Restoring True Full Employment in Australia

“So far as it can humanly contrive, never again will the dole queues be seen in this country. Never again will competent workmen stand idle for months and years while limitless work remains to be done. Never again will young men drift hopelessly from town to town and from State to State, searching for the jobs which, in all this wide land, did not exist for them.”

Ben Chifley, 1949.

 

It is a stark and painful reminder of the follies of the last century that what was a powerful statement of factual accomplishment in 1949 is today seen as the dreams of the delusional.

As a society we once embraced the idea of full employment. We embraced the idea that the most precious of the finite resources available to our nation is the men and women who comprise it; that the wealth of our nation is in the well-worn hands of our working countrymen.

It is an idea that has slowly been eroded since the rise of neoliberalism in the 70’s, an insidious spectre of wastage and artificial scarcity that  leaves our society stagnant and pallid. We have transitioned from a country of full employment to full employability, which is the farcical notion that endless reiterations of training programs will provide people with the skills they need to attract employment, employment that does not exist for them.

The Indue card is the latest example of this mendacious disregard for our society that the neoliberal holds. The superficial argument for its unjustifiable existence is that the men and women who make up the un- and underemployed are helpless drunks, louts and liars. That the state, in the best interests of these misfortunate souls, should deprive them of what mediocre freedom they have to ensure that they don’t waste it on addiction and unproductive escapism. The reality is that it is a mechanism to justify an economic rent to a significant figure within the National party for “managing” the administration of this scheme and ensuring that the paychecks of the poorest in our society end up in the hands of large supermarkets, rather than local greengrocers who are not a part of the “approved” list of vendors.

Read more from Joshua Dalton at Australian Real Progressives

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