Category Archives: Social Science and Society

The decade in review

There have been reviews aplenty. This one is based on Twenty years to 2020 published in the AFR, with some enhancements.

2009

Bitcoin was born and we had the Black Saturday bushfires. The Copenhagen climate talks failed, ratf*****d by the Chinese, according to Kevin Rudd, who spent the summer break writing a children’s book while Wayne Swan read to Henry Review into taxation.

2010

My wife and I walked the Milford track. 16 year-old Jessica Watson sails around the world. Kevin Rudd squibs a double dissolution election on climate change, and is turfed out in favour of Julia Gillard.

30 asylum seekers drown when their boat crashes into the rocks at Christmas Island.

Scientists develop a functional synthetic genome.

2011

A 6.3 magnitude earthquake hits Christchurch, killing 180. A tsunmami hits Fukushima, blowing up the nuclear plant, killing 15,840. Osama bin Laden is killed, and Qantas grounds its entire fleet in an industrial dispute.

Australia did pass ‘world leading’ climate change legislation, courtesy of the Gillard government, working with the Greens and independents.

The AFR forgot the Brisbane floods, the Toowoomba cloudburst and cyclone Yasi.

2012

Gillard made he famous ‘misogyny speech’, Uber launched in Australia, a Royal commission into child abuse was announced, and Australia introduced plain cigarette packaging.

Not mentioned by the AFR the Bahnisch family had a reunion.

2013

Rudd turfs Gillard out, then loses the election to Tony Abbott, instituting a new dark age which still prevails.

Prince George was born and analog TV was turned off in Oz.

2014

Malaysian Airways flight MH4370 disappeared with 239 people on board, Flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine with 298 killed, Gough Whitlam died and two hostages and a gunman were killed in the Lindt Cafe siege.

Some of us had a Red Centre holiday and crossed the Simpson Desert.

Also the blog Climate Plus came into being.

2015

The Charlie Hebdo shooting saw 12 killed and the birth of the slogan “Je suis Charlie”.

The Apple watch is launched and Malcolm Turnbull turfs out Tony Abbott.

The Bahnisch family did a trip from Prague to Budapest, via the Danube which ran out of water at Bratislava. Plus various other European places of interest.

Not mentioned by the AFR, but Germany experienced the VW stuff-up, plus absorbed about a million refugees.

Nor did they mention the Paris Agreement on climate change and the death of a bloke called John Malcolm Fraser.

2016

UK votes 51.9% in favour of Brexit.

Augmented reality game Pokemon Go is released.

Donald Trump is elected 45th POTUS.

2017

Women’s march is the largest single-day protest in US history.

Grenfell Tower fire in London kills 72.

GMH ceases manufacturing in Oz.

Same sex marriage is legalised in Oz.

2018

The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Super and Finance Industry makes a stir.

Kim Jong-on crosses into South Korea.

Apple becomes the first trillion dollar company.

Malcolm Turnbull got the chop, making way for Scott Morrison.

2019

Cardinal Pell was found guilty of sexually abusing two boys in 1996.

Scott Morrison wins an election with a little help from Clive Palmer, Bill Shorten and the ALP election team. (There is a rumour that former Greens leader Bob Brown and a coal mine in Central Queensland had an effect.)

Swedish schoolgirl Greta Thunberg inspires the school climate strikes. (Actually that started in 2018, she sailed to New York and addressed the UN in 2019.)

Australia burnt.

Did they miss any?

Of course any list is somewhat arbitrary. I would have noted the rise of social media other than blogging, which I think dates from around 2012.

Then there was the Me Too movement from 2017.

Also in 2018 there was the Thai cave rescue story, and the Christchurch massacre.

Any others?

Where are we now?

According to Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens at The Minefield we’ve reached a point where nothing really matters any more. There are no consequences for bad behaviour, truth has no enduring meaning and can be changed with a tweet to become whatever you want.

All that could be changed if we could clone Jacinda Adern and get her to run every country on the planet. In 2019 she brought down a Wellbeing Budget:

After more than a year of curiosity and speculation, New Zealand’s Labour coalition government has unveiled its “world-first” wellbeing budget, to widespread praise from social agencies charged with looking after the country’s most vulnerable people.

The finance minister, Grant Robertson, unveiled billions for mental health services and child poverty as well as record investment in measures to tackle family violence.

“Success is making New Zealand both a great place to make a living, and a great place to make a life,” Robertson told parliament.

He said many New Zealanders were not benefiting from a growing economy in their daily lives, and this year’s budget had been designed to address the growing disparity between the haves and have-nots.

What will 2020 bring?

We’d best not talk about climate change here or we’ll never finish.

I don’t think killing Major General Qassem Soleimani of Iran was a smart move. After Iran did a deal with Obama on nukes the country could have pursued peace and prosperity, one would think. What happened was anything but. However, killing a military leader is unlikely to be followed by an outbreak of peace and love.

Now if Iran misbehaves Trump has threatened 52 strikes, including cultural sites, normally classified as a war crime.

Apart from that, any given year usually brings forth something entirely unexpected.

