Thursday, July 16, 2020

Today by Paddy Manning

Nearly one million Australians are unemployed

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Via Sky News

The prime minister put on a brave face while discussing June’s job figures, which show that unemployment has hit a 22-year high of 7.4 per cent, up 0.3 per cent since March. The figures are marginally worse than economists had forecast despite a record monthly bounce-back of 210,800 new jobs created. “The Australian economy is fighting back,” Scott Morrison said [$], adding that “today’s employment figures shows there is hope”. Good signs include a 1.3 per cent jump in the participation rate – meaning more people are looking for work – and a 1.4 per cent drop in underemployment to 11.7 per cent. Less good is that all the new jobs created in June are part-time positions – full-time employment actually fell – and, as the Nine papers observed, the 992,000 Australians now formally unemployed constitutes the highest number since monthly figures were introduced in 1978. Morrison acknowledged that Victoria’s return to hard lockdown after its spike in coronavirus cases, including a record 317 new infections overnight, would have an impact on next month’s figures, but said the latest jobs data had demonstrated that employment would recover “as Australia has opened up again, as people have gone back into their businesses and opened their doors”.

Morrison and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash announced a new $2 billion skills package to subsidise apprentices’ wages, including a new $1 billion “JobTrainer” program providing up to an additional 340,700 training places. According to the announcement, courses will be free or low cost in areas of need identified by the National Skills Commission, with the federal government providing $500 million with matched contributions from state and territory governments. In a statement, shadow education and training minister Tanya Plibersek said Labor would look at JobTrainer, but was starting out sceptical. “What you usually get from Scott Morrison is a marketing slogan one day, then a whole lot of nasty detail the next,” said Plibersek. “Just look at the mess they’ve made of childcare and universities. The Liberals have an appalling track record on TAFE and training. Seven years of Liberal government has seen $3 billion cut from TAFE and training, widespread skills shortages, and 140,000 apprentices and trainees lost before COVID-19.”         

JobSeeker, JobKeeper, JobMaker and now JobTrainer – it’s getting confusing. Ahead of next Thursday’s economic statement from the treasurer, Labor leader Anthony Albanese has called for a slow “taper” to the JobKeeper wage-subsidy scheme, and for a permanent increase to JobSeeker. “If you withdraw support too early you’ll end up with a recession that is deeper than it needed to be and goes for longer than it needed to go,” Albanese said in an interview yesterday. “That is a real concern which is front-and-centre of people’s thoughts, and it’s a test for the government.” 

Scott Morrison’s mantra, repeated today, is that “we have done it before, and we can do it again”, but the tests for his government are multiplying faster than they can pass or fail them. As the University of NSW becomes the latest to announce swingeing job cuts – nearly 500 full-time equivalent jobs will go as the institution cuts the number of faculties from eight to six, while flagging there may be more to come – it is worth remembering that the university sector has been deliberately excluded from JobKeeper, and the job cuts are therefore the intended outcome of Morrison government policy. That hardly inspires confidence. 

“Young people will not stand for companies that [indirectly] fund the climate crisis and will refuse to buy Samsung products if [their affiliate does] not commit to no further financing of Adani’s coal project.”

School climate striker Bailey Linton-Simpkins, 15, protesting outside a Sydney Samsung store over the company’s affiliate purchase of a share of debt in Adani’s Abbot Point coal terminal.

“As much as I respect the professionalism of the public service, no public servant has lost his or her job, no public servant has had his or her pay cut.”

Former prime minister Tony Abbott ignores post-pandemic job cuts at institutions such as the ABC, CSIRO, National Gallery of Australia and DFAT, while calling for MPs and senior public servants to take a 20 per cent pay cut.

If you are queer – or care about queer people – listen to this story
Daniel van Roo spent 18 months trying to convince his doctors he was sick. They continued to test only for STIs – he says because he was gay. By the time he was diagnosed with cancer, it was terminal.

The decrease in monthly export revenues from liquified natural gas in June, according to consultants EnergyQuest. 

“The Australian Institute of Company Directors has written to [Treasurer Josh] Frydenberg asking for three relief measures to be extended to December 31: a moratorium on director liability for insolvent trading, the ability for companies to hold virtual annual general meetings and a relaxation of continuous disclosure laws.”

Company directors push for an extension of the “regulatory shield”, introduced in May, to assist the corporate sector in nursing businesses through the COVID-19 recession.

The list

“Every episode of Vida comes with a warning for ‘high impact sex scenes’, and the show certainly delivers. There’s a lot to like in this series: meaty conflicts around gentrification, culture and the closet; some extremely GIF-able one-liners; and four magnetic protagonists who deliver vastly different takes on what a woman – specifically, a Latinx woman – can be. But it’s the sex scenes that really get the coloured lights going.”

“In May 1998, while taking a four-month holiday from her job at Qantas, with time on her hands and showing the first signs of mental illness, Cornelia Rau had the misfortune of becoming involved with a Sydney sect called Kenja. This marked the turning point in her life, the disaster from which all else flowed. No one can know whether disaster would have come anyhow, some other way.”

“Of course, many musicians have turned to live streams since their tours were cancelled en masse, but unlike the glut of acoustic set-ups, or depressing concerts held in empty theatres, Cocker’s DJ sets have an amusing, slapdash quality – the sort of thing you might find on community TV while flicking aimlessly between stations late at night.” 

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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