Australian politics, society & culture

Thursday, 31st July 2014


In Rolf de Heer's new film, Charlie's Country, David Gulpilil's Charlie faces a dilemma. His health deteriorating, Charlie is told by doctors to eat better food. Spending his weekly welfare income on the junk food sold at his community's only shop isn't working, so he resolves to hunt for his food, "the old way". But police confiscate first his gun (unlicensed) and then his spear (a "dangerous weapon"), consigning him to a life that's effectively unliveable. 

It's the kind of dilemma familiar to many Aboriginal people living in remote communities. Now Treasurer Joe Hockey seemingly intends to extend a similar dilemma to all Australians out of work, however temporarily. Newstart recipients would be forced to complete more than one job application every day while participating in "work for the dole" activities, in an environment where there are between five and ten job seekers for every vacancy, and where available evidence suggests that "work for the dole" programs are among the least effective means of transitioning people into work. And job seekers under 30 would not receive any income at all for the first six months, raising obvious questions about how they are to eat and house themselves legally. Government sources confirmed yesterday that job seekers who "spam" prospective employers with unwarranted applications would be penalised.

Hockey is using parliament's winter recess to try to win over at least six of the eight senate cross-benchers. He sees them as recalcitrant, so his preferred tactic remains to cajole and threaten.  But the real problem with the policy is that it's driven entirely by ideology without, seemingly, any thought to its calamitous social effects and the practical nuisance for employers who would field millions of extra applications every month. Prime Minister Tony Abbott, committed to "consultative and collegial" government, has invited comment (though not from the general public) on an exposure draft until August 25.

Russell Marks
Politicoz Editor

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Clive Palmer hits out at ‘failed’ budget, calls for double dissolution

"The leader of the Palmer United Party also accused treasurer Joe Hockey of lying by suggesting Australia could lose its AAA credit rating, and while he declared his in-principle support for the work-for-the-dole program, he was ‘totally opposed’ to job seekers having to apply for 40 jobs a month."

Also: Jobless treated same as offenders (Gareth Hutchens, Fairfax)

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young denied access to Curtin Detention Centre to visit asylum seekers

"Senator Hanson-Young says she had flown to Broome from Adelaide and was on the road to the remote West Australian centre when she was informed that she would not be allowed inside."

Also: Nauru asylum seekers begin peaceful protests as discontent grows (Oliver Laughland, The Guardian); Australia tried to get India to take Tamil asylum seekers while still on Customs ship (Karen Barlow, ABC News)

Bishop reacts to claim rebels are laying landmines near MH17 crash site

"Julie Bishop has responded to claims that MH17 investigators are being deterred from the crash site by the laying of landmines, saying such an act would be ‘utterly despicable’."

Comments: The slick, glib world of tabloid politics (Jonathan Green, The Drum); Australia's shallow foreign policy revealed (Matthew Dal Santo, The Drum); Disaster politics (The Piping Shrike)

WikiLeaks gag order: open justice is threatened by super-injuctions

"Australian courts have increasingly been issuing suppression orders preventing the publication of legal proceedings – and an implicit dislike of the media is partly to blame."

Also: Human Rights Watch pushes for review of Australian WikiLeaks gag order (Paul Farrell, The Guardian)

ANU leader urges senators to enable fee deregulation

"ANU Vice-Chancellor Ian Young has urged the Senate to pass fee deregulation, proposed in May’s budget, but stopped short of supporting the government’s plans to impose an interest rate on HECS."

Comment: Trickle-down theory enters university fee debate (Matthew Knott, Fairfax)