So the Federal Government has decided to get tough on the unemployed. Rightly so because as everybody knows our system is perfect and the only reason for someone to not have a job is they are work-shy layabouts. You may detect some sarcasm there but given their policies pretty much the only thing that makes sense is the government genuinely believes the world is like that. Either that or they simply hate the unemployed and disadvantaged. Given the needless cruelty of many of their policies, the latter might be the more likely.
Rather than go into the morality of the politics involved, I want to go through the things that just don’t make logical sense to me. Let’s start with the obvious: “Work for the Dole”. Where does this work come from? What do people actually do when they’re working for the dole? If there is work that can forced on people on the dole, why aren’t these actual jobs? This makes very little sense to me.
If people were getting useful internships and/or training from places that couldn’t afford to actually employ someone that would clearly be a good thing. But the government is talking about forcing 700,000 people to do this. I’m extremely skeptical about the possibility of finding something meaningful for that many people to do. So in all likelihood, the majority of unemployed people are going to be forced to engage in utterly meaningless “work for the dole” which will achieve nothing but crushing their spirit. On top of this, repeated studies have shown work for the dole programs are the least effective method for getting people off welfare.
And then we come to the glory that is Employment Minister Eric Abetz. When presented with statistical evidence that the previous conservative government’s work for the dole scheme was the least effective way to get people off unemployment benefits he responded that there was “anecdotal evidence” it worked. Now, I don’t hate Abetz like I do some in the government but he doesn’t seem very bright. He has effectively said “You may well have your research and facts but a bloke in the pub told me it would work and that’s good enough for me.” It beggars belief that a government minister can say something so stupid.
Another thing that makes no logical sense to me is the requirement that job seekers have to send out 40 job applications a month. Abetz says this is one in the morning and one in the afternoon which isn’t too difficult. This sounds fine but it ignores some pretty serious reality. First, for most job seekers, particularly the younger ones there simply aren’t that many jobs available that they’re realistically qualified for which means they will be forced to apply for jobs they don’t have a hope of getting. While a lot of people might not have much sympathy for the unemployed, how about employers? Every major employer group in the country has come out and said the policy is wrong and will be awful for business.
700,000+ people sending 40 job applications a month? That’s between 25 and 30 million largely useless job applications flooding businesses around the country. And after virtually everyone told the government this was a moronic idea and the unemployed would be pushed to send off applications for jobs they had no hope of getting they came back with “we’ll punish anyone who meets the quota with random applications”. How exactly do they think they’re going to do that? Can you imagine the overhead when there are tens of millions of applications to check every month? This policy is stupidity piled on top of incompetence with a foundation of cruelty and spite.
To sum up: we have a policy that history shows won’t work. Employers groups say it’s a bad idea. Policing it would be close to impossible. So why is the government pushing it? The answer seem pretty clear. The policy is nothing but punishment. This government is so driven by ideology over fact that when they declare someone to be the enemy there is no limit to the cruelty that can be applied (see their asylum seeker policy for the most extreme example). This government is demonising the unemployed, calling them lazy and a burden on society. They want to blank out any concept of a “fair go” and any suggestion that a decent society supports the disadvantaged rather than crushing them.
Here’s the thing: there are definitely unemployed people who are “gaming the system” and going out of their way to avoid working for a living while receiving benefits. But it economic terms, the cost of this is so small it is meaningless. A tiny amount of welfare fraud disappears when placed next to the billions of dollars in corporate welfare dished out every year and the billions more in taxes big corporations dodge. There is no rational economic basis for this policy – it’s the politics of revenge and cruelty. It’s nothing short of class warfare. It seems this government won’t rest until the most vulnerable people have had all hope crushed and are painted as the perpetrators of ultimate evil rather than the victims of it.