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The Invisible Army

By Edward Eastwood

You wouldn’t think that Steve was unemployed if you passed him in the street or sat next to him on public transport. He certainly does not fit the image of the ‘scruffy, lazy-stoner-living off-my-taxes’. He’s well-groomed and neatly dressed. He looks like any other average office worker or salesman at the end of the day.

A closer look though, reveals a worried man deep in thought, and Steve’s thoughts are dark. In fact, he’s clawing at the edge of utter despair and hanging on by his fingernails.

He’s been unable to find work for over two years after finishing a TAFE course in visual arts. There aren’t a lot of openings in visual arts right now but Steve keeps trying. He’s knocked on doors, cold called, and written enough resumes and covering letters to carpet a small country, and there’s no doubting him when he says he wants a job.

His Job Network provider thinks that he isn’t trying hard enough and pushes him to do more.

“I’ve done everything” he says. “I have knocked on doors and gone around to business’s large and small. They just tell me that they haven’t got any vacancies and if they did, they’d advertise.”

“I can’t sleep”, he says. “I get up in the middle of the night and walk around the park asking myself; “where are the jobs, where are the jobs? I was living at home but it was causing too much tension. My parents can’t seem to understand why I can’t get a job, so now I’m couch surfing with friends.”

Steve’s not alone.

According to the labour force statistics released by the ABS in July, there are 151,400 full time jobs with over 800,000 unemployed as well as another 1,046,500 under employed vying for them. (ABS labour force July 2015).

Under the changes implemented by the new welfare rules, Steve now has to undertake a Work for the Dole project.

“They want me to work in aged-care. I don’t know anything about aged care!” he despairs. What if some one falls or chokes? What do I do?” His distress is palpable and his tension is strung as tight as a piano wire. “I’ve got $5 to last me a week.”

Under the new regulations, the JNS providers must have all recipients of the Newstart related payment signed up for a Work for the Dole scheme by August 16th in order to fulfil their contractual agreements.

The haste in which this is trying to be achieved would raise eyebrows in a pig sty as the multi-national and charity owned providers scramble for their share of government subsidies trough.

This has resulted in a chaos as JNS providers strong arm the unemployed into unpaid positions for up to 25 hours a week in-between searching for 40 jobs a fortnight depending on age. Single mothers and those in the 35 to 45yo bracket must work 15 hours and look for 20 jobs a fortnight. The over 50’s to 65s must find ‘voluntary work’ at their own recognisance.

The stick is suspension or cancellation of benefits should the ‘client’ fail to comply.

For the unemployed, there is no carrot.

Australian Unemployed Union secretary Owen Bennet, says most people on Newstart sign up without being aware of their rights to refuse or re-negotiate the terms of their mutual obligation and work for the dole contracts.

“The AUU and other organisations such as the Dole Action Group are trying to get an advocacy system up an running so that people are aware of the rights and are not going in cold, and that they can turn to us for help.

People like Steve are under incredible stress just to make ends meet on a payment that is $280 below the poverty line. Many are so beaten, down-trodden and weary, that they don’t have the strength to fight back.”

There’s can be little doubt that the Abbott government is moribund and the vultures are already circling. Speculation is mounting again over a leadership challenge but it’s more likely that an early election will be called in either November or at the latest, March 2016 to enable Abbott to save face and fall on his own sword and allow the LNP to limit the damage rather than face a total wipe-out later in the year.

For ALP and The Green’s however, there’s still many a slip twixt cup and lip, and policies aimed at promoting full employment and providing an increase in welfare payments should be at the top of the ‘must do’ list.

It’s not always easy to recognise the members of the invisible army of the unemployed like Steve but they’re growing in number and they make up for a powerful voting bloc.

As Steve rises to leave, someone at the meeting surreptitiously attempts to slip $20 into his coat pocket. He finds it and tries to withdraw his hand. Someone grabs him by the wrist, forcing his hand to stay in his pocket.

Someone reassures him that the AUU will provide him with advocacy at his JNS meeting and that he’s not alone.

Tears start to well in his eyes.

But not in mine. I’m a hard-hearted bastard.


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  1. John Armour

    We know you’re a bastard Edward, but we’ll have to wait for the autopsy for the diagnosis on your heart!

    : )

  2. Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36)

    The only hope for many people in these circumstances is a change of government ro one which is more consultative and which will NOT be totally controlled by either major party.
    We need a program for renewable energy – which will create jobs – and we need a more sensitive approach towards helping, not penalising, those who have become unemployed.
    We need good job training programs and encouragement to employers to take on trainees.
    We also need less privatisation of areas such as have led to Job Network where it seems that making a profit is much more important than doing their job well and sensitively.
    A few people are unemployed because they choose to be but the majority want a job they can gain self-worth from doing.
    The current IPA attitude that if you are not wealthy there is something wrong with you is destructive and counterintuitive.
    We also need REAL reform of the taxation system, guided by REAL economists.
    If more money is needed for health, increase the Medicare Surcharge Levy which is NOT regressive and which is directed to health anyway.
    Perhaps if we had politicians who led by example it would help.
    When the wealthy see the pollies with noses in the trough, they are hardly going to be encouraged to become philanthropists, are they?

  3. flohri1754

    Enlightening column …. as a parent who has had to see a couple of my children attempting to deal with Centrelink at various times over the last ten years and with various shades of government … I must say that the disconnectedness of the employment system supported by government has appalled me. There seems to be no communication between the various “employment” agencies being paid by government and businesses and those people needing positions of work. Not even any contact between federal and state government agencies themselves and the organizations that are meant to be helping people find work. Extreme siloing in fact with in the end leading to situations such as that described above where individuals are often almost left in pits of despair.

