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, we 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.
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.
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.
“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?”
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.
“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?
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.
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 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.”
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.
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.
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 Liberals’ 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.’
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 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 in the input and through-put 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.
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.
We are working people.
Even laugh about it sometimes.
None of us are winners.
(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.
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!
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?