Friday, May 30, 2014

it’s not working

Tony Abbott keeps telling young people and other benefit recipients to get a job. If they have to, he says, they should move to where jobs are available.

Nowhere in the constitution does it say the government is responsible for creating jobs, but as parties and their campaigns are all about the economy, job creation, subsidising corporations and more, there is an implied contract for governments to act in a way that will create jobs.

Why creating jobs is a Federal responsibility:

Wikipedia describes the process by which the federal government, during WWII, took control of and centralised income tax collection [and, indirectly, the power to create jobs].

Prior to 1942, consistent with the concurrent power in s51(ii), the states collected income tax. The Commonwealth also levied tax. However, in 1942 the Commonwealth attempted to gain a monopoly on income taxes by passing the Income Tax Act 1942 and the States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursement) Act 1942. The first act purported to impose Commonwealth income tax. The latter act said Commonwealth funding would be provided to the States only if they imposed no income tax. This latter act was premised on Section 96 of the Australian Constitution Act.

How taxes collected are shared amongst states is covered by Section 96 of the Australian Constitution :
… the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit…

Section 96 was originally designed [at federation] to explain how the Commonwealth should distribute surpluses from other money [NOT income tax] collected. Like many parts of the constitution, Section 96 became a loophole used to centralise power in a way that was never intended.
Designed to govern a world where camel, horse or ship were the main forms of transport, and communication was reliant on the postal and telegraph system, our constitution now gives the federal government enormous power over policy decisions, but still "says" states are responsible for primary and secondary education. Secondary education, of course, includes the TAFE system [which now offers some bachelor degrees.]

State governments are financially at the mercy of the federal government. I hold the federal government’s constant interference [thru section 96] in state affairs to blame for a great deal of this mess. While people - real humans - struggle, the federal and state governments both duck responsibility by blaming each other.

The federal government has the power and an obligation to help create jobs, but doesn't give a damn.

Why people are sometimes unemployed for extended periods:

Tony Abbott not only rabbits on about young people [and others] getting a job, but he insists if there are no jobs where people live, people should move.

- He ignores the fact that there are more people looking for jobs than there are jobs available - anywhere.

- He ignores the fact that de-regulation of the economy has increased the casualisation of labour, which does not provide any guarantee of a regular income on which one can base a household budget.

- He ignores the fact that full-time work has been replaced by part-time work – again, not necessarily a liveable amount. If someone hops from job to job trying to get better, more reliable work, it just makes them appear unstable or unreliable to potential employers.

What governments are really doing about creating jobs:

Unsurprisingly, most of the announcements governments make about how many jobs they have created are jobs relating to building and infrastructure. They are inherently temporary, and limited in the range of jobs and training opportunities they offer. Companies taking on these contracts are, in the main, simply moving current employees from a completed job to one that is about to commence. One might argue they do not actually create jobs.

Unsurprisingly, governments are as happy to move jobs offshore as private enterprise is, or to award contracts to overseas companies. They not only fail to create jobs, but actively reduce the number of Australian jobs through their policy decisions.

Job-seeking support is sub-contracted to organisations of the type that made Therese Rein a multi-millionaire – a brilliant example of the benefits of privatisation [not]. There is a $100 training cap in these organisations for short term unemployed – but how many food handling certificates does one person need? 

Why moving to find a job is a big ask:

Australia’s population density – even in densely populated areas – is so low we have dug ourselves into a black hole. This worsens every time decisions are made that ignore public transport requirements, making cars increasingly essential to people movement. Our culture and our governments increasingly limit the free movement of the business resource called “people”.

On $400 or $500 dollars a fortnight who can afford to fly interstate on the off chance they might succeed at a job interview? Who can afford thousands of dollars to get the qualifications required to change industries as technology or job requirements change? What should people live on while studying if they have a family and a mortgage to support?

In an economy almost totally reliant on people striving for home ownership it’s both absurd and obscene to suggest people should move in order to get a job.

A lot of people have mortgages and are rational enough to know the financial penalties of moving far exceed the financial rewards of working somewhere else [assuming jobs are available somewhere else].
Stamp duties payable on house purchases are enormously punitive.

For those who do not already have a mortgage, it is exceedingly difficult to find rental accommodation, which is exactly what youngsters must do if they leave home to follow work.  Rental accommodation is in short supply; [Negative gearing in the housing market / sales to overseas residents must go.] The costs of renting are prohibitive, and someone without a stable income and work history simply can’t compete with other applicants. Catch 22; if you already have a job it's easier to move, but if you don't have a job moving is almost impossible.

The days when it was easy to find a place to board, or to find short term accommodation in a hostel or boarding house are long gone. Over-regulation has destroyed many of these things we could once rely on if we needed to relocate. Caravan park cabins are incredibly expensive, even for long term tenants.

Interestingly, a best selling American "pursuit of happiness" book, Rich Dad Poor Dad, blurts on about going without now in order to have more later. Just one of the things the author Robert Kiyosaki did to get started on his way to riches was to live in his car for about a year. Try doing that in Australia without being punished.
[BTW Robert Kiyosaki filed for bankruptcy in 2012].

At this point it would be reasonable to ask if 457 workers are able to relocate to find work, why can't Australians?

