentage terms, projected for those with Diploma or higher qualifications.

The employment level of Labourers is projected to fall by 14,600 (or 1.3 per cent) in the five years to November 2020.  Overall, the majority of the occupations projected to decline fall within the lowest skill levels, where seven of the bottom 10 occupations have a skill level commensurate with a Certificate III or lower (for example Product Assemblers and Bookkeepers). The remaining three of the 10 bottom occupations have a skill level commensurate with Certificate IV or Certificate III with at least two years on-the-job training (Secretaries, Structural Steel and Welding Trades Workers and Metal Fitters and Machinists).

What is the government’s plan for jobs for these people?

Australia’s largest employing industry sector – Cafés, Restaurants and Takeaway Food Services, also supported by domestic tourism and further increases in international arrivals, is projected to make the largest contribution to growth over the five years to November 2020 (up by 84,300 or 14.9 per cent).

The largest projected occupation increase is for Sales Assistants (General) (up by 65,800 or 11.9 per cent), the bulk of whom are employed in Retail Trade.  Healthcare workers and carers are strongly represented with employment projected to increase by 51,400 (or 20.0 per cent) for Registered Nurses, 43,000 (or 30.6 per cent) for Aged and Disabled Carers, and 39,000 (or 26.1 per cent) for Child Carers.

It should be noted that this government wants to cut penalty rates, have already blocked wage increases for aged and child care workers, and have slashed hospital funding, all of which will impact on our biggest projected growth occupations.

Structural changes in the labour market favour service industries which tend to be concentrated in eastern capitals.  Employment in metropolitan areas is projected to increase by 9.5 per cent over the next five years, compared with 5.8 per cent projected for regional Australia.

At the more detailed regional (SA4) level, employment growth is projected to be strongest (in percentage terms) in Sydney – North Sydney and Hornsby (up by 35,200 or 15.1 per cent) and Sydney – Eastern Suburbs (23,600 or 14.4 per cent), while the largest projected increases in employment (in thousands) are for Melbourne – Inner (48,400 or 13.9 per cent) and Gold Coast (35,700 or 11.4 per cent). By contrast, employment is projected to fall by 300 (or 0.7 per cent) in South Australia – Outback and very weak growth is projected for Queensland – Outback (100 or 0.2 per cent) and Western Australia – Wheat Belt (600 or 0.9 per cent).

The free trade agreements were supposed to create jobs.  Lord knows, they tell us that often enough, but the facts show otherwise.  It is apparent that the FTAs will exacerbate low-skilled and regional unemployment, hitting those who are least resilient and most likely to sink into poverty.  It’s all very well to talk about breaking the cycle of welfare dependency but this government is actively destroying jobs and industries as they entrench the interests of major corporations at the expense of ordinary citizens.

And Malcolm’s coup has done nothing to turn things around despite his “jobs, jobs, jobs” rhetoric.

Over the first six months of 2016, the pace of employment growth has slowed considerably, with the level of employment rising by just 0.4 per cent.  The decade average growth is 1.8% per annum (this period includes the GFC).

In monthly terms, the latest ABS Labour Force Survey showed a trend employment increase between July and August 2016 of 0.08 per cent, which remains below the monthly average over the past 20 years of 0.15 per cent. The rate of growth in employment has remained below this average for the past eight months.  The trend underemployment rate increased to a series high of 8.6 per cent in August 2016.

Ian Verrender sounds a warning on the Drum pointing to the Productivity Commission’s findings that free trade agreements – especially bilateral deals – do very little in improving trade. In fact, they can be downright damaging. The Australia-US Free Trade Agreement, signed a decade ago, now costs about $US53 billion in lost trade per annum.

As Turnbull and Bishop lecture the Americans about the TPP, it should be understood that it has very little to do with free trade creating jobs – moreso extending monopoly powers of American corporations, while maintaining tariffs and quotas for US farmers,  and entrenching power and governance among the wealthy.

The Taxed Nots. Who are they and what should we do with them?

When the Government chooses not to participate in active job creation, the expectation on people seeking employment to engage in active participation welfare programs, is unfair, burdensome, stigmatising, demoralising and counterproductive. Mutual Obligation under the Keating Government was developed based on the notion that the Government would also commit to job creation and increase vocational training. This is not the case today, nor has it been for some time.  The Government is not investing in job creation and vocational education has been largely privatised and is predominantly inaccessible and unaffordable to those who most need it.  Active Participation welfare programs are punitive and are underpinned by the assumption that the jobseeker is lazy and needs motivation by a paternalistic guiding hand to participate in society as a full human being. It is time for a new narrative and a new solution.

The latest narrative – The Taxed Nots. Who are they?

They are bludgers, rorters, welfare cheats, the undeserving poor, the drug addled, leaners not lifters, people with their hand out, a hindrance to the ‘national interest’, people who don’t try hard enough, job refusers, taking loans from the tax-payer, won’t get off the couch, lack participation, who go from the school gate to Centrelink’s front door, self-entitled, sitting at home playing X-box and eating cheezels and now the latest …The Taxed Nots.

The Taxed Nots – what should we do with them?

We need to drug test them, force them into unpaid labour, manage their income, give them a card to label them and not trust them with cash, push the welfare cops after them, get them moving, force them to live 45% below the poverty line and if they are poverty line newbie, we should starve them for six months whist the Government simultaneously breaches human rights obligations. .

With the exception of John Howard’s gem, “the undeserving poor” and Amanda Vanstone’s “Don’t try hard enough and refuse jobs”, these are just some of the labels the Australian Liberal Party has given to those seeking employment and just some of the ‘solutions’ to assist the jobless to find employment, since 2013. Pretty confronting when it is wrapped up in neat little paragraphs, isn’t it?

The dehumanisation and the stigmatisation of those seeking employment must cease immediately and a new narrative and new solutions need to start today.

A little history

Mutual obligation has always existed within the jobseeker framework.  However, mutual obligation penalties were discretionary and mostly non financial (ie write on your dole form where you looked for work this week).  However, postponement of payment could occur for up to two weeks.  This was dropped in 1984 as it was causing hardship, but reinstated in 1987.  The widening of activity based breaches will be discussed in the next section. Active Labour Market Participation (ALMP) programs were the shift towards paternalistic and punitive measures and financial penalties for the unemployed.