    The unemployed individual winds up being a ping-pong ball bouncing between agencies and companies. I have yet to really know what the “employment” agencies do that a direct office of the Federal government coundn’t do itself AND for a lesser cost.

    It is an area in which there is a lot to learn (yet again) from the Scandinavians and Germans with their cooperative interaction employment systems that put Unions, Companies, Governments in a more cooperative system benefiting society overall AND the individuals attempting to find new jobs and stay in employment as well. For example, in Denmark, the system enables companies to restructure more easily by making sure that “redundant” employees are given 85 percent of their last salary as unemployment benefits while working to make sure such individuals are re-employed as soon as possible. It is a system that takes the individual, the society, the economy and acknowledges that they are all involved in a mutually dependent association. Working for the benefit of society in general ….

  4. M-R

    Is the ALP EVER going to let us know how they plan to change all this ?
    I haven’t heard anything of late to make me move away from my decision to vote Green next time …
    Thanks for this post. Edward …

  5. kathysutherland2013

    @M-R…I haven’t heard what the Greens are planning yo do about this situation…

  6. edward eastwood

    @ John Armour; Doubt if they’ll find anything John.

    @ Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36); You won’t get any argument about that from this side of the key-board Rosemary.

    @ flohri1754; “I have yet to really know what the “employment” agencies do that a direct office of the Federal government coundn’t do itself AND for a lesser cost.”

    We did. It was called the Commonwealth Employment Service and it worked far better than the JNS model does or ever will.

  7. Kaye Lee

    I have never understood why we got rid of the CES. Since Howard got rid of it more than $18 billion has been spent on the welfare to work program – first labelled Job Network, and now known as Job Services Australia.

    Job Services Australia (JSA) costs us $1.3 billion-a-year. A Four Corners investigation has found rorting of the scheme is rampant. Forgery, manipulation of records and the lodgement of inflated claims for fees are widespread.

    The Parliamentary Budget Office costed increasing Newstart, Abstudy and Youth Allowance by $50 a week at $7.4 billion over 4 years. Indexing it the same way as the aged pension would bring the cost to $8 billion over four years.

    This money would all be spent which would do a damn sight more to increase demand and hence jobs than giving billions to the real rorters, JSA. It would also go a small way to lifting these people from poverty giving them a far better chance to find employment. Housing affordability is also something that MUST be addressed.

  8. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Well done edward. Thank goodness someone is listening to the pain of the unemployed and under-employed.

    Sorry to be repetitive but one way to lessen the burden on our society and economy of the vast numbers of unemployed and under-employed who are suffering this distress, is to instigate without further delay, proper and life-sustaining funding for willing participants to access government backed micro finance that will allow them to get their micro businesses up and running. Forget NEIS because that only replaces the miserly Newstart payments, which recipients can barely live on, let alone try to build up and grow micro-businesses (although the mentoring component is useful).

    I would be interested edward to know what you think about my Micro Finance Grants and Micro Credit Loans proposals to be at the disposal of unemployed and under-employed people like Steve who has skills, burning desire for work, qualifications and the initiative to pursue any and every opening available. Even if Steve himself is not ready for such self-employment, there are thousands and thousands of others like him who would, if given the opportunity.

    The benefits are manifold for the individuals themselves, as they would move from being despairing welfare recipients to economically secure self-employed people, taxpayers and potential employers to other such people, who are floundering in unemployment and under-employment.

    The benefits would continue to the wider community by the taxes produced by the greater workforce involvement would enhance tax revenue, which in turn could be spent on other social benefits including better public transport, more teachers at better pay, more Research and Development for scientific inventions and the list goes on.

    The benefits would also be for the Australian consumer as these many micro-businesses would represent diverse goods and services businesses and thus provide a plethora of home-grown Australian businesses that would provide greater diversity for consumer choice, which in turn would enhance the economy for the spending would be here and enhance employment opportunities for Australians.

  9. diannaart

    I delayed applying for the DSP, because it felt like an admission of defeat, now I am grateful. I wept when I was granted the DSP – for so many reasons, I could survive a little longer having been completely unable to make ends meet while on Newstart, I could focus on caring and nurturing myself, I could make some inroads into my debts and also because I do not look sick, any more than unemployed people look unemployed, but the people who assessed my claim could look further than the superficial.

    I am not claiming the the pension is reasonable or adequate, compared to Newstart it is a lifeline. Newstart does not help people, let alone provide a life-line when in need, it is designed to keep people who had the misfortune to be unemployed, to continue to be unemployed.

    The idea of work for the dole on schemes that hold no relevance to a person’s skills or abilities or training is nothing more than slavery.

    Labor needs must clarify they represent all Australian not just the ones who fit a narrow definition.

  10. David

    ‘As Steve rises to leave, someone at the meeting surreptitiously attempts to slip $20 into his coat pocket. He finds it and attempts to withdraw his hand. Someone grabs him by the wrist, forcing his hand to stay in his pocket.

    Someone reassures him that the AUU will support with advocacy at his JNS meeting and that he’s not alone.

    Tears start to well in his eyes.’

    Very telling Edward, those last sentences.

  11. Harry Cohen

    Why on earth do we have such a high immigration rate–over 250000 a year when we have such high unemployment?.Allowing for family reunion,refugees and the few we need with special skills, how do we reconcile those c oming in on 457 visas when we have over a million who are under employed or umemployed? There is no proper planning about how much we need to grow;just a notion driven by economists(not all thank goodness) that we have to have growth at all costs.Sadly it seems no party including the Greens,will even consider putting the brakes on our high intake.