In many cases, 457 workers [the ones who are not exploited]
- have family contacts and can thus find/ afford accommodation; or

- have reasonable accommodation arranged by desperate employers 

One dollar earned here is worth a lot more in a third world country than it is in Australia.
An Australian stuck with enormous mortgage or rent obligations,  has to support a family living here, paying Australian prices.


To paraphrase a cliché, one person’s problems might be cause for concern, but the plight of thousands becomes a mere statistic. Perhaps it should be mandatory for governments to refer to “people” as “human beings”.


457 visas

457 visas have become a rather big issue. In some cases it would be fair to say there are jobs Australians simply won’t [or would prefer not to] do. Our bad. Or, in many instances, they are jobs we simply can't do. 

A 457 worker often makes enormous emotional sacrifices in terms of leaving family to come here, and might also incur a huge debt getting started. Incurring this debt usually requires two conditions:
  • ·         the first is the certainty that the debt can be paid off by working here [not always the case],and
  • ·         the second is the availability of a loan [not always the case either in Australia or in another country].
On balance, are 457 workers doing Australians out of a job?

Anecdotes are not necessarily proof of anything but sometimes they are all I have to go on. 
A disproportionate number of people writing to The Hun complain 457 workers are replacing Australians who have incurred enormous debts to get a Nursing Degree.

This is actually true to some extent, which begs the question of why?

Qualifications and 457 workers

Australian Universities and TAFES are increasingly reliant on fees to survive. Some managers/ educators will give anyone a pass rather than lose the fees. Would we rather be treated  in a hospital by a non-resident who knows what they are doing or an Australian who is “qualified” but utterly clueless?
It's the employers, not the education system, who ultimately assess a student's knowledge and capabilities.

Not all employers are seeking to exploit cheap and compliant labour. Certainly, hospital managements have a duty of care to their patients.
It's not unknown for hospitals to short-list applicants and find that none of those they interview are up to scratch.

On the employment of locally qualified nurses in particular

Some time ago, TO was sent an end-of-second-year nursing student for a practical placement. The young lady was an Australian citizen, and devoutly Muslim.
Every assumption she had started with about nursing made the possibility of her becoming a nurse improbable.
Who, amongst her educators, should have recognised this, and how did she get so far into a degree before someone addressed the issue?
Either the quality of education [about sterile conditions etc] this lass had received thus far was lacking, or someone was very focused on fees and didn't give a damn about the student. [More anecdotes about this issue available on request.]

This lass assumed she could work on a female only ward. Wards in Australia are all mixed gender.
She assumed she could wear a hijab, complete with attractive tassels while nursing – after all, we have laws against discrimination. [TO adjusted her hours to accommodate prayer times, but had to insist the hijab and long sleeves disappear during work hours.]

TO was able to address the student’s problem by quietly discussing the expectations of  her parents and Imam. TO discussed precocious puberty and the fact that a children’s hospital would not necessarily be “safer” than a hospital which dealt with adults. She discussed the ways in which [good] nurses respect the rights of patients to maintain their dignity and modesty – and that this can be a two-way street.

Miraculously, TO was also able to place the student with a Muslim preceptor on a mixed ward, and the preceptor was able to discuss the student's religious concerns in an informed way.

Before she finished her placement, the young lady had actually relaxed her expectations enough to remove a catheter from an adult male.
Full marks to her, and her parents, for being adaptable. It was also a good thing she was actually intelligent enough to know and apply what she had been taught.

No, she wasn’t a 457 worker, but she might have been replaced by one had she not received help addressing her expectations.

Some suggestions for creating employment and reducing welfare payments:

1. give the states enough money /conditional grants to address the backlog of people waiting for "elective" surgery. Four years waiting for a hip replacement is four years on benefits.

2. demand the states / tertiary institutions lift their game

3. Look more closely at the flow-on effects of ignoring health care and poor education systems;

  • Those unemployed after incurring HELP debts are not putting money back into the system
  • Sick people do not pay taxes
  • Job support providers are wasting money, trying to funnel people into markets where no decent jobs exist - many people would improve their job prospects if bridging courses were available to upgrade their skills. Instead, many are enrolling in bachelor courses and incurring HELP debts they'll never be able to repay - because no support is offered for private training such as Microsoft upgrades, or using dedicated software packages commonly used by potential employers, [e.g. payroll, warehouse management]
  • Some courses are not keeping pace with change - IT people, for example, find their skills obsolete before they graduate
  • Temporary employer-subsidies create temporary jobs


An enormous number of parliamentarians have either lost touch with, or never been acquainted with, the reality of the human beings they claim to lead.

The demonisation of the unemployed is a cheap, vicious way to duck responsibility for creating jobs, and/or improving the education system.

P.S. : Tony Abbott is a winker.


  1. Hee hee love your last sentence. You have raised some very interesting points in this post. Well thought out.

  2. I must confess, Diane, I stole the "winker" comment.
    I hate state governments - they are a waste of time and money. Like you, I think local governments are best placed to understand and deal with community needs.

  3. Brilliant commentary once again FC.. I do believe our PM the Hon Wanker has totally lost touch with reality, and the thought of him being in charge of 'women's affairs' is beyond bizarre.. did you hear the comedy line 'well maybe it's right that he's in charge of women's affairs, he owns.. like four of them' :)

    1. No, I've never heard the line before, Grace, but it's a corker! You'll have me cackling for hours, with that one!