Active Labour Market Participation (ALMP) programs commenced under the Hawke/Keating Government. The  original intention of the ALMP programs was to manage retraining and to assist new workers to move across industries in the new globalisation and at a time where long time unemployment was the new reality and had shifted from a long period of relatively low unemployment.

Zigarus ¹ (2004) sums up another driver as, “In essence, this approach holds that the unemployment rate is influenced by how actively the unemployed search for work. The more effort people make to find jobs, and the less choosy they are about what jobs they will take, the lower the overall unemployment.”

Regardless of how well intentioned ALMP programs were when they were introduced, the very essence of these programs are driven by the notion that the unemployed do not have the same desires to achieve a full life as the employed do and they are inherently lazy.   Paternalistic and punitive welfare measures are also the antecedents to enabling the stigmatisation of the unemployed. The era of the ALMP programs were the beginning of segregating the unemployed as separate citizens from those who are employed – the bludgers and the workers. Even within the cohort of the unemployed, the narrative was able to change from discussing welfare as a necessity for those out of work to those who deserved assistance and those who did not.  Those who needed a hand up and those who just wanted a hand out.  This narrative continues today and it has become increasingly more comfortable for politicians to use this stigmatising rhetoric with conviction.

Punitive measures intensified under Howard

The shift in ALMP programs under John Howard introduced the concept that unpaid labour should be imposed on those seeking employment. Howard’s notion was to deserve a hand out, the recipient must give back to the community.  This adds the public’s scrutinisation of the intentions of the jobseeker to the mix.  Work for the Dole and similar unpaid labour programs normalised the perception that jobseekers had to be forced to work, as they were not motivated to do so; and if they were working as unpaid labour, this would be the impetus to force them to look for paid labour.

Financial Penalties under Howard

The Howard Government dismantled Keating’s Working Nation (job creation, increased Labor market programs and training and mutual obligation, including breaching penalties). Financial penalties increased and the activity for which you could be breached significantly widened under the Liberals “Australian’s Working Together” policy.  The other notable shift from Keating’s policy to Howard’s policy was that financial penalties moved from discretionary to enforced by legislation and contractual obligation on the jobsearch provider.

The initial extremely punitive measures are outlined by Eardley et. al ² as:

The initial legislation proposed to strengthen breaching arrangements by extending the activity test non-payment period to six weeks for the first breach and 13 weeks for all subsequent breaches, while all administrative breaches would incur rate reductions of 25 per cent for eight weeks.

Welfare groups successfully lobbied and this initial bill was defeated in Parliament. However, less severe penalties were adopted.  This included an 8 week breach of 100% loss of benefit after the third breach. The Abbott Government put up a bill in 2014 which sought to exempt new Newstart recipients from payment for six months. This has been defeated/taken off the table and a bill for Newstart recipients to be exempt for six weeks, is still progressing though today’s parliament.  This shows the long standing determination of the Liberal Party to impose harsh and extreme measures on the unemployed.  This also shows the shift from welfare as a human right to dignity, to one of targeting the disadvantaged as a means for budget savings.

Other notable changes

Structural changes to jobseeker programs to note (but not limited to) are:

  • The inclusion and shift from other benefits to jobseeker associated benefits (Single Parents and Disability recipients shifted to jobsearch programs.)
  • The increase in mutual obligation age brackets from 17-18 years, to 18-30 years to 18-49 years and now 18-60 years and over
  • Intensive case management
  • Enforceable preparing for work agreements
  • Increased obligation to search for more jobs, or a breach is imposed
  • The length of time travelled to search for job, or a breach is imposed
  • Relocation expectation
  • Implementation of Government approved doctors only (not jobseeker’s own doctor)
  • Shift to a jobsearch payment from Disability pension if you can work 30 hours per week down to 15 hours per week
  • Shift from Government provider to private contracted providers
  • Obligation to jobsearch if not employed for more than 70 hours per fortnight (jobsearch is a requirement although you have gained employment)
  • Income Management (Basic’s Card – non-cash component imposed)

The jobseeker’s positioning in Australia.

The reality of a jobseeker securing work in Australia, is that there are 19 jobseekers for every job available in Australia (as of May, 2016). That is however, not a true figure, as it needs to be considered that not all jobseekers are equally qualified for all jobs.  Therefore, for some, the jobseeker to job vacancy ratio is much higher.  In addition, vocational education and training has become less available and less accessible for those seeking employment; particularly in lower income brackets. Changes to eligibility for vocational training (ie The Certificate 3 Guarantee is for any eligible Queensland resident who does not already hold and is not currently enrolled into, a post-school Certificate III or higher qualification.)  Therefore if you hold a cert III in one vocational area, for example beauty, you are not eligible to undertake vocational training at cert 3 level in business administration.

In addition, specialised services such as JPET (Job placement, employment and training for homeless and disadvantaged young people) have ceased and are now replaced with a one-stop-shop model of ‘streams’ of unemployment.

The Liberal Party’s small government, free market mindset, is an inherent propensity to shy away from job creation and allow the free market to ‘sort out the jobs’, rather than the socialisation of job creation projects.  Government’s who do not commit to job creation are not complying with their mutual obligation to the nation’s unemployed citizens.  The onus is completely on the jobseeker and the framework within the jobseeker must search for jobs, is unrealistic; secure full time jobs and skills development get increasingly more difficult to obtain.

It should also be noted that barriers to employment and the adverse outcomes of financial and other punitive measures are more severe for (but not limited to); Indigenous Australians, single parents, jobseekers with a disability, youth and homeless and disadvantaged jobseekers.

The new narrative and the new solutions

To achieve the re-humanisation and the de-stigmatisation of those seeking employment; the jobsearch model must shift to a jobseeker-centric framework and away from a budget savings measures framework where jobseekers are currently seen as a strain on the public purse and a dehumanised as a target for savings measures.

Therefore, the jobsearch framework needs to shift from one of mandatory participation to one of voluntary participation.

Jobseekers need to be allowed free agency to participate freely in jobsearch activities.  To do this, the narrative needs to shift from the stigmatising rhetoric outlined in the beginning of this article to a more supportive narrative. Jobseekers should be given the support and recognition by Government that they have the same hopes, dreams and aims as the employed and are actively participating in job search to improve their life circumstance.