  12. Nasser

    The big issue is the job creation, or should be lack of it by the government. I dont see any plan or policy for major job creation. Abbott talks about jobs but thats all it is, talk.
    The government doesn’t really know what to do or how to handle unemployment so, they change focus from job creation and put blame on the unemployed. The idea that the unemployed dont want to work is pathatic at best. Yes, some people on newstart don’t want to get a job but stating or treating the majority as they don’t want to work, is getting beyong stupidity

    First the government needs to get rid of those so called “job network” or “job services”, they are anything but a network or a services to help people get a job. All they do is admin the process of the unemployed status. If they dont put people in jobs or help people get a job, then the job services are a big failure. What job services do, can and should be done by centrelink, rather than a private company.

    There needs to be free training and up-skilling for the unemployed. This should include people working less than 15 hours a week.
    If someone can’t get a job but with some training or a new skill can get one is a different position or industry, then it would be wise and cost effective for the govenment to spend on training and get them off newstart allowance.

    Austudy allowence should be the same level of payment as newstart allownce. Its hard enough being on newstart and some people wouldnt study because its less money to live off.
    On that note, ALL, Austudy, newstart, minimum wage, public servants AND politicians pay, should be indexed and raised by the same % on a yearly basis. Then we might see a real increase in benefits that can really help those in need.

    Last, every government gets elected should have a big focus on job creation. The markets are always changing and the labour force need to change with it and adopt, be it learning a new skill or training in a new industry, it should be easier to change and the country wouldnt be left behind the rest of the world and an ever increasing unemployment.
    Job creation by the Liberals is limited in how they look at it. They prefer opening a new mine and state it creates more jobs. While ignoring a whole industry such as renewables which is set for exponential growth. I wonder if Abbott would understand which one will create more jobs?
    It’s easy to use renewables as an example but we can also use technology, science or education sectors too.

    I believe to have a real change, we need a fundamental shift from the current system. We need experts in government positions, not politicians. We need policies created by people who know how to run and manage an economy, not some out of touch with reality party members.

  13. edward eastwood

    @ Jennifer Meyer-Smith; It is a good idea Jennifer. The problem lies in finding a government or party for that matter which has the courage to implement such a scheme. The private sector can’t fund such a policy as its restricted by the income it can earn. Currency issuing governments are the only ones with such power. It’s the ideology of maintaing the NAIRU (Non Accelerating Rate of Unemployment) so that there is always between 5-6% of the population unemployed which is causing the problem and both sides of politics embrace its principles. The Coalition eagerly support it and the ALP also but to a slightly lesser degree.

    @ Nasser; Well said!

    @ Kaye Lee; Couldn’t agree more.

  14. John Armour


    A small typo, but the “inflation” bit is the offensive sting.

    The NAIRU says we need a buffer stock of misery to protect the interests of the “haves”.

    Probably the most disgusting acronym in economics.

  15. John

    If it is regular work it is employment.
    If it is employment the Newstart allowance is below the national minimum wage.
    if it is below the minimum wage Fair Work Australia should be acting.

  16. edward eastwood

    @ John Armour; Thanks John, sometimes the hand is faster than the eye.

    @ John; Can’t fault your logic John.

  17. John Kelly

    Nice try Edward but your reverse psychology can’t fool me. It sounds like Steve should be knocking on more doors, writing more letters, offering more time at the aged care facility and less time eating, sleeping and worrying about his stress levels. As for those statistics, they can’t be true.
    My mate Eric says the harder you try, the better the chances. And he’s got one of the best jobs in the country…….for the time being.

  18. LOVO

    Great read Edward, as a single dad of three and living in Broken Hill I despair for my kids prospects. My eldest at 20 has only ever had part time work; a couple of hours here and there, at the moment she is working 2 shifts of 3hrs at the local noodle shop. She wants to work, she wants to earn, but alas she is showing signs of being depressed because of the lack of jobs and I worry so… 🙁
    My other 2 are still at school and the only hope I have for change for them is that this stupid Abbott Govt. will be gone by the time they leave school.
    When I did my Plant Mechanic apprenticeship in the early 80’s I remember being told about the imminent shortages in the Trades sector(s) and of the need for Government to do something to increase apprenticeships ….. nothing has been done….and that was 30yrs ago. At my current job we have only 2 apprentices left, with no plans to hire more, and their in their 4th yr. We used to have about 15 covering various trades.
    Is it any wonder why we have to import trade-related labour on 415/457etc visa types as successive govts have let our young ones and our country down.
    We need to have some kind of subsidies support for employers to hire apprentices or risk falling further behind than we are already. We need to (re)turn TAFE’s back into ‘education’ facilities, instead of the ‘corporate’s they have become and we need an genuine employment agency like the old CES.

  19. Julianne Vincent

    A recent article on this is an interesting read about the Industry of the Job Network – I have 2 middle twenties children in a similar state. I have seen the effort they have gone through to win a contract job, often finding that the jobs shifts are such that in a given two week period they can earn far less than the dole if they had been on that. We need to have real jobs being created that pay more than the dole for starters. Every part-time job MUST have to pay a base rate of more than the dole per fortnight regardless of how many hour shifts they don’t give their employee.

  20. Michael Taylor

    Who on earth would want to live in Broken Hill! 😯 😉

  21. LOVO

    Geez your a funny bugger Migs……. you should have your own show :mrgreen: ……… no really 😛

  22. Lee

    “Why on earth do we have such a high immigration rate–over 250000 a year when we have such high unemployment?.”

    To bring wages down so the haves can have more. Most migrants don’t know their entitlements.

  23. edward eastwood

    @ John Kelly; Thanks John but please don’t let the cat out of the bag.

    @ Lovo; As a sole parent – or simply as a parent- I understand where you’re coming from. My child is about to finish high school. Sure, they’ll go to Uni but what then? The way the system is set up he’ll be lucky to be scooping up barker’s eggs at the Greyhound races (‘client’ must provide own scoop).

