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The Jobless Did Not Ask For This!

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

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

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

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

Welfare ‘Reform’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is Responsible For Jobs?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should We Punish the Jobless?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Welfare a Right or a Privilege?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Menzies Welfare

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

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

Real Reform

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

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

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

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

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


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  1. babyjewels10

    We should be punishing those whose well-paid job it is, to ensure there are jobs, but who in fact, are actively destroying jobs by their mismanagement of the economy. But we’re Australians…most of us vote against our own best interests, let alone the best interests of the country.

  2. townsvilleblog

    babyjewels10 I agree with you that apathy is our greatest enemy, however that increases the pressure on those of us who do know what is happening to convince our families and friends of the perils of voting LNP. Last month August 2017 there were 2.565 million ‘people’ either unemployed or underemployed in this country, but Turnbull and his cronies continue to quote the underfunded ABS number of 5.6% unemployed and completely ignore underemployment, and the spineless journalists refuse to ask them any ‘difficult’ questions.

  3. Tina Clausen

    Brilliant. This Government is sickening in its relentless attacks on the poor and disenfranchised.

  4. flohri1754

    Very well put …. thanks for the obviously deep contemplation you have given this area of concern. The slicing and dicing of the community into increasingly small groups of “us” and “them” will ultimately benefit none of us …. no matter how wealthy or poor.

  5. Harquebus

    Most see job creation as part of the solution. I see it as part of the problem and as something that we should not be doing.
    High unemployment is going to be a fact of life. How to deal with it instead of how to avoid it should be our concern.
    Setting a maximum income I would support. As soon as one has earned/consumed their share, go home and have a good rest. I know. The super rich who, have their fingers stuck up our politicians arses and wiggle them to make their lips move, will never allow it.


    As i have said here before, the stigmatisation and blaming of the unemployed for their own unemployment is a destraction from the real causes of unemployment. The blame game implies that there are actually enough jobs in the economy, and, hence, that the gov’s economic policies are working, but those on unemployment benefits just don’t want to do them. the pro bashing argument is obviously untrue as avaiable jobs are far outweighed by the number of unemployed by about 1 vacancy for every 20 unemployed.

    Although the questions Trish says should be asked are important, the question that needs to be asked in order to indicate the gov failure in Aust is this: why is the official unemployment rate in aust 5 .6% while it is 4.7 % in NZ and 4.3% in the USA & Germany?

    Despite coming through the GFC relatively well, unemployment is persistantly higher in Aust than in other similar developed countries who experienced a more significant impact from the GFC. A rather strange phenomenom i say.

    Another interesting stat is that these countries also have lower interest rates than Aust. There is something seriously wrong in Aust at a policy level for these facts to continually occur. My hunch is that the comparatively high unemployment level in Aust partly involves the Reserve Bank’s abandonment of its obligation to facilitate full employment while the central banks of the other countries refered to above have not. Couple comparatively high interest rates with negative gearing on established properties then you have reduction of both consumer spending and new housing construction forcing rents up by failing to grow the housing stock and facilitating rental increases and further reductions in consumer spending and hence decreases in employment levels. Throw in free trade that enables cheap imports into aust at the cost of local jobs then you can see that it is gov policy that is the cause of unemployment in Aust. The gov blaming unemployed for their own unemployment is a destraction from the real causes. Given the ALP championed free trade in this country, is it any wonder why they also indulge in bashing the unemployed too, as they seek to avoid responsibility and attention for the mess they have jointly caused with the LNP. There is only one solution. OPPOSE THE MAJOUR PARTIES.

  7. Roswell

    Well researched and well written, Trish. And your questions are the right ones. I only wish I had the answers.


    unemployment is deliberate gov policy and is caused by gov policy. 457 visa are just another example. by using unemployment to combat inflation and keep intetest rates down gov has forced the unemployed to effectively subsidise the lifestyle of the middle and upper classes.

  9. jerry

    Privatisation has killed everything !


    unemployment is gov policy and is caused by gov policy. 457 visa are just another example.

  11. stephengb2014

    In 1983 the then Labor government took the step to be a free market proponant, it started the privatisation of the CBA, the Airports, the Sea Ports, and government services, including the universal health care. In addition Hawke introdiced industrial relations changes that effectively curtailed the right to stike, thereby sealing the fate of workers rights. Yes that was the LABOR Party in government, the free marketeers were extatic.

    That was 34 years ago and we have witnessed 34 years of the neoliberal agenda ever since. The same is true in The USA under Reagan, and also UK under Thatcher. The left in all these countries also embrassed the free market !

    Its 2017, the USA is in a mess, as is the UK, and Australia whilst not as bad is currently leading the pack in its attack on welfare and social security.