This then shifts the narrative away from the current underpinning assumption that jobseekers need a paternalistic guiding hand to motivate them; to a narrative that has the underpinning assumption that jobseekers are intrinsically motivated to seek employment.

This then shifts the onus for outcomes from the jobseeker and the public expectation to punish them for non-achievement to the public expectation that the Government of the day has an obligation to perform and enable an environment conducive to an expectation that secure employment can be achieved.

This should put pressure on the Government of the day to engage fully in job creation projects and the public less likely to accept the promises of a free market, small Government intervention model.  This means that there would be an increase in the expectation that the Government would create jobs where it had the power to do so.  This may include Government intervention to increase positions in all Government owned, operated and funded entities at local, state and federal level.  This may also include Government intervention to make mandatory the requirement for quotas within Government funded infrastructure projects to achieve targets of employing those who are employed and underemployed.

This should also put pressure on the Government to ensure they meet the obligation of providing skills development opportunities for those seeking employment. This may mean the implementation of yearly quotas of trainees and apprentices for all Government owned and funded organisations.  This would also place pressure on the Government to provide affordable access to TAFE and other training for all jobseekers, both under employed and unemployed.

In regional and rural areas where there is a higher concentration of unemployment; this should also put pressure on the Government to decentralise the public sector at state and federal level. In addition, pressure should be placed on the Government to provide attractive incentives for SME’s and large corporations to invest in relocations or start ups in regional and rural areas.

Government change to enhance the current model would also require the adoption of a basic wage, which will shift the public perception of one that jobseekers are welfare dependent, to a perception of a human right to a basic wage for all citizens.  This will also enable the underemployed to be as competitive for jobs as the unemployed.  Currently some incentives favour only the long term unemployed and lock the under employed out of the labour market.   Punitive measures such as income management (basic card) and financial penalties would no longer need to exist.

The most critical shift that needs to occur is for citizens to reject the stigmatising narrative that currently exists around those seeking employment today; as this narrative is the antecedent for the entire burden of secure employment to fall on the jobseeker, rather than the onus of providing citizens with full, secure employment on the Government.

All of the above can be achieved and it can start with a rejection of the current dehumanising and stigmatising narrative surrounding jobseekers; and it should start with all of us today.

“Stigma is a process by which the reaction of others spoils normal identity.”
―Erving Goffman

 

1 Ziguras, Stephen (2004) “Australian Social Security Policy and Job-Seekers’ Motivation,” Journal of Economic and Social Policy: Vol. 9: No. 1, pp 1-24

Tony Eardley, Jude Brown, Margot Rawsthorne, Kate Norris, Liz Emrys, 2005, The impact of breaching on income support customers, Social Policy Research Centre (UNSW)

Originally published on Polyfeministix

Morrison heading down the wrong path.

Watching Scott Morrison’s interview with Leigh Sales, on 7.30 Wednesday night I was hoping to hear something…anything that indicated that he possessed a better grasp of the economy than his predecessor. Sadly, all I heard was a lot of waffle, a collection of weasel words, the usual spin and a refusal to look at what is 50% of a balanced economy, i.e. revenues.

Raising taxes, he said, was code for increased spending. He did not agree that the economy has worsened despite Leigh Sales listing the comparison figures on unemployment, the exchange rate, GDP growth, the deficit and the debt, all of which clearly identified a worsening position since Labor left office.

He talked about getting people back to work, how good it was to see the participation rate rising. But there was nothing about job creation, where the jobs for 780,000 participants would come from or how the 156,000 job vacancies could be improved. There was no plan.

The Treasurer was already in denial about the comparative state of the economy and he was already looking away from where the real problems are, away from the point where he needs to begin his much anticipated restoration.

turn-300x168Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has made his first serious mistake. He has committed his government to continue with the failing austerity measures introduced by Joe Hockey in an attempt to bring the budget back to surplus.

If he is setting Morrison up for a gigantic fall and using that as a reason to change tack, to move away from this obsession for a budget surplus and embark upon a demand driven economic recovery via a stimulus, it isn’t going to happen soon.

Therein lies the problem.

The focus on government should not be on the deficits but on the prosperity and inclusion that full employment delivers. People are easily frightened by fairy tales of terrible consequences when new ideas are presented. That sense of fright is driven by a lack of education that leaves people unable to comprehend how the economy actually operates.

Deficit budgets will not bring about terrible consequences. Properly targeted, they will increase employment, tax revenue, drive demand for increases in production, higher wages and better living standards.

Neo-liberals magnify the fear of terrible consequences, by demonising what are otherwise sensible and viable explanations of economic matters. They know that by elevating these ideas into the domain of fear and taboo, they increase the probability that political acceptance of the ideas will not be forthcoming. That is what I suspect Morrison will do.

Morrison has demonstrated already he is no more up to the job than Joe Hockey. If he thinks we have a spending problem he is heading down the wrong path. We have a revenue problem clearly identified by excessive tax expenditures.

Morrison’s announced strategy advances the neo liberal ideological agenda: present simple “truths” guiding government fiscal policy and the public will accept it. Neo-liberals have vested interests in ensuring that the public does not understand the true options available to a government that issues its own currency.

neoThey present these simple “truths” by advancing a sequence of myths and metaphors that they know will resonate with the public and become the ‘reality’. Myths such as, “the country will go broke,” or “we simply can’t afford it,” or “we must live within our means.”

That last myth is the most dishonest of them all because it projects the image of a household economy which, in the case of a currency issuing government, is simply false.

Morrison acknowledges the level of Government spending has not fallen during the Coalition’s term in Government. “Expenditure as a percentage of GDP is over 26 per cent, which is where it was at the height of the GFC,” he said. “This is not something that we believe is sustainable.”

Government spending is as high now as it was during the height of the GFC and increasing. And so it should. In the June quarter, government spending was the only reason we avoided a quarter of negative growth. That fact alone should be ringing bells, but it isn’t.

Ideally expenditure as a percentage of GDP should be around 25%. But there are two ways to tackle that. One is to raise revenues, the other is to restrict outflows, which doesn’t necessarily mean spending.

In the current economic climate it seems no government has the courage to increase taxes. However, restricting outflows without cutting direct government spending can be achieved quite easily.

