By Joe Montero
It was officially announced yesterday by Scott Morrison. Unemployed Australians will have $100 per fortnight taken form their JobSeeker supplement by December.
During the height of the pandemic, the JobSeeker supplement made a world of difference. It allowed the unemployed to live a halfway decent life, and it helped to keep the economy ticking over. No one disputes this.
Despite the proven benefits, and the fact that the pandemic is not necessarily over and the economy is still sick, a large part of it is going to be stripped away before Christmas, and the rest is scheduled to go on 28 March next year.
The Australians face the prospect of once again being forced to live on around $40 a day.
Unions have warned that this will leave 1.4 million Australians in serious poverty.
A caring government would not set out to deliberately impoverish a part of the population it is supposed to be responsible for.
Australia must ask this question. What is the purpose behind the cruelty of this government?
It’s not hard to find the answer. Australian governments have a track record of deliberately maintaining poverty, and demonising and punishing people out of work. After the rise of Tony Abbott in 2013, this became more pronounced.
Economic management policy is centred on the creation of a cheap labour force to pull down the wages share across the board. All the political double speak in the world does not change this.
One part of the creation of a cheap labour force, is to impoverish and demonise the unemployed and give them no them option but to accept substandard work. The other is the shift from permanent full time and properly paid jobs, to a casualised workforce.
A third leg is the expansion of the Cashless Debit Card. Moves to do just this are already underway. A bill to has been submitted to parliament.
The JobsSeeker supplement cut comes together with the re-introduction of the Centrelink and Job Network regime that profiles and punishes those who come into its orbit.
Any government admitting that this its real intent is to create cheap labour would face a public uproar. So, it is hidden behind doublespeak about the need to nudge the unwilling back to work and creating more labour market flexibility, and jobs creation.
Stripping away the dressing and bring out what is really going on is the first step towards a change.
Australia’s choice is, whether we want to continue down this road. do we really want a future where permanent poverty is acceptable, where we no longer care about each other, and throw away the principle of a fair go?
If this is not what we want, every one of us has a responsibility to say no. We must stand together and force through a reversal.
There must be a living income for the unemployed and others on Centrelink payments. This is the immediate priority. The creation of a cheap labour force must be stopped. Casualisation of work must be reversed and the wages share increase. Everyone living in Australia has the right to an acceptable standard of living.
The push back is that we don’t want to create a society of what former Treasurer Joe Hockey called “leaners” and that proper economic management demands the market runs its course.
Past Prime minister John Howard talked about unemployment and poverty being a life choice, and added that those choosing this, should not expect others to pay for it. This characterisation of unemployment continues to be used to justify the government’s action.
The political spin and easily answered. Unemployment and poverty exist because people do not have the opportunities, and in some cases, because the efforts they contribute to society are not recognised. Volunteer word is a good example.
Creating an economy where business depends on taking from the wages share to make a profit is not sound. from any point of view. Real progress requires the creation of what wasn’t there before, and that this is properly circulated across the whole of society. Attacking wages damages both and this means it undermines the economy. This is not good economic management.
Proper economic management needs planned investment in the economy and enough regulation of business activity, to ensure a sound foundation for future success.
Greater equality in the distribution of income provides greater capacity to absorb what the economy creates. Lifting the income of the unemployed and others on Centrelink benefits is an important part of this.
Australia must make this shift.