    You would think that the LNP would look around them and conclude that something is radically wrong with their idiology but No, they are hell bent on destroying welfare, aged pensions, health care, and blaming the least well of for the issues that they have created.

    The very fact that this government (and yes the ALP too) have decided that there needs to be welfare reform tells me that there must be a problem with welfare, and so there is, but its not the fact that welfare exists it’s that welfare is inadequate. All our politicians seem incapable of recognising this simple truth!

  12. Max Gross

    The “economy” demands unemployment. And if you do have a job (that pays a living wage) then you are employed by the grace of those who are locked out of the economy: the jobless!

  13. Michael Fairweather

    In my opinion the bulk of jobs should be supplied by Government through infrastructure . The Liberal Governments want unemployment so the can manipulate the pay and conditions but which ever they do the wage should be a living wage and there should be enough for the people to buy goodie’s just like the rich :ie car, boat, tv, new furniture when required etc, etc. Job’s which come up through Government should go to Australians, not out sourced as they are now doing like defence equipment, although outsourcing can be cheaper , the taxes paid by the worker’s and supply’s purchased put money back into the treasury which helps our economy grow. this Government failed when they refused to subsidise our two main car manufactures, what they would have paid in subsidy they would now be saving on welfare. The Turdbull Government have made things bad for Australia by not looking at the big picture. Turdbull has a desire to control all Australians that is why we are slipping into a dictatorship. As with all dictators the element for assassination becomes higher.

  14. diannaart

    The blame lies with the adoption to laissez-faire economics, by both the LNP and Labor.

    Justification for this impossible ideology is revealed in anything which contradicts it – such as welfare for, unemployed or elderly, free eduction, access to health services, planning for the future…

    All a bit of a dog whistle – blaming the vulnerable, always worked for the powerful to maintain their power, achieves F/A for the majority of people, let alone prepare for future…

  15. nexusxyz

    stephengb2014 – I think we will find that Australia is in just as bigger mess as the US, UK and the other English speaking countries in terms of hollowed our industries, masses of debt, etc. The difference is that the general population has not been confronted with this yet.

  16. stephengb2014

    Yes we are in a mess but we dont yet have the mass of working poor as they do in UK and the USA.

    Mind you, yes the LNP are wprking on it.

    I just hope that the noise from the ALP is an indication that they get it.

    What is ‘it’, you might ask,

    It is the government that creates jobs, if not directly then they provide the environment for private enterprise to create jobs. To me it’s all the same- governments create jobs


    In my post above I say that part of the reason for unemployment is the high interest rates and consequential high cost of housing in Australia due to gov policies such as negative gearing on established properties ( rather than new properties). A recent article in the Guardian here

    points out the proportion of household income that now goes on housing. In particular, it says: “Housing is now the largest cost for Australian households, jumping from 13% in 1984 to 20% in 2015-16. Food accounted for 17% of household expenditure, while transport was 15%” This bares out my claim. High housing costs lead to reduced consumer spending and, hence, less jobs in retail, hospitality and elsewhere in the economy. Gov is responsible for housing policy. Negative gearing on established properties in particular is nothing but a rort that is impacting badly on the rest of the economy and needs to be curtailed. The unemployed are, in effect, subsidising the lifestyles of the middle and upper classes. By having unemployment you are guaranteeing a tenant class and low vacany rates in residential investment properties and keeping demand for the available goods and a services low thereby avoiding inflation so that the incomes and assets of the middle and upper classes retained their value . Unemployment is caused by, and is and has been since Whitlam, Gov policy. OPPOSE THE MAJOUR PARTIES

  18. diannaart

    Forgot to add, that Roswell said it well:

    Roswell September 12, 2017 at 10:59 am
    Well researched and well written, Trish. And your questions are the right ones. I only wish I had the answers.

    Wishing I had answers that would convince the uber-right.


    if you want more employment u need to OPPOSE THE MAJOR PARTIES as they both cause unemployment by their neo liberal free trade policies.

  20. Trish Corry

    Thank you for the comments everyone. I wrote this the morning we started moving house, so sorry I didn’t have time to get back to anyone when I put this up. Almost back to normality!

  21. Suzanne Cass

    I wonder if those over 55, who have, through no fault of their own, finished up unemployed with no hope of another job, but who still have mortgages commitments fit, are they ‘ normals’ or deviants’?’ As with everyone struggling to survive on Newstart, we can’t run our heating (in Tasmania) during the day, and have to decide whether to buy decent food or medications. Yet we are still made to jump through the Centrelink/JobActive hoops and all that goes with that. These organisations Kevin Rudd’s wife made her fortune in he Job Network). Privatising the CES was a predictable disaster.

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