Tax concessions on capital gains, negative gearing, superannuation and mining subsidies are at obscene levels. They blatantly favour the wealthy. This is where Morrison needs to concentrate his efforts. If he fails to recognise this obvious area of savings he will be of no better value to the country than Joe Hockey.

That is why, for the economy to climb out of the mire, Malcolm Turnbull needs to reverse government fiscal policy. He can no longer rely on the RBA to restrict aggregate spending. Interest rates are now so low, going lower won’t work anymore.

scalesHe needs to rebalance the scales. Current tax expenditures weigh too heavily against tax revenues. Superannuation is not an economic driver any more than capital gains. Negative gearing inflates both the property and rental markets which in turn reduces disposable income.

Raising taxes is not a code for spending? As a confidence builder, it was not a great start from the new Treasurer.

 

Mr. Abbott – These People Had a More Difficult Day Than Bronny.

This afternoon, Sunday 2nd August, 2015, Bronwyn Bishop, resigned as Speaker of the House, after public pressure over an expense scandal.

Tony Abbott, Prime Minister, told Australians that “it had been a ‘very difficult day’ for Mrs Bishop.”  I’d like to take this opportunity to share with Tony Abbott the range of people who have also had a ‘very difficult day’ today because of the cuts and broken promises and poor decisions of the Prime Minister and his Government.

  1. Asylum Seekers on Manus Island and Nauru living in squalor in detention indefinitely.
  2. The young person on Newstart who will starve for a month because they have no welfare income.
  3. The young person in Regional Australia who has run out of petrol and is stranded, because the only service station that takes a Basics Card is closed.
  4. The Single Mother who is waiting until Wednesday to buy milk and bread because her payments have been reduced.
  5. The person with a disability who has been transferred to Newstart who has to decide between eating and petrol, because if they don’t go to their ‘obligated inhouse training’ they will get cut off.
  6. The woman Asylum seeker who is so ashamed she is crying because she isn’t allowed a sanitary napkin, because the Guard said she can’t have one.
  7. The low and middle income earner pensioner who is stressed and upset about their future after pension cuts.
  8. The woman with postnatal depression who no longer can go to her counselling sessions because she can’t get childcare because she isn’t working or studying.
  9. The jobless Australians worried that work if even further from their reach because of your China Trade Deal
  10. The chronic pain sufferer who is going without and living in pain due to increases in medication
  11. The Federal Public Servants you sacked who are worried they will lose their home because they can’t find another job
  12. Indigenous Australians in Remote Communities because you have denied them basic essential services and who will have nowhere to live because you are closing remote communities
  13. Sexually Abused women and children Asylum Seekers in detention because you failed to act on abuse claims
  14. The homeless person on Newstart stressing they won’t be able to eat when they get cut off, because their personal life barriers are a hindrance to applying for 20 jobs per month
  15. The Jobless South Australians who could be employed building submarines but they are still jobless.
  16. The Mother who is worried that she can’t afford to take her child to the doctor because the bulk-billing centre is full and you have put up Medicare through the back door
  17. The 756,100 jobless in Australia
  18. Young unemployed people in Regional Australia doing twice as many hours of slave labour with no workers comp protections under Work for the Dole
  19. The Bushfire and Cyclone victims whose lives will never be the same because they didn’t qualify for disaster assistance after your changes to disaster assistance criteria
  20. Everyday Citizens in local communities who no longer have access to services or maintained roads due to your cuts to Local Councils

That is just a list of 20 examples of people who don’t just have a difficult day, they have a difficult day every single day whilst your Government is hurting everyday Australians.  Please call an election. It’s not just the Speaker who needed to go. Your entire Government needs to go.

Originally published on Polyfeministix

With all that is wrong with Australia, all we hear about is boats

I truly detest how this country is treating asylum seekers and I detest the policies of both the Coalition and Labor – none of which remotely consider the onshore processing of refugees who arrive or attempt to arrive by boat.

I also detest how the asylum seeker issue is thrust front and centre by the government as the issue which will most likely decide who wins the next federal election. With nothing else to take to the election, naturally it’s all that the government wants us to be focused on.

And of course, the compliant Murdoch media is an active agent in promoting the discourse in our popular consciousness that we need to keep our borders safe from ‘boat people’.

I live in hope that one day (soon, I hope) that we witness an Australian government adopt both a heart and a humane policy on ‘boat people’ and I would like to see it embraced by most Australians. The latter, of course, would require an absolute turnaround to our popular consciousness.

End of story.

I don’t want to talk about ‘boat people’ any more. With all that is wrong with Australia, all we hear about is boats.

Instead of the government and the Murdoch media telling us what the important issues are, we should be turning it back onto them.

Take away the blather and the bravado about our ‘right to be tough’ towards asylum seekers and dig into the core of what really is important to us and this is what you’ll find:

As at June 2015 over 753,000 Australians were unemployed. In September 2013 – the month of the federal election – the number was just over 706,000. So since the election 47,000 more people are out of work. What is the government doing about the trend? Nothing. What is the media saying about it? Nothing.

Are there more people unemployed in Australia than the number of asylum seekers attempting to come here by boat? Yes.

Housing affordability has gone through the roof (excuse the pun) as have house prices themselves. The median house price in Sydney – our most populated city – is expected to hit $1,000,000 by the end of the year while Australia wide it sits at $660,000. Young people are now struggling more than ever to enter the housing market as the “Australian dream” of home ownership is under threat. But not according to our Treasurer Joe Hockey who insists that houses in Sydney are not unaffordable while the Prime Minister says he wants house prices to rise. That’s right. Rise. With young people struggling to buy a house at today’s prices our Prime Minister wants them to pay even more, despite the fact that housing affordability already represents a long-term structural problem that has been neglected for decades. So, what then can I assume our government is doing about housing affordability? Well based on the attitude of our Treasurer and Prime Minister, nothing. It’s not a problem apparently.

I wonder, are there more people in Australia struggling to or unable to buy a house than the number of asylum seekers attempting to come here by boat? Yes.

Over two and a half million Australians, including over 600,000 children live below the poverty line. That number represents almost 14% of our population. Welfare recipients are most at risk of living in poverty, yet these are the people most likely to be adversely affected by this government’s budgetary measures. So is the government doing anything to reduce the level of poverty in Australia? No.

