People on social security need enough to live on and the end of abuse

By Joe Montero

We’re coming out of the Christmas period, and it won’t be long before the denigration of people on social security payments gets into full swing again. A budget and election coming up. Don’t expect any big changes.

Frist the budget. Tens of thousands are out of work because of the pandemic. Others were already out of work. Still others exist on pensions of various sorts. All are ignored by the political elite, who don’t want to know that life is getting tougher for those at the bottom and the gap between the few at the top and everyone lese is getting wider.

Labor has promised to do better, and the Greens have promised more. This is welcome but more is needed. Australia must have a coming to terms with the reality that people are usually not out of work through their own fault. do not have jobs through their own fault. There are those who can’t work for valid reasons. Others face barriers because they don’t have the right qualifications, lack experience, or face discrimination. Put this aside and there are still more out of work than there are available jobs.

A living income must be guaranteed for all. The casualisation of work must be reversed and a premium put on proper jobs, where full potential of the workforce can be realised. Affordable housing is needed. So are affordable and adequate healthcare and education opportunities.

These measures will bring economic benefits in two ways. Through participation, the economy can be turned to the creation of new industries. Those living on wages will have more discretionary income to spend and create an engine to drive the economy forward.

The business and political elite deny this. Today they are saying that there are employers who can’t find workers, because the unemployed have it so good, and imply that support should be taken away. Look a little closer and this is where work is precarious, low paid, and offers terrible working conditions.

Leave aside those who are not able to work for various good reasons. There are not enough jobs for those who want them. If there is a job available, there are still the problems of qualifications, experience, and various forms of prejudice getting in the way.

The Covid experience has shown a portion of those forced off the treadmill of rotten jobs are reluctant to get back on, even if it means a fall in the standard of living. It is an indictment on these jobs and not on those who would rather not be exploited.

Casualisation of work has never been about creating jobs. It has always been a tool to destroy existing decent jobs.

The problem is not inadequate or lazy people, but employers using the destruction of jobs to increase their bottom line, by taking advantage of cheap labour in a sick economy, instead of contributing more to the economy and society.

This is what lies behind the vilification. If it is going to be stopped, it is necessary to admit the cause and start doing something about it. The diehard apologists for what is going on, will of course, argue that the government can’t afford this without increasing taxes.

There is simple answer to this too. Curtail the massive tax avoidance industry. Recovering the billions unpaid by corporations and super rich every year, would leave enough to lift those in need and much more. Billions more are handed over for corporate welfare, and much of it isn’t used to build Australia economically. Redirecting this to other priorities would help.

The political elite has no other intention but to continue along the same track and take every advantage to reinforce it. Don’t expect a change of heart in the coming federal budget. Given the present government’s unpopularity, there may be a pretence, putting a dollar in one pocket, to hide taking out more from the other. Expect less during the election campaign.

This can only change, by those suffering insufficient income abuse acting for themselves, organising and winning allies. Connecting those out of work and those in in inadequate work is crucial. Winning over those with decent jobs, by helping them understand that the use of a cheap labour force threatens their wages, conditions, and jobs. By acting together all are in a stronger position to protect their interests.

An important vehicle is bringing together union and community groups.

Fighting for decent jobs must involve the creation of not only jobs with proper pay and conditions. New jobs must be sustainable to fit into a future economy. The alternative is to be locked into stagnation. A high carbon economy warming the climate will eventually destroy far more jobs and wreck livelihoods in other ways.

Pleading to the political elite will bring none of this about. Only the creation of a movement from below has the potential to force through change. So long as we fail to recognise this, we frail to take the initiative and are constantly fooled and locked into ineffectiveness.

Even in a near perfect world, there will still be a number out of work. This is no reason to push them down. A decent standard of living must be regarded as a human right. Once it is, any attack on those who are less well-off and vulnerable, will be recognised by society as an abuse of human rights and not permittable. In any case, everyone can contribute to society in some way.

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