The Guardian February 2, 2000


The Treasurer's "full-employment" line

by Marcus Browning

What makes Federal Treasurer Peter Costello claim there will be full 
employment within four years? Because now, after a series of wholesale 
changes to the social security system since 1996, the Government has 
reached the point in its plans where it believes it is possible to force 
almost all the unemployed out of the system within four years.

By that time the welfare system will be well and truly privatised. Changes 
announced last week, which include an increase in the required number of 
job applications each fortnight to be entered into the job search diaries 
of all registered unemployed, are meant to speed up this process.

If the unemployed fail to meet these increased requirements  ten job 
applications in high employment areas, four in low employment areas  they 
will have their payments reduced and could be fined up to $800.

This will make their job search activities even more difficult as they will 
not have the necessary funds to carry out the required applications.

The changes also stipulate that the jobless in higher unemployment areas 
must move to those parts of Australia where there is a perceived labour 
demand, such as fruit growing areas at picking time or as labourers during 
the three months of cotton chipping.

Centrelink case managers are to be given the power to withdraw the payments 
of anyone they consider to have left a job for "no good reason".

The 1.3 million people currently registered as unemployed will be forced to 
take any job offered, no matter the conditions, pay and hours of work, or 
be stripped of their dole payment.

In addition they will be made, under threat of losing their payment, to 
work for the dole in any of the various forms the cheap labour scheme 
takes, from fake on-the-job training, to education courses and Green Corps 
programs.

In effect, fiddle the figures, hide the jobless and absolve the government 
from any responsibility to support the unemployed or take measures to 
create jobs.

It would not be surprising if before long the Coalition Government places 
limits on the length of time a person can receive unemployment benefits.

"A low-paid job is nearly always better than no job and often leads to a 
good job, which is why we are telling job seekers they must look for and 
accept any offer of suitable work", so Community Services Minister Larry 
Anthony would have us believe.

How Larry Anthony  son of millionaire grazier and former head of the 
Country Party, Doug Anthony  gained his deep insight into the plight of 
the unemployed and working poor, is not made clear.

The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) called the increased 
clampdown "harsh and unjustified", saying it will trap people in poverty.

"On the one hand they'll have these increased requirement for job 
applications, when Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show there are 
eight unemployed people for every job vacancy", an ACOSS spokesperson told 
The Guardian.

"And when an unemployed person does take on part-time work they're faced 
with effective tax rates of 80 percent." 

This is because they lose 70 cents in the dollar from their dole for every 
dollar over $70 per week they earn, plus they also pay tax on the income 
from the part-time job, a combined figure of 80 percent.

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