Unemployment is, for most, a devastating experience. Paid work is essential for most people, simply because without it, they are unlikely to have the funds to house, feed, and clothe themselves and their families or dependents.
Leaving aside the economics, however, the reality is that human beings NEED to work. For most, if not all, work enhances life. It provides stimulation and challenge, an opportunity to learn and develop skills, social contact and exposure to other perspectives and ideas, a sense of purpose and achievement, and in society’s eyes, the attribute of respectability and contribution.
Unemployment takes away those benefits. It surrounds people with varying degrees of hardship, disruption, and despair. For most, their lives are “turned upside down”, as the saying goes. The unemployed often lose not only the respect of the community but also their own self-respect. They will very easily take on the role of the culprit, because of inappropriate socialisation and community norms. Yet they are predominantly victims. In most cases, the factors that result in their unemployment are well beyond their scope of control and even, perhaps, beyond their understanding. The circumstances and decisions that bring about their loss of a job are often made by people whose names they’ll never know and made in places they’ve never been and may never visit.
This situation has never been more prevalent than since the resurgence of neoliberalism that replaced the socially conscious State and Keynesian economic philosophy in the late 60’s and early 70’s and which was given massive impetus by Reagan in the USA and Thatcher in the UK. The onset of globalisation and ethos of “Austerity” worked to increase the gap between the wealthiest and poorest segments of the population in virtually all modern industrialised nations, not least in Australia. Although multinational and national corporations have made huge profits and millionaires have been created at an ever accelerating rate, those at the low-income end of society have suffered not only stagnating wages but increasing prices that have severely curtailed what was never a particularly great purchasing power. Accordingly, the average worker has little disposable income and little opportunity to save for the “rainy day”, that in today’s society, when it arrives is likely to do so with the venom of a violent storm.
Concomitant with neoliberal economics is the transfer of public services and utilities from governments to private enterprise. As a result, billions of dollars worth of publicly owned and funded infrastructure has been passed into private ownership at a fraction of its worth. Private enterprise existing, as it does, for one main reason: to make a profit, has failed to maintain or upgrade these services and utilities. In far too many cases the public has faced reductions in staffing, increased waiting time, careless service and/or communication, reduced opening hours or even complete closing of branch offices and yet, at the same time, a steady increase in the cost of services. To make matters worse, the increase in costs to the public have rarely been made in an honest and transparent way. Adjustments to tariffs, alterations to the fine print to introduce earlier excesses, the conversion of what were standard features into “extras”, a bombardment of complex and continually changing pricing “plans” that defy comparability have all assisted the increase of costs to the consumer without creating the high level of attention and scrutiny that should have taken place.
Governments of both flavours have been complicit in this process. In their turn, they have abdicated their responsibility and *duty of care* owed to the citizens that elected them and the purpose for which they are supposedly elected. Contrary to the supposed cost saving and service improvements that the fire sale of public assets was supposed to bring, precisely the contrary has eventuated. Not only has privatisation failed to deliver but it has also never been held to account for its failure. Instead, because the transfer of most of these services has been done behind the disguise of what are to all appearances, still government activities, often operating from the same or similar premises and presenting under the ambit of government agencies, it has been easy to take the profits but leave a public perception that it is the government or civil service that has messed up. The government has then been left with the need to find funds to fix the problems left by the run-down of essential services and asset stripping of them by giant corporations. In order to find the funds to repair, restore or maintain services, it has resorted to imposing or increasing fees as well as reducing access by lifting entry requirements and withdrawing access. It has done this by regulation, hence not needing a debate in the parliament and thus, largely avoiding public awareness of what it has done. In this way, it has avoided having to impose a substantial tax increase on the community, a tax increase that might and probably would expose the insanity behind how they have effectively transferred public wealth into private hands.
Thus, we have failing infrastructure, high unemployment across the country but particularly so in rural and regional areas and among the young and the old. At the same time, the current and recent governments have adopted a continual onslaught of derisive hyperbole directed at the very people who are most disadvantaged and least to blame for the situation in which they find themselves. In other words, we have yet more of the same, “Blame the victim” rhetoric that we have been hearing from right-wing ideologues and wealthy individuals since the days of patronage by monarchs and aristocrats when class was openly divided and a barrier impossible to cross.
So, the fact is, that we have gone nowhere. We are one of the richest countries in the World and yet our government tells us that we are a nation of leaners and that the young are a cohort of hand-out dependents who won’t and don’t contribute but just take. This is what Scott Morrison our current Treasurer and Joe Hockey our previous treasurer have the indecent and contemptuous gall to tell us. They do this at the same time as their own are being caught out in corrupt dealings, in squandering taxpayer funds on entertainment, helicopter rides and various other abuses of entitlements and while we still have services that are distinctly the responsibility of government, left in private hands who continue to overcharge and under-deliver.
The pathetic performance of the “job-agencies” is just another case in point. These agencies have taken hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars of taxpayer funds and given almost nothing back for it. They are in the same league as the many pseudo-academic organisations that have milked government coffers since the VET system was deregulated, causing not only the opportunity for many fly-by-night operators to enter the system but, at the same time, depriving TAFE of funds and yet leaving it with the most expensive course to run.
This government is a sham. It is almost impossible to understand how it could have been reelected. Its policies remain those of neoliberalism and austerity, both of which have been discredited and are known to have failed. We need a government that recognises that its first priority is to take care of the welfare of its citizens – it is not to adopt the style, manner and lack of ethics or morality of business tycoons. We need a government comprised of people with integrity who actually care to improve the lot of the bulk of the population. Presumably the 1% have the means to look after themselves.
I urge anyone who has taken the trouble and time to read this far, to write, speak, lobby and do all you can to inform those around you of the massive confidence trick that has been and still is being perpetrated by government. In the vernacular, “we are being sold a pup”. We should refuse to buy.
Unemployed people in Australia are finding it increasingly difficult to hold their job agencies accountable for mistreatment, stand-over tactics and poor performance, writes Owen Bennett. When Paul Scerri’s contract ceased at his workplace in early 2015, he was without gainful employment for the first time in his adult life. After his employment connections fell through,More