Are there more people living below the poverty line in Australia than the number of asylum seekers attempting to come here by boat? Yes.

On any given night there are 105,000 homeless Australians with 42 per cent of these being under 25. We do not hear the media talk about this as a damning blight of our society and neither do we hear the government offering any solution to it. But can we expect them to when Tony Abbott says that homelessness is a ‘choice‘?

And by the way, are there more homeless people in Australia than the number of asylum seekers attempting to come here by boat? Yes.

Around one in five women in Australia have experienced some form of domestic violence. These are “epidemic proportions” to the point that domestic violence has now become a national emergency. As has the number of women killed by a violent partner: with at least one women murdered every week. What is the government doing about it? Not much by the look of it.

Are there more people in Australia experiencing domestic violence than the number of asylum seekers attempting to come here by boat? Yes.

Australia is now the most expensive country to live in and Australians are “struggling to cope as the cost of living pressures bite“.  An estimated one in three Australians cannot meet their cost of living expenses on their current incomes. What is the government doing about it? Nothing. What is the media saying about it? Nothing.

Are there more people in Australia struggling with the cost of living than the number of asylum seekers attempting to come here by boat? Yes.

Our economy is “grinding into stagnation” and rather than the three or so per cent growth each year we’ve come to expect, we might have to get used to 2 per cent GDP growth. And as a result, lower living standards can be expected while “everything here is going to be much tougher than before and compared to the rest of the world“. So what is the government doing about it (apart from blaming Labor)? Nothing. “The government neither has no idea – let along any proposal, plan or program – for how to boost Australian growth back up to three or four per cent per year“. They’re not even talking about it. Meanwhile, some of our largest and most potentially-innovative sectors are held back by the Abbott Government’s bureaucracy and regulation.

And will more Australians be affected by a stagnant economy and lower living standards than the number of asylum seekers attempting to come here by boat? Yes.

Oh how I could go on. I only wish the media would too. I wish the media would tell us not only the truth about the Abbott Government but question their appalling attitude towards climate change, the environment, job security, racism, Indigenous Australians, human rights . . . take a pick!

And how about our spiraling debt?

And how about Tony Abbott’s record of lies and broken promises?

Yet, with all that is wrong with Australia, all we hear about is boats.

 

Scare Campaigns Hide an Economic Void

Just eight weeks after the release of the 2015-16 Federal Budget, one that the MSM will tell you was well received, serious doubts are now beginning to emerge not just with growth estimates generally, but also with revenue targets; doubts that are coming from a variety of qualified sources.

If we are able to look beyond the recent scare campaigns being waged, we see the current trend in overall growth is well below the level necessary to bring unemployment down. Wages growth is stagnant, business investment is sluggish and household spending is restrained.

By now, Joe Hockey would have realised that dramatic spending cuts are not the smartest way to manage an economy particularly when those cuts take money away from people who actually spend it.

Having spent most of his time in opposition bagging the economy, then taking a machete to it at the first opportunity when in government, Joe Hockey’s scare campaign has achieved the opposite of a boost in spending and investment.

One part of the domestic sector is saving or paying down debt, the other is postponing expansion and development plans. Both private sector components hold little confidence in the long term future.

But it gets worse. Both Hockey, Tony Abbott and the rest of those charged with managing our economy, simply don’t know what to do. They have no idea how to stimulate growth, or if they do, they refuse to acknowledge it. They listen to people who don’t know and turn a deaf ear to those who do.

The ABC’s business editor, Ian Verrender describes their position similar to that of an ostrich with its head in the sand, while IPA Research Fellow, Chris Berg just pleads for a better understanding of the importance of growth. We can add to these, Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens who, in his customary deadpan way, is trying to alert them to the real nature of the problem.

glennThese and other comments from seasoned economists like Bill Mitchell who are not stricken with the neo-liberal approach, but simply state the bleeding obvious, ably represent the chorus of people who see our economy heading toward the abyss.

At a recent address to the Anika Foundation, Glenn Stevens said, “In the interim, the somewhat more restrained attitude to debt and spending by households, combined with a similar attitude by the government sector, has meant that there has not been quite enough domestic demand to achieve full employment, in the face of the fall in business investment.”

He warns that households are moderating their spending patterns to offset mortgage commitments. They are preferring to de-leverage rather than spend.

verenABC’s Ian Verrender says, Joe Hockey’s self-proclaimed credible path back to surplus, “was to be achieved by way of a magic wand, through an unexplained sudden return to trend growth. From 2.5 per cent last year, the economy would gather momentum this year, expanding by 2.75 before rising to 3.25 per cent next year and then to its long-term growth trend of 3.5 per cent.”

Such estimates fly in the face of Glenn Stevens’ earlier statements that record low interest rates can only do so much and that trend growth could settle below 3%, well under that estimated in the budget.

bergTo further illustrate the dilemma, when a senior fellow at the IPA begins to question the coalition’s performance, you know something must be wrong. Chris Berg says, “That the Government can propose higher taxes and proclaim its desire for lower taxes in the same breath isn’t a failure of messaging, it reveals an absence of purpose.” Berg complains that the government has no central economic agenda.

In the end it matters little that the MSM doesn’t highlight the failings of this government. In terms of the economy it is the people who feel it first; the unemployed, those who are reduced to part time work, those whose wages are suppressed, those whose debt levels become unmanageable, those who suddenly find buying essentials is as much as they can afford.

Politicians who enjoy entitlements the way ours do, don’t seem to notice these things even when they are staring them in the eye.

But when they fail to listen to experts, pretend they know better and create fear campaigns to deflect our attention, their lack of credibility becomes all too obvious to the voters and even to members of the IPA.

 

How do you starve a region of jobs? Just vote LNP!

Most Australians want a good quality of life and a good standard of living.  To achieve this, the availability of jobs in any region is essential. The Liberal National Coalition Government always, always claim to be the Party to look up to when it comes to jobs and business.

We see the main stream media support this claim with positive spin after positive spin in favour of the LNP or derogatory headlines and stories about Labor.  I often wonder if there is a statue of Tony Abbott in the foyer of The Australian or a statue of Campbell Newman and Joh Bjelke-Petersen in the foyer of The Courier Mail; where journalists begin their day by bowing to these statues and vowing to serve them through the course of their duties. Then there are those in the voting public who believe what the Liberal National Coalition say about how they understand business and are great for jobs and repeat it without question.

