Apr 152011

There was a young lady on ABC RN Breakfast this morning that I immediately identified with.

Sara was her name, no surname given because she didn’t want to give one. I can understand why. Sara has been unemployed for the past two years. She isn’t degree qualified, has been through the mill of what life can dole out, and finds the current punitive welfare support system called euphemistically ‘NewStart’ to be one of the most depressing, soul-destroying and unsupportive social structures she’s encountered.

I wholeheartedly agree. There can be few experiences in this life worse than being unemployed in a society where the unemployed are treated as an unmentionable underclass, equated with drug addicts, street kids and general bludgers on society in general. That impression is bolstered by the atmosphere surrounding the ‘friendly, neighbourhood Centrelink Office’ where job diaries and fortnightly dole forms are the principal focus of the workers, yet the presenters of those forms are referred to by those same Centrelink workers as ‘clients’. If that were genuinely the case, why the focus on maintaining paper trails instead of on the individual who diligently fills in the papers?

How do I know these things? I’ve been unemployed at varying times for varying periods over the past 10 years. Sometimes because a contract term has ended, mainly because of redundancy. No, not the type that nets the redundant worker a bucket of money, just a fortnight’s pay packet and a good luck wish.

Whilst I tentatively and quietly applaud any government’s initiative in helping those who want to work, and are capable of joining the workforce to do so, I treat with jaundiced cynicism statements from the likes of Gillard, who has never known a day’s unproductive employment, that everyone who can work should work. To my ears on Wednesday evening, those words grated. They allowed for no flexibility, no individuality. They smacked of the 18th century workhouse. If you’re poor, if you can’t get work, then as Ebenezer Scrooge opined:

‘Are there no prisons? And the Union workhouses, are they still in operation? The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?’

I’m sure that wasn’t her intent, as this is the 21st century, Scrooge was a fictitious character and the Poor Laws were abolished in the 1920’s, but what does any political party made up of people who have never experienced unemployment even one week of their lives know of the terrible plight of those, who through no fault of their own, fall foul of life’s travails and society’s foibles? Not everyone is degree qualified, or trade equipped. Not everyone can move their lives or families across the country. Not everyone can afford to. Train people by all means. Stop wasting tax-payer money on leech organisations like Sarina Russo who are only alive to collect government largesse. Do it properly, through TAFE, people can still be monitored. ‘Mutual Obligation’ can still be honoured. Don’t waste my money on corporations that don’t care a dot. Spend it where it matters most. Education institutions, trade training schools and real workplaces where real people can train other real people who really do want to work, and need to learn how.

Everyone who can work, must be trained to work at what they believe they are best at and would most enjoy. Once they’re trained, they should work, at what they’re best at and most enjoy. Nirvana? What’s wrong with pursuing nirvana?

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