The New Scientist has a short article suggesting that facial recognition technology will be big, and on another front research on human origins may produce a more settled view on how we evolved from being just another ape.

Then medical research is on the threshold of producing two drugs which may make ageing redundant.

One new drug clears out “senescent” cells out of the brain. The second drug mimics the transfusion of young blood “which has been shown to increase cognition in animals and reduce biomarkers for cancer and heart disease.

They are about to enter phase 3 trials, but could be sold as al-purpose rejuvenation therapies by the end of the decade.

Probably too late for me, and that might be just as well!

The New Scientist asserts that most of us are materially better off, but that puts no price on ‘nature’ and the environment. As top predator we are still on a classic path of a plague species heading for a population crash.

Happy new year!

Political panic or dynamic leadership? Morrison’s bushfire response

That’s a screenshot of an advertisement put out on Twitter, which you can see here authorised by S. Morrison for the Liberal Party to spruik what the Australian Government is doing to in ” response to these terrible #bushfires“.

If you scroll down a bit you will see this:

Katherine Murphy lets fly in Scott Morrison’s political ad is a bizarre act of self-love as firefighters battle to save Australia:

The prime minister’s promotional video was staggeringly objectionable and highlights his failure to lead

It really is hard to keep up with a prime minister who declares one minute disaster management is predominantly a state responsibility, and he won’t be running over the top of state premiers, and then, seemingly, five minutes later, calls out the ADF reserve, deploys military assets and procures more water bombers than anyone asked for.

This kind of plot twist is dizzying stuff in normal conditions, let alone in the middle of a disaster, when the prime ministerial norm is generally one of steadiness and consistency.

Perhaps it was Scott Morrison’s own demonstrable lack of clarity about what his government was, or was not, doing, in response to Australia’s catastrophic summer of bushfires that prompted his communications team to pump out a promotional video – on one of the most perilous days of the disaster – outlining today’s initiatives.”

That was Murphy just warming up.

Perhaps surprisingly news.com.au gives a quite dispassionate account in Scott Morrison slammed after tweeting 50-second ad spruiking new bushfire measures.

That piece ends with Morrison’s own account of the woman at Cobargo refusing to shake his hand and other people yelling at him. Essentially he says there is a lot of emotion around, and the fact that he was the ‘first senior leader’ to enter the town made him a target for people’s anger and fear.

The ABC’s account rounds up criticism from all directions, labelling the ad ‘absolutely obscene’ and ‘It’s like being ‘sold to’ at a funeral’.

More importantly:

‘The Australian Defence Association (ADA) — a public-interest watchdog of Australian defence matters — said on Twitter the video “milking ADF support to civil agencies fighting bushfires” was a “clear breach of the (reciprocal) non-partisanship convention applying to both the ADF & Ministers/MPs”.

The ADA website notes that “politically expedient Government announcements” featuring the ADF “is always wrong”.

On the radio Morrison is arguing that earlier he took the position that fire-fighting was a state matter, and that he had been responding to their requests. Now, he says, they were not asking enough and the situation demands actrion, so he is acting.

However, his style appears to be totally non-consultative, ignoring the appropriate protocols. As John Davidson said on another thread:

” He also said somewhere that he was doing what he was doing without listening to the premiers. The big man has taken over AND IT WILL BE DONE HIS WAY!!!

Sounds like out of control political panicking from someone who doesn’t know how to lead. “

This David Rowe cartoon from mid-November seems apposite:

When people with expertise wanted to meet with him he refused. Now he just goes ahead regardless, although on radio he said that calling in the reserves was planned in November. The Guardian has a useful chronology from May 2018 of how the issue developed over time, although they could have started with scientists’ warnings which Penny Wong says she was given when in government prior to Abbott’s ascension to power in 2013.

Moreover, Australia is already majorly on the nose overseas on matters relating to climate change. An article in the New York Post written after the Cobargo incident – Australia fires: Scott Morrison chased out of scorched town by angry locals – is worth a read, with the PM being called a “scumbag” and told to “piss off”. It gives a full report of the video seen here that went viral.

Paul Bongiorno had already written Morrison’s leadership off in The summer Scott Morrison’s leadership broke. Bongiorno details how Morrison continually gets the decisions, the optics and the words wrong. Whatever political capital he had from the election has been squandered.

On New Year’s Eve we had the PM telling us what a great place Australia is to live when a debate raged as to whether the fireworks should be cancelled and the cricket authorities are spelling out the protocols about who decides whether the players can still see the ball for the smoke. Well before that time the PM had become a bit of a joke. The first comment on this Mumbrella piece says “Morrison is no leader, he couldn’t even lead a choko vine over a dunny wall.! “

Laura Tingle asks a reasonable question in Are the bushfires Scott Morrison’s Hurricane Katrina moment that he can’t live down?

Reflecting on a photo of himself surveying some of the damage from Air Force One, George W Bush said:

That photo of me hovering over the damage suggested I was detached from the suffering on the ground,” Bush wrote later in his book Decision Points.

“That was not how I felt. But once that impression was formed, I couldn’t change it.”