If you are creating a wealth of jobs, jobseekers must be just lazy…right?

When the LNP believe that they indeed are the best party for jobs and business, it then leads to a false dichotomy that those on unemployment must simply be lazy and that they simply don’t try enough.  Obviously the LNP are in charge, so of course there are plenty of jobs to apply for!

Based on this false dichotomy, the LNP’s approach to assisting the unemployed jobs is to starve community programs of funding and punish the hell out of jobseekers by implementing the worst jobseeker support program in Australia’s history “Job Active.”  Commentary on social media welfare sites from program participants, suggests that Job Active agencies are more focused on who they can get to pull out weeds for free under Abbott’s work for the dole program, than any real constructive assistance.

Commentary and anecdotes on social media also point to a system where there is no money to assist jobseekers find real work and assistance for study is not supported (unless it is pointless in-house training).  With the Newman Government’s changes to vocational education over the last three years coupled with the Abbott Government’s punitive Job Active program, Jobseekers living well below the poverty line must pay out of their own pocket up front costs or pay the course off, as there is no HECS or HELP deferral scheme for many vocational education courses. Those on welfare need to weigh up their options between being able to afford food and housing or an education.  As an Australian, I find this absolutely abhorrent and 100% unacceptable and this destroys this our way of life.

The Palaszczuk Labor Government has just delivered their first budget by Treasurer Curtis Pitt and have invested 34 Million to begin the repair of our vocational sector and TAFE, to provide real training options for jobseekers.  I hope that this will be extended to ensure affordable access for everyone who has the right to an education, including those on welfare payments.

Sadly, also on social media you read the stories of many jobseekers who are anxious, depressed, frustrated, upset and at times indirectly or directly discussing suicide or ‘not living anymore’ as an option.   This is how they are feeling as jobseekers under the Job Active program.  Some of the comments I have read and the stories collected by the Australian Unemployment Union are absolutely heartbreaking.

Nothing like a bit of stigma to get those jobseekers moving…

To degrade the unemployed even further, in some towns like mine you are given a Basic’s card.  Welfare recipients are given a cashless card and a small amount of cash.  This leaves the jobseeker with very little real money to make purchasing decisions with.  The Basics Card also seeks to stigmatise the jobseeker by giving them their own identifier which allows every shop assistant and member of the public at the checkout know that they are on welfare.

Couple this with the rhetoric that comes from the agenda of stigmatisation from the Liberal Government such as backbencher Ewen Jones who said: “look there’s your dole, go home, eat Cheezels, get on the Xbox, kiss you goodbye and we will never see you again’?” Add the sensationalisation of welfare recipients on television and so called ‘current affairs shows’; welfare recipients using a basic card, will be seen automatically by some as no good, lazy, bludging welfare thieves. Terminology used by many avid Liberal supporters which places those on welfare in a criminal category. Welfare recipients are not often seen as human beings who desperately want and actively seek work.

There is absolutely no option for those on welfare to blend in or not stand out as a recipient of welfare. This completely undermines the right to dignity and respect without judgement for so many Australians.  Under the LNP their reasoning is to shame you into finding a job every time you stand at the checkout. The other misunderstanding about the Basic’s card, is that it is available everywhere.   There are only a small number of shops and services which allow purchase with a basics card.  This often forces the jobseeker, living below the poverty line, to spend money at more expensive stores.  In some towns, they have no options at all. This places pressure on their already meagre budget.

So lets see….who should really be punished.  Is it the jobseeker or the Government?  I have completed an analysis of job vacancies in my local area of Central Queensland to find out.

Where have all the jobs gone…Long time passing

The availability of jobs is essential to a productive economy and enables the unemployed to actively apply for employment. Plentiful job vacancies also enable career development for the employed looking for jobs to advance their career.  This opens up lower level jobs for others to apply for. In many cases, highly skilled workers are stuck at the lower end of their professions and not moving on as there are no jobs available to apply for. This puts a constraint on jobseekers seeking entry level jobs. It also puts a constraint on highly skilled jobseekers who also find themselves in the employment queue and now find themselves pulling weeds under work for the dole.

The graph below is job vacancy data for Central Queensland from March, 2012 to January 2015 of the Newman LNP Government and the new Labor Government from Feb 2015 to May 2015. This is where the data availability ceases. There is no data available after May, 2015, but I will be providing follow ups as it comes to hand. (you can click the photo to enlarge). I have completed an analysis on Central Queensland for two reasons.  One is, it is the area I live in and I am very passionate about Central Queensland and the second is to bring some truth to light about how the Newman Govt affected regional areas.  Many believe that due to the Public Service cuts and media around protests, it was mainly Brisbane which had felt the impact. This is not so.

job vacancy growth decline blog

Some Interesting Facts that may get the way of a good LNP Yarn.

Interesting Fact Number 1.

An analysis of job vacancy data for the period of the LNP Newman Government shows a dramatic decline of job vacancies for Central Queensland.  Data available up until May, 2015 shows that in the first four months of the LNP Newman Government, Central Queensland Job vacancies declined by 378 vacancies.  After one year of the Newman Government, there were 1781.7 less job vacancies for Central Queenslanders to apply for. By the end of the Newman Government, there were 2198 less job vacancies advertised in CQ than when the LNP took office.

By comparison, in the first five months of the Palaszczuk Labor Government, Job Vacancies have turned around and job vacancies have increased by 218 jobs for the CQ region in this short time.

Interesting Fact Number 2.

The sharpest decline in job vacancies for any month-to-month period was the period of November to December 2012, which saw a 16% decline in one month for Job Vacancies for CQ jobseekers, under the LNP.