    As Bill Mitchell asks;

    ‘How do you get skill shortages when you’ve been spending billions of dollars allegedly re-training people, and preparing the unemployed with new skill sets? All of the evaluation, one way or the other, indicate that it’s a parasitic, failing industry.’

  24. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Thanks edward,

    it seems by your response to me that it boils down to political will to implement a scheme such as mine that makes readily available those MFG’s and MCL’s that I advocate for willing unemployed and under-employed participants, so that they might become self-employed in self-sustaining micro-businesses.

    I wouldn’t waste my breath waiting for the LNP to get it, but there might be hope for Labor … just … even though they have proudly followed along with their tails wagging for 30 years since Hawke and Keating to the drum of economic rationalism.

    So, what if Labor starts to show some guts and incorporate these innovative ideas into their employment policies and programs; their industry policies and programs; and their higher education policies and programs etc?

    No Mickey Mouse political cop-outs will be tolerated. No fobbing us off to the alleged goodwill of the banks (as Shorten suggested at Fringe in Melbourne recently).

    Immediate public advocacy from innovative elements in Labor, the Greens and sane Independents is needed to show this is one of the meritorious ways to get people back into meaningful employment that reflects their skills, experience, knowledge and qualifications.

    To fail to do this is to be complicit in gross wastage of human skills wealth.

  25. Harquebus

    The problem isn’t that there aren’t enough jobs, the problem is too many people. The unemployment situation will continue to worsen as populations continue to increase while resources deplete or become scarce and the environment continues to be destroyed.

    The root cause of this situation is the continual pursuit of economic and population growth. These are the issues that need to be addressed. We can not shop our way to sustainability.

    The unemployed cause the least amount of pollution and do the least amount of damage to the environment and do not compete for scarce resources simply because they can not afford to.

    This is the way the majority will be living. There is no avoiding it so, start practicing.

  26. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    It doesn’t need to be like your dire example, Harquebus,

    if we can put a strong message to our community that our collectively considered changes can happen, then future prospects will be better and more sustainable.

  27. John Armour


    My only knowledge of micro loans comes from what I’ve read about Muhammad Yunus and Grammen Bank.

    I can’t knock it, but my initial reaction is to question the assumption that we are innately all entrepreneurs.

    I also think its greatest potential is in undeveloped countries where there are gross gender inequalities.

    I can’t see it being any kind of solution to our unemployment problem however, not only because of the limited scale of its potential impact, but because our unemployment has a different cause: it’s government policy.

    The solution to our unemployment is a Job Guarantee, and that could be initiated tomorrow.

    What is a Job Guarantee?

  28. Jollyjumbuck

    But that’s okay, Australians not being able to fine work! Tony Abbott has the answer, lets bring in a Free Trade Agreement with Bloody China and then allow them to come and work in this country cheaper! We have so many stinking migrants in this country and not enough resources for all! Abbott again has the answer for that one to, let’s stop them Aussies from claiming unemployment benefits and make it harder for them to find work.(Because there isn’t any work available) He doesn’t f n care as long as we keep taking refugees into Australia! This country is a f..g joke and there is not one politician who has any guts to stand up and make on stand on this issue because we would be calling him? You guessed it! “A RACIST” You can’t win! you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t! Is there any wonder there is RACISM in this country!
    Wake up Australia! We can’t save the whole bloody world and it’s problems!

  29. Kyran

    Your ability to use a human scenario to highlight impersonal statistics is to be commended Mr Eastwood.
    On the ABS website there is an explainer of unemployment/employment criteria, based on the International Labour Organisation’s criteria of 1966, one hour of work per week! The underlying premise is that government’s around the globe use the same criteria, therefore it’s ok. The inescapable fact is that it is grossly inadequate.
    With regard to the provision of education and training, the ‘delivery’ has been replaced by stealth. RTO’s now deliver certification but are not subject to any meaningful oversight. This erosion of educational standards is a scam which damages both students and employers. It’s ok though, the RTO’s are making a fortune.
    The closure of the CES and its replacement with Job Services Australia does nothing to enhance the prospects of the unemployed or adequately service the employers. It’s ok though, the agencies are making a fortune.
    The phenomena of ‘pay day lending’ is likely to be subjected to a senate enquiry in the foreseeable future, motivated by scrutiny of excessive interest rates (credit cards may be included) and poor ‘underwriting’. It’s unlikely to change much, as the financiers are making a fortune. As business is more important than people, it is ok.
    J M-S and JA make valid points with regard to the alternative of micro loans. There was a report on RN about the ‘Good Shepherd’ no interest loan scheme (NILS). Its lending criteria would be described as high risk in commercial terms, yet it has a staggering 97% compliance rate. It provides people in genuine need with help. From what I heard, it also affords them dignity and respect. The provision of those unquantifiable qualities seems, to me, to explain it’s success.
    Who would have thought putting people before business would be a better business model?
    Thank you, Mr Eastwood. Take care

  30. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    John Armour,

    of course I support the Job Guarantee solution too. Anything that provides real and positive solutions for people to obtain dignified and economic security is a winner in my book! However, why not both that worthy concept and mine too?

    There are many people, who are entrepreneurial but lack the financial resources to get their enterprises up and running.

    And as I have said before, when local home-grown Australian grassroots businesses are encouraged, they provide greater consumer choice, greater opportunity for profits to be spent in local Australian communities and greater incentives for their local economies and job creation.

  31. edward eastwood

    @ Kyran; Thanks.

    @ Jennifer Meyer-Smith; Similarly to John Armour I also have reservations about creating ‘entrepreneurs’ Nasty memories of Skase, Bond, et al. Nonetheless a scheme closely monitored and regulated by government to help fledgling small business owners could be of merit.

  32. Harquebus

    Only after things become a lot worse. No politician has advocated economic contraction and population reduction. While they continue to pusue the absurd policy of infinite growth, scarcity, pollution and the consequences of over crowding of which, high unemployment will be one, will continue to worsen.
    Climate change is another matter, that can not be stopped.
    Don’t blame me, I am only telling it as it is.

  33. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    My MFG and MCL proposals are not intended to create another Skase or Bond. They are for sole practice or small business people to escape unemployment and under-employment by becoming self-employed, self-sufficient and possibly job providers for others. If we want to combat unemployment and under-employment, so people don’t starve and become homeless, then that’s a way to help them help themselves.

    Harquebus, I acknowledge your fear of infinite growth and population expansion. I agree definitely about population expansion because our country can only support a limited number of people. I’m not opposed to moderating migration numbers immediately, although I differentiate economic migration from seeking asylum. If a genuine asylum seeker needs sanctuary, I welcome her/him without the dehumanising obstacles of Manus and Nauru.

    I don’t see why offering unemployed and under-employed people a chance with my MFGs and MCLs to escape withering away on subhuman income, would further compound what you fear? Diversity of opportunity to self-determination and self-sufficiency should be something you would support.

  34. Lee

    Harquebus, please try to get through an entire thread without harping on about population control. People have the right to reproduce. There is no fair way to all to place government-sanctioned restrictions upon reproduction and at this stage no mainstream scientists are producing any evidence that warrants such a step. As for that pearl of wisdom that the problem is not a lack of jobs but too many people, did you have an extra bowl of stupid this morning?

  35. Harquebus

    All plagues end the same way. Why should the human plague be any different?
    Populations are going to reduce whether you like it or not. Mother nature will be very nasty in her approach.
    Do we have the right to subject the next generation to the horror that is already starting to become evident?
    Try looking beyond your own sense of self worth. Your post demonstrates your ignorance.

    “So 10,000 years of unremitting population growth, frivolous energy spending and economic growth have now met the reality: “Unless biomass stores stabilize, human civilization is unsustainable.””
    “But market economists (and their related politicians) don’t understand the Earth battery metaphor anymore than they do the laws of thermodynamics, says Schramski and his collaborators.”

    “The key question for societies of today and the future is whether we can sustain a way of life that is materially prosperous in the face of scarce supplies of oil and other resources, degraded environments, a changing climate, and numerous major problems that will converge in the near future.”

  36. Lee

    “Try looking beyond your own sense of self worth. Your post smacks of ignorance.”

    Really? How so, Mr Expert? I don’t have any children, so I am not responsible for any “over-population”. If you’re so well informed, support your position with credible references.

  37. Nasser

    Harquebus, it rather makes me laugh every time I read population control. I don’t mean any disrespect but the idea is a little silly to me.
    Unless we have a massive natural disaster or every government around the world starts to cull its population, then we will not have population reduction. Can the world handle few more billions, well, the same questions was asked when the world was 5 billion, now we have 7 billion and hasn’t ended!

    I can see the world going to double its current population before it starts to slow or even decrease. But this wont happen unless the advance in medicine slows to a stand still or we don’t have enough food/water. The average age over the last 200 years has doubled and it could double again in the next 50 to 100 years. Population will increase even faster. We will get to a point where population will level out and only increase at the speed of medicine advancing and the quality of food and water.

    Australia’s population has increased by more than 5 million since 1995. Do we have 5 million people unemployed? The issue is not enough jobs, not the population. I believe having more people creates more jobs, those people are going to be consumers, need food, clothing and shelter. That creates jobs which were not there before.

    There are immediate steps which can be taken right now to mitigate the 800k unemployed, such as stopping 457 visas and reducing immigration to a sustainable levels. As well as offering programs for the unemployed, such as Job Guarantee.

    Can Australia handle a few more millions now? The answer is no, not right now but it can in the future. If north Australia aspires to be the food bowl of Asia, then a few more millions in Australia can be fed, won’t starve. Could be a massive shift to north Australia where there will be food and water. Water shortage in major cities can be overcome with building more desalination plants.

    The switch to sustainable living is the key in dealing with population growth. At the current state of resource consumption, its un-sustainable. We need better management and attitude towards air, land and sea rather than running towards the dollar. This can only happen when the government shifts attitude towards the future not power and control. Its going to be a matter of time before every citizen around the world demands a better government and does something about it, right now it won’t happen but in the not so distant future it will.

  38. Nasser

    Jennifer Meyer-Smith, micro loans is not going to make any big dents in the unemployed numbers. It can be good and help some, I do believe it should be a part of the solution but it might be just a tiny part.
    Most unemployed don’t want to run a business and even more don’t know how. Imagine many people getting micro loans, many could just blow through the money and back to being in debt and unemployed again.

    I’ll give an example. Steve is a sparky who wants a job. Local business don’t have any opening cause business is slow. Steve gets a loan to be self employed, competing with the local business. Well, what is there is not just enough work available for both? Then Steve won’t get off the ground and local business will struggle even further due to a cheaper competition. If there was enough work available then Steve would have had that job in the first place. This of course is one case but it can reflect what’s out there.

    Of course someone can get a loan, compete with local business, large or small, and earn enough to live off. This scenario will happen more often only when there are more spending in the economy and more people with jobs have money to spend. Kind of a catch 22.

    Again, Job Guarantee, could be the solution. Get people working and have some money to spend, this will increase demand for more employment. As businesses grow, less unemployed and less people in the job guarantee program.

    Note: sorry if there is someone reading this named Steve who is a sparky!

  39. Jennifer Meyer-Smith


    you are making a lot of assumptions about the unemployed and under-employed. How do you know most don’t want to run a business and how do you know that they would get the money and then blow it?