In comparison, the Palaszczuk Labor Government has achieved the highest increase of job vacancies for any month-to-month period for the CQ Region, over the last three years.  For the period from February to March 2015, Job Vacancies in Central Queensland saw a sharp increase of 16%.  This is the highest job vacancy increase for any month-to-month period, since March 2012.  In a few short months, the Labor Government has achieved what the Newman Government could not achieve in their entire period in office. That is, “to understand business and create jobs”  This is an absolute positive and speaks volumes of the quality of MPs within the Palaszczuk Government.  The graph below shows only job classifications with an increase of 20 job vacancies or more. This is not an exhaustive list.

increase Labor feb march

Interesting Fact Number 3

During the period of the LNP Campbell Newman Government, job vacancies in Central Queensland declined by 56%. To put this in real terms, that is 2198 job vacancies not open for Central Queenslanders to apply for under the LNP.  The graph below demonstrates the top 15 job classifications which experienced a decline in job vacancies over the period of the Newman LNP Government.  The only job classification which experienced an increase in job vacancies under the Newman Government were: Farmers and Farm manager (0.9 increase); Carers and Aides (9.2) Education Professionals (12.2 increase) and Medical Practitioners and Nurses (12.8 increase)  These figures are raw numbers, not percentages.  If we look at the success of the Newman Government for Central Queensland, their achievement is basically an increase of 35 job vacancies across four job classifications, and a decline in all other job vacancies for their entire period in Government.

job vacancy decline newman

Interesting Fact Number 4

In the first four months of the Newman Govt, job vacancies in Central Queensland fell by 10%.  In the first four months of the Palaszczuk Govt Jobs vacancies in central QLD increased by 13%

Are Jobseekers as Lazy as the LNP Claim them to be and should they be punished?

The term LNP has been used interchangeably throughout this post, meaning the Liberal National Coalition State and Federal. The LNP use a synthesis of blame and stigma to take the focus off their failings.  The LNP repeat the misguided rhetoric that they are ‘good for jobs’ without question and place blame on everyone else, including the unemployed.  As the data analysis of Job Vacancies for one area in Queensland show, the Abbott Government’s punitive approach is completely uncalled for.  The harsh welfare measures implemented do nothing but feed into the Abbott Government’s agenda of Stigmatisation of those on welfare.  Why? Because there are no better votes for the LNP those those created out of hate, disgust and fear.

My Conclusion?  If you want to starve a region of jobs.  Want to punish the unemployed unnecessarily – Just vote for a Liberal National Government!

Stay tuned for more analysis drilled down on specific classifications and other nerd-filled data excitement!

Originally posted on Polyfeministix

Premature congratulation

The Abbott government suffers from a bad case of premature congratulation.

We have had a parade of Hockey, Cormann, Frydenberg, Abbott and others telling us that they have halved Labor’s debt – which is a rather bizarre claim considering the gross debt has increased by $83 billion (and counting) since they took office.

Joe Hockey tells us that “job creation across the economy is running at around 15,000 new jobs a month. This is three times larger than the average of around 5,000 jobs a month last year.”

Aside from the fact that there is no measure of “new jobs” (job ads do not differentiate between new and existing jobs), comparative figures show that, in the 19 months from August 2013 to March 2015, there was a rise of 52,300 in the number of people employed and a rise of 56,200 in the number of people unemployed.  The aggregate monthly hours worked fell from 1,647.3 million hours to 1,628.7 million hours.  In other words, employment has not kept up with population growth and those who are working are working less hours.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister Christian Porter informs us that cuts to red tape have delivered $2.5 billion in savings in compliance costs since coming to Government.  To arrive at this figure they have done some very creative accounting.

People buying prepaid mobile phones will only have to go through the identity check once, not twice, saying that will save $6.2 million.

He said rejigging the e-tax website so the data entered the previous year shows up would save time and cut costs by $156 million and he said there was a $17 million saving in scrapping regulations that banned people using mobile devices on take-off and landing in planes.

The costs were partly calculated by working out how much time people or businesses would have spent complying with the rules and then what their time was worth.  Who would have thought that turning off your phone for a minute would have cost so much?

Andrew Robb has been showered with praise for completing several free trade agreements.  The secrecy surrounding these negotiations makes it very hard to understand the full implications but the FTA with Japan alone led to a $1.6 billion write down in revenue.  One must wonder why these countries, after years of negotiation, were all willing to sign off so quickly all of a sudden.  I fear our Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme will be under attack very soon, along with our plain packaging laws, and that manufacturing will have no future in this country.

We have also been barraged by a litany of self-congratulation for “stopping the boats”.  Whilst the number of boats is less, they certainly haven’t stopped, even under the threat of incarceration and torture at the other end.  But more to the point, what has this policy achieved in helping the growing tide of displaced people around the world?  We pretend to care about deaths at sea but apparently don’t give a toss about what is happening to those we turn away.

The gold award for premature congratulation, however, must surely go to Greg Hunt who, in one day, would have us believe that he cut our emissions by 4 times what occurred under carbon pricing and for 1% of the cost.  This unbelievable statement is so wrong on so many counts it is hard to know where to begin.

A study by the ANU showed that emissions reductions directly attributable to the carbon price in the electricity sector alone had achieved an abatement of between 11 and 17 million tonnes over its two year life while raising around $6 billion in revenue.  Abatement would have been even higher had the industry believed the carbon price to be permanent.

Whilst it’s true that demand has been falling for some time, 2013’s 0.8 per cent economy-wide fall in emissions was the largest annual reduction in the 24 years of monitoring. In the power sector, the industry most directly covered by the carbon price, emissions fell 5 per cent.

Hunt’s ridiculous statement that the carbon price was $1,300 per tonne has been lambasted by experts for the lie that it so obviously is.  The real price was in the 20-odd dollar range, and if the carbon tax had been allowed to develop into an emissions trading scheme, which it would’ve by now, the price would be linked to the European system which is trading at around the $10 mark.

Hunt’s other glaring omission is that while the Coalition’s policy is a cost, the carbon tax raised revenue.

What the government has actually done is spend $660 million of taxpayers’ funds buying a possible 47 million tonnes of carbon abatement – 25% of their total budget for 15% of the required abatement.

As reported in New Matilda, there’s also no guarantee the contracts companies won in Thursday’s ‘reverse auction’ will be discharged before the 2020 deadline. Many of them extend for seven or 10 years, and the government has not provided information about when the abatements need to be achieved.

“The experience with grant-based mechanisms is some of the projects proposed or actually contracted don’t happen in actual fact,” Professor Jotzo said. Even if they do, the types of projects contracted so far are largely land-fill and agriculture abatements, many of which may have been occurring already under ‘carbon farming’ initiatives, or would have occurred anyway.   Hunt is very much counting his chickens before they have hatched.