    Your Steve the sparky example is relevant if only applied to Steve pursuing work strictly in his traditional field. What about the possibility that Steve could use his skills to transfer into another enterprise that does not necessarily compete with existing enterprises, if there is not enough work available for both?

    You’re missing my central point and that is unemployed and under-employed people don’t have the financial resources to get their own enterprises off the ground, so if there is not enough available employment opportunities open to them, they should be encouraged to start up their own enterprises. I don’t accept that the eligibility criteria should be restrictive.

    And finally, I did not dispute the merits of the Job Guarantee concept. Decent wages with the safety net of the minimum wage is one key aim. If building on the skills, ingenuity, knowledge and qualifications of the unemployed and under-employed in the Job Guarantee concept is another key aim then it aligns with my MFG’s and MCL’s proposals because that is the point of seeking the finance for micro-business and that is to engage and profit from the abundant, diverse skills that unemployed and under-employed people have that are otherwise being wasted by unemployment.

    There is no reason why my MFG’s and MCL’s could not co-exist with the Job Guarantee concept. The aim in both scenarios is to provide employment opportunities for people so to improve their standard of living and quality of life while generating an even more environmentally-friendly, efficient and effective economy.

  40. Lee

    Jennifer, the failure rate of small businesses is quite high. One article I read from 2013 and based on ABS data states that an average of 44 small businesses close each day. So if the government is to provide funding, it needs to be for a whole lot more than start up costs. There needs to be training as well and just how far do they go with the training? Surely a more sensible way of providing jobs is to fund training and employment in the fields where we are currently employing foreign nationals on 457 visas?

  41. Nasser

    I can say that a lot of people don’t know how to manage their own home budget, yet alone will be manage a business finance. Just need to look at the debt people have and how many people are actually living week to week, waiting for the next pay cheque.

    I can see the need for micro loans, I can also see the negative side of it. Yes, it should a part of the bigger picture but it to me it will be a very small solution. We need to be looking for more than one solution of course and solutions for the majority of unemployed people.

  42. Harquebus

    Lee and others.
    Please humor me and watch this video.
    h ttps://

    Search criteria: overpopulation effects

    I am sure that you would not call this man “silly”.

    “It’s coming home to roost over the next 50 years or so. It’s not just climate change; it’s sheer space, places to grow food for this enormous horde. Either we limit our population growth or the natural world will do it for us, and the natural world is doing it for us right now.” — David Attenborough

    While we continue to increase our populations in the face of diminishing resources, unemployment will also continue to increase.

  43. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    I’m well aware of the pitfalls, Lee and Nasser, for small businesses. I don’t dispute them, but I don’t accept that is the excuse to ignore promoting opportunities for equitable and accessible micro-business activity.

    Obviously some targeted training, as well as readily and repeated mentoring would be part of the deal. But they are not the only parts. Financial support in the forms of non-repayable grants of at least $10,000 and repayable loans of between $20,000-30,000 are essential ingredients to get innovative and consumer-appealing micro-businesses up and running. Both the grants and the loans would be over and above Newstart for a reasonable interim period while the participants were able to get their micro-businesses up and running.

    Another way to provide opportunities for grassroot micro-businesses to get up and running is to have access to affordable rental premises. One way around that would be for government-built, government-owned and government-administered large, under-cover and lockable and ongoing tenancy of cubicles in marketplaces. Each micro-business would pay rent for each cubicle that would be totally lockable and protected from the weather.

    This beats the current market setups where vendors must arrive much earlier on Market Day to set up, run the risk of inclement weather, break their backs in loading/unloading/carrying and the reverse at the end of the day. Such large weather-protected and lockable cubicles would allow each goods vendor or service provider a safe and affordable place for them to do their business.

    This is obviously good for the micro-business operator but it’s also good for the customer/client who is seeking a diversity of goods and services at presumably more affordable costs.

    Those goods and services would include antiques and collectables dealing; legal services; jewellery making; cooking demonstrations; cakes sales; tattooing; nailcare; fine furniture making; and so on. The mind boggles for the opportunities.

    If such under-cover and weather proof and affordable business premises are made available to the micro-businesses, then I know that the number of small businesses that fail would significantly decrease on a daily rate. Exorbitant commercial rents and overheads are the identified serial killers of small business.

  44. John Armour

    “If building on the skills, ingenuity, knowledge and qualifications of the unemployed and under-employed in the Job Guarantee concept is another key aim…”

    My understanding is the JG would be designed mainly to create jobs for the low skilled because (1) they makeup the bulk of the unemployed and are the most difficult to place, and (2) that’s where the bulk of the placements would be, that is, environmental repair, aged care help etc. Green jobs mainly.

    Bill Mitchell, the originator of the concept, has always envisioned that the JG would need to entail on-the-job training to lift the skills of that group, something the present system has utterly failed in providing.

    The spending multiplier would then kick in and stimulate employment for the more skilled, higher up the job pyramid.

  45. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Unfortunately John,

    you have identified a vast gap in what Jobs Guarantee is about and that is the assumption that the unemployed are largely low skilled. No sorry, not necessarily the case by any means.

    There are vast numbers of well qualified, well experienced and well skilled people of various ages.

    One just needs to consider the number of unemployed graduates or the number of discriminated mature age highly skilled people, who may find themselves out of secure employment and then locked out of re-entering the workforce.

    Age discrimination is alive and well in this current recruitment agency centred employment system that helps nobody except the recruiters themselves and employers, who are taking advantage of desperate unemployed people.

    That is why I am convinced that providing sufficient and efficient micro-financing in the forms of MFG’s and MCL’s for energetic people’s self-employment is one of the meritorious answers to enhancing economic security for participants and the rewards for our society in not losing their skills and experience.

  46. Lee

    Harquebus, if everyone gave up eating meat, we’d need a lot less space to grow our food, without decreasing our population. Raising livestock for food uses a lot of resources and it adds to the carbon footprint. Now I’ll work telling everyone to become a vegetarian into every thread here, as if it will magically solve all of our problems. I’ll bet it soon becomes as annoying as telling everyone we need to stop breeding.

  47. Lee

    “There are vast numbers of well qualified, well experienced and well skilled people of various ages.

    One just needs to consider the number of unemployed graduates or the number of discriminated mature age highly skilled people, who may find themselves out of secure employment and then locked out of re-entering the workforce.”

    Not all of those people are qualified or experienced in a field that is feasible in a microbusiness setting.

  48. Jennifer Meyer-Smith


    what do YOU have to offer besides negatives?

    I hesitate to say this but you sound like a troll, who is bent on destroying any glimmer of hope.

  49. John Armour

    “There are vast numbers of well qualified, well experienced and well skilled people of various ages”

    Not disputing that Jennifer, but they’re vastly outnumbered by the low skilled who make up over 60% of the unemployed. What’s more, they are unemployed for longer.

    ABS Year Book 2012.

    Just out of curiosity, how many applicants do you envisage being helped by micro-financing?

  50. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    John Armour,

    have I said I can predict up-takers? But we won’t know until we expect and see (in timely manners and without delay) government survey, conduct public meetings, answer calls like mine now and advertise for public interest.

    I stress the communications must make it very clear that every interested participant has an equitable opportunity of stating and presenting their case.

    Let’s remember also they will be coming from a period of low or no income so the shithouse, discriminatory set of rules should not apply for eligibility or accessibility.

    If we’re serious about getting capable people back into self-sustaining employment then we need to come down out of our ivory, elitist towers and think productively about alternative avenues back into productive employment that is good for them and all of us.

  51. Harquebus

    If you did pursue that quest, I would give you limited support. Eating less meat would be a positive and which we will end up doing anyway. Less people would consume less of everything.
    While overpopulation, the root cause of most of our problems, continues to be left out of the equation, I will continue to be a pain in the arse. You might not value yours but, I am arguing for my life as well as for everyone else.
    Edward Eastward by not even mentioning it in his article and is who not alone with this omission, has effectively done nothing.

  52. Nasser

    Job guarantee with training doesn’t mean its just for low skilled unemployed but its also for being trained / upskilled in a different field.

    Jennifer, are you saying micro loans while still on new start or in place of new start?
    I don’t think anyone here is saying micro loans are out but I will say what I think again. Micro loans and unemployed switching from new start to business owners, will be a very small number and the failure rate could be very high.
    For some people, micro loans are perfect, to get started in a business or a project and they just need some start up capital. For others it might be study in a new field. But for the majority, I believe it would be to just get another job.

  53. John Armour


    On the subject of eating meat, you might find this amusing; a suggestion the Scottish government only accept payment of taxes in highland cows, and Bill Mitchell’s response.

    The Australian government is not akin to a household

  54. Nasser

    Harquebus, population control or reduction hits directly at people’s freedom. If telling people, we need to have less kids and look after environment better is met with open arms, then great. But we should not be looking at limiting how many people there are. Lets say limiting to how many kids they can have. Well, others might not like many people eating meat. Should we be targeting what people allowed to eat or not too? That what population control will end up doing.

    I understand the resources are limited and will run out sooner than later. This is why we need to start looking at sustainable living and better technology and management for resources.
    Even if we cut the population by half, we will still run out of resources, wont we? It just will take longer to run out.

    We need to look at how we can have a sustainable living for everyone. Things such as, farmland over coal. Different crops of simply better yields. Replanting forests. A lot of things can be done now if we and especially the governments are will to accept and spend on it.

  55. Jennifer Meyer-Smith


    thank you for your continued interest, but I have repeatedly stated the MFG’s and MCL’s should be made available to the unemployed or under-employed in conjunction with Newstart for an interim period until the micro-business is up and running coz the reality is it will take some time. Then Newstart will fall away as it’s not needed and the MFG and MCL funding will continue according to the form it is made available.

    And I most categorically disagree that people switching from Newstart to micro loans will be a very small number and the failure rate high. MFG’s and MCL’s must be put on the table so that the unemployed and under-employed know they are there for them to have real, accessible and equitable opportunities to access.

    The point is Nasser “to just get another job” is a very low possibility and unrealistic for some in regional areas or with special circumstances. Haven’t you heard that there are dismally few jobs available per unemployed people?

  56. Lee

    “what do YOU have to offer besides negatives?”

    Jennifer, what’s negative about providing training and job guarantees in fields where we’re importing skilled labour? At least we know the demand for that job definitely exists.

  57. edward eastwood

    @ Harquebus; Gosh H, I’m sorry I omitted to tell Steve to eat less meat or none at all, (hardly a big ask when you only have $250 p.w. to live on), and then tell him that it would be best for all concerned that he didn’t breed for the sake of future generations – there’s a good chap!

    Harquebus, I have no doubt that your heart is in the right place but it’s your habit of driving down the wrong side of the road with your pedal to the metal that has me worried about the state of your mental health.

    Btw, It’s ‘Eastwood’, not Eastward.

  58. Lee

    Thanks John, good article. I’ve bookmarked that one and I’m sure it won’t be long before I get to use it. Had a chuckle at “Zimbabwe for hyperventilators 101” too.

  59. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Lee, nothing’s wrong with your add-on comment to my proposals. Care to give thoughtful insight into how they will help?

  60. John Armour

    “…have I said I can predict up-takers?”

    It was a genuine question, Jennifer. I assumed some work would’ve already been done along those lines you proceeded to outline.