A very excited Andrew Robb also informed the Mines and Money Conference in March that “Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt has quickly approved 145 projects worth over $1 trillion in economic value; the majority of which are in the resources and energy sector.  Federal project approval times have been slashed to below 200 days from an average of 470 days in 2012.  We have created a ‘one-stop shop’ for environmental approvals that eliminates duplication between states, territories and the Commonwealth, saving business $426 million per year.”

The trouble with fast tracking approval is that companies lie and it takes expensive court cases to prove it.

A Queensland court has heard expert evidence from Adani’s own witness that the Indian company which wants to build Australia’s largest ever coal mine has drastically overstated the project’s benefits to the Queensland public.  And in other explosive evidence, a senior company official said he “could not comment” on speculation the company had been structured to siphon profits off to Singapore, Mauritius and the Cayman Islands, to avoid Australian company taxes.

Adani’s claims about the number of jobs the project will create have already been referred to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission by the Australia Institute, which argues they have been inflated by 300 per cent.

Adani has also claimed that the mine would generate “$22 billion in mining taxes and royalties in just the first half of the project life”.   Even their own expert belies this claim, estimating that royalties will actually amount to just $7.8 billion and corporate taxes will add around $9.96 billion over the 30-year period under consideration.  This too is being challenged as they apparently used a company tax rate of 32% rather than 30% and have been actively structuring their company to “optimise” their tax obligation.

Earlier this month, as part of the Land Court proceedings, the mining giant argued that the world is on track to a 3.1 degree temperature rise and if they don’t dig up the proposed 60 million tonnes of coal annually, another, potentially foreign, company will. Such a rise in temperatures, Adani’s expert witness conceded, would ultimately destroy the Great Barrier Reef.

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, considered to be a close friend of Gautam Adani, attended the G20 conference in Brisbane last year, he announced a $1 billion loan for the Adani project from the State Bank of India.  Apparently, this offer is being withdrawn, adding to the growing list of banks and financial organisations refusing to offer finance for the proposed mines.

So despite all the back-slapping and self-congratulation indulged in by the Coalition, it is hard to find any tangible benefit from having the adults back in charge.  The reality is that the debt and deficit are worse, unemployment is worse, our sovereignty to make health and environment laws is at risk, our emissions are increasing, investment in renewable energy has ceased, we are endangering the Great Barrier Reef, and we have done nothing to help asylum seekers.

But rest assured, by keeping your phone on during take-off and landing, you are saving the country millions.

Offshoring Our Future: Sinking Australian Jobs and the Great Barrier Reef

In spite of government lamentations about rising rates of unemployment, the NSW government is considering a plan to outsource around 240 human resources, IT, finances and payroll jobs to India.

A typical Indian call centre.

A typical Indian call centre.

The positions likely to be sent offshore belong to ServiceFirst, a company providing the above services to several government departments including the Office of Finance and the Treasury.

The irony of the situation is palpable. To the public, the government is styling itself as a stalwart defender of the livelihoods of its people, fighting to keep jobs in the hands of needy Australians, and curbing immigration because, as South Park so succinctly put it, “they took er jerbs!!!”

In reality, the government is seeking to cheapen its expenditure by moving those jobs to poor second and third world economies. This is not only reprehensible in a patriotic sense, leaving hardworking Australians to fend for themselves, but also in an ethical sense. The pay rates and working conditions of workers in India are some of the worst in the world, with nationals in the country working on average 8.1 hours a day as of 2011, with 191 minutes of that spent on unpaid work.

Call centre workers make on average 15,000 rupees, or 300 USD per month, which is about thrice that of employees in other sectors.

Over 94% of India’s workforce in considered unorganised, meaning unlicensed, self-employed, or unregistered economic activity such as rural traders and hand loom workers. This sector offers low productivity and lower wages. Even though it accounted for ninety four percent of workers, the unorganised sector created only 57% of India’s national domestic product in 2006, or around nine times less per worker than the organised sector.

There are reprehensible ethical issues in this sector, including debt bondage, where labour is forced from outstanding debt (otherwise known as slavery), and child labour to the tune of nearly five million children according to a 2009-10 nationwide survey.

For a government that counts human rights among it’s strongest priorities, this behaviour is woefully hypocritical.

The Public Service Association of NSW general secretary Anne Gardiner, in statements published in the Sydney Morning Herald, said that up to 30,000 of the state’s 400,000 public servants perform similar corporate service work to that targeted for outsourcing, leaving the future employment of many Australians hanging precariously in the balance.

Unemployment in the region is at a six year high, and this proposal seems to show that the government has no solid plans to turn those figures around, despite their blustering to the contrary.


Gladstone Harbour

Gladstone Harbour

In a continuance of this fine form, the Australian government has invited journalists worldwide to participate in an all expenses paid trip to the Great Barrier Reef (or should we say, areas of it that haven’t been utterly destroyed by corporate greed) in an obvious attempt to bribe the media to keep the Reef off the Unesco world heritage committee’s “in-danger” list.

 

It seems our government is prepared to sit on its laurels with regard to doing anything about the Great Barrier Reef other than allowing it to earn the coveted title of “understated problem of the century”, for which literally no expense is being spared.

An article by Guardian Australia reports that journalists from Germany, France, the Phillipines, Japan, India and Portugal are being flown in for a week long stay, where they’ll get to see the reef and meet “officials” who will “explain” Australia’s conservation efforts. How it’ll take a week to explain a literal absence of those efforts is beyond me.

The trip is being organised by the “Great Barrier Reef Task Force”, an organisation established not to actually prevent damage to the reef, but to prevent damage to those damaging the reef by keeping it off the Unesco “in danger” list. The government argues that it’s efforts on this front are necessary to counter “misinformation” about the state of the reef, a phrase which seems to mean any actual video footage, photography and scientific data that might jeopardise the business partnerships of government officials.

Let’s put this into perspective. One of the world’s most lucrative sources of tourism based income, a natural phenomenon that can be seen from space and that has taken at the least 10,000 years to form, is being reduced to a cloud of silt to line the pockets of men who will probably die of their cholesterol before 2030.


This article was originally posted on the author’s blog, which you can find here.

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