  61. Lee

    Seriously Jennifer, can you not understand that providing training in a field where we have a skills shortage will help provide employment for Australians? The demand for the occupation already exists – they’re often essential services – and we’re relying on 457s to fill the gap. Train and employ Australians instead, which provides previously unemployed people with the ability for discretionary spending, which in turn helps other businesses and provides more employment.

  62. Harquebus

    edward eastwood
    My sincerest apologies. I will try in future to not to repeat my mistake.
    My beef is with over population, not meat.

    For your information, I am an unemployed past middle aged man and have been both for quite some time. My less than 20 point disability which, limits my mobility and basically prohibits me from any type of employment except in the bureaucratic eyes of Centrelink because, my chronic pain is worth zero points so, forgive if sometimes I get a little angry and frustrated with know nothings who think that they have the solution to everything when they completely ignore the most obvious cause of our current dire situation; overpopulation.

    I am fortunate to live in subsidized housing however, I still have given up many things just to maintain my basic internet connection. Meat is not on my diet, my hair is long, I have one pair of second hand trousers and my only pair of previously owned shoes have holes. I wear thongs and second hand shorts at every opportunity only to save money and still I am forever paying off the basic 21st century necessities of water and electricity.
    I can truly sympathize with Steve so don’t get up me.

    There are too many people and jobs and economic growth is history. I stand by my claim. Without addressing overpopulation, your article does basically nothing. Now you be a good chap and go and watch the video that I posted here earlier.


  63. Lee

    Ok, so let’s kill off some people because we have too many. That’s less spending to support jobs and i dare say a few bad debts as well. Result: more jobs lost. Once again we have too many people, so let’s kill a few more. Guess where this is going.

  64. Harquebus

    The idle class is going to be a fact of life and we won’t have to kill anyone. The natural world will take care of that. All that is required is, as is advocated by politicians and pretend experts, business as usual and the pursuit of growth.

  65. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Lee @ 10.26pm, August 17,

    let’s get something straight, I’m not denying the benefits of targeted training for existing industries and job openings so that Australians can fill any job openings as they become available. That obviously includes nursing, manufacturing, teaching, aircraft construction, brain surgery and gardening etc, etc. Don’t hyjack my MFG and MCL proposals by making it look like I would deny that.

    Training is essential. If I didn’t believe in training and education, I wouldn’t have dedicated a significant proportion of my life to both sides of it: the provider and the receiver.

    My hesitation about any advice that only concentrates on the training and mentoring components is that they all very well for preparing the recipients with the skills, but if there are no industry incentives to provide the extra job opportunities in those industries, that’s a waste of the training recipient’s time, hope and probably restricted funds because there often is no government assistance, especially when the recipient has higher qualifications.

    A wholistic approach to solving the problem of unemployed and under-employed people with diverse skills, education, qualifications and knowledge is needed so that noone’s wealth of experience is lost to them and our community.

    For that reason, I stand by my MFG’s and MCL’s proposals as realistic and reasonable aids to get willing unemployed and under-employed people into active and viable self-employment. That does not deny rights to anybody else.

  66. Lee

    Jennifer, I’m not hijacking anything. It appears you have somehow thought that my suggestion for addressing the unemployment problem is connected to your idea. It is not.

    The job guarantee does not need to rely on industry incentives either. Bill Mitchell’s proposal (included in one of the links posted above) refers to using the public service to provide the jobs, training and experience. No industry incentives are required for that. Many areas of the public service have been cut down to bare bones in recent years, under the false assumption that privatisation creates efficiency and economy. Personally, if my work stopped coming in tomorrow, I still have enough here already to keep me going for at least 12 months. My colleagues are in the same boat. And that’s just the high priority tasks we have to do, without including all the other tasks that don’t require skilled labour. The work is there to be done. It just needs people to do it. We’re paying people to sit at home when we could be paying them a living wage to do the existing work.

  67. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Lee @ 12.26pm,

    when you put your views that way, I agree 100%.

  68. Lee

    Another point for consideration is regulation. Deregulation is the catch cry of the conservatives. The importation of migrants on 457 visas is poorly regulated. The rules are mostly set by the companies who wish to employ these people. Like many examples where deregulation occurs (or there was no regulation to begin with), people are being exploited. Some of the wages are well below minimum, working hours in some cases are around 80 hours per week, some employees are expected to behave illegally and some women are being forced to engage in sexual acts. Regulation would not only provide employment to the regulators, but it would also stop exploitation of workers and their basic rights. Regulation can also be used to prevent companies from importing workers where the salary is below a certain amount p.a. and a pool of registered, suitably qualified or experienced workers exists locally.

  69. diannaart


    Yes but, … regulation stops the rich from becoming even wealthier…. we all know that when they are rich enough, they will then toss little golden coins upon us all.

  70. kizhmet

    Hammm … regulators. Were they not once called unions?

  71. Lee

    Regulators are not unions. Regulators monitor companies/individuals for compliance with legal / registration / accreditation requirements and may take action for non-compliance, e.g. the ACCC is one such regulator.

  72. corvus boreus

    Regulator(initial capital letter); American History.
    a member of any of several bands or committees in North Carolina (1767–71), formed to resist certain abuses, as extortion by officials.
    (in newly settled areas) a member of any band or committee organized to preserve order before the establishment of regular legal authority.

    In contemporary Australia, ‘regulation’ is an increasingly passé idea that there should be enforceable rules regarding the conduct of potentially hazardous activities.
    An example would be, say, in the building industry, having strict rules with actual oversight to ensure that, for example, half-trained kids could not be sent into ceiling crawl-spaces (elevated, enclosed work-spaces) to staple-gun ceiling insulation into live wiring.
    The opposite of regulation is ‘mass bonfires of red tape’ (also called ‘dismantling of existing safety measures’).

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