Tingle dismembers the Government’s shallow, perfidious and contradictory climate ‘policies’.

A price we have paid is a general lack of trust in politicians and the institutions of government, which the right side of politics have trashed in Australia over the last 10 years. Joe Hildebrandt comes up with an unusual analysis which nevertheless is built around the central point that we’ve had Liberal and Labor powerbrokers treating the office of the prime minister as a personal plaything and the electorate with contempt in the process. The notable exception, he says, has been Anthony Albanese, but than he says Albo has been attacked by the lunar left for not attacking Morrison.

Must say, I don’t know where or when that happened, or who the ‘lunar left’ are.

I was surprised at Tingle’s report on the scale of the fires:

“To give some scale to what has happened here so far, international media outlets have been reporting the 2018 California fires burnt 2 million acres; the 2019 Amazon fires 2.2 million; and the 2019 Siberian fires 6.7 million.

So far Australia’s 2019/20 fires have burnt 12 million acres.”

As commenter zoot pointed out the New York Times has an excellent piece Why the Fires in Australia Are So Bad. Just in is an excellent graphic explainer from the BBC.

Our problem is that at the UN climate talks in Madrid in December our stance not just a sad, irrelevant joke, we were actively obstructionist.

The world is watching. See also the BBC’s What is Australia doing to tackle climate change?

I think 2019 is the year climate change smacked us in the face. It’s time to act now, urgently and at scale, on immediate and longer term adaptation and mitigation.

On the latter, that should mean net zero CO2 by 2030 at latest, and 350 ppm ASAP thereafter.

Westpac’s woes

To senior people at Westpac the AUSTRAC charges seemed like a minor technical glitch. Instead they’d been handed a grenade which exploded in their faces. The media portrayal has been of greedy bankers who would engage in anything to make a profit. This SMH editorial begins:

    After the royal commission into the financial sector last year, many pundits said that trust in banks could not go any lower. Westpac has proven them wrong.

    Less than a year after Kenneth Hayne delivered his report about rip-offs and illegal sales tactics by Australia’s most profitable financial institutions, Australia’s second largest bank has been pinged for breaches of money laundering and anti-terrorism laws, including facilitating payments to paedophiles in the Philippines.

The actual is a little more prosaic, as the editorial goes on to tell:

    Westpac’s latest failures raise different issues to the Hayne inquiry. This is not a case of bank managers ordering their staff to act unconscionably or flawed incentive payments. Westpac’s crimes here are arguably more those of omission than commission. It failed to implement and check the IT systems required to properly detect and report suspicious transactions. (Emphasis added)

Continue reading Westpac’s woes

WHERE HAS ALL THE MONEY GONE?

WHERE HAS THE MONEY GONE?

Productivity has grown enormously since I started work. In addition, participation of women in the workforce has also risen dramatically. In theory, these changes should have resulted in families being much better off financially assuming a reasonable share of the benefits of both these changes were shared with families.

Problem is that too many families with both parents working claim to be struggling financially as well as being stressed by the pressures associated from having both parents working long hours. Which begs the question: What has happened to all the extra money generated by the increases in productivity and working hours per family?

This post asks “where has all the money gone?” with particular reference to affordable accommodation.

Continue reading WHERE HAS ALL THE MONEY GONE?

Aged Care in Australia: A Shocking Tale of Neglect

Aboriginal Elder Mildred Numamurdirdi, with GP Meredith Hanson-Knarhol, had to travel 800 kilometres to receive care.

    A sad and shocking system that diminishes Australia as a nation.

The media release began as follows:

    The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s Interim Report has found the aged care system fails to meet the needs of its older, vulnerable, citizens. It does not deliver uniformly safe and quality care, is unkind and uncaring towards older people and, in too many instances, it neglects them.

    Commissioners Richard Tracey AM, RFD, QC and Lynelle Briggs’s AO investigation into Australia’s aged care system led them to describe the aged care system as “a shocking tale of neglect”. Continue reading Aged Care in Australia: A Shocking Tale of Neglect

Weekly salon 7/9

1. Storms for Hansen’s grandchildren

(From Hurricane Dorian: devastation and destruction in the Bahamas – in pictures)

John Schwartz at the NYT (posted at Lethal Heating) asks How Has Climate Change Affected Hurricane Dorian?

Michael Mann and Andrew E Dessler respond in Global Heating Made Hurricane Dorian Bigger, Wetter – And More Deadly. With warm seas and more moisture in the atmosphere hurricanes can intensify faster, contain more moisture, more wind power and move slower. This means greater flooding and a increased possibility of coinciding with high tides. Continue reading Weekly salon 7/9

Weekly salon 1/9

1. Waiting for Godot

Part of my delay in completing this week’s edition was waiting for something that wasn’t ridiculous to happen. There is plenty like Boris Johnson suspending parliament, and Trump attacking Fox News, and Fox News hitting back.

To be honest, I’ve been knocked a bit askew by the David Spratt’s question At 4°C of warming, would a billion people survive? The answer according to some respected scientists is, in brief, probably not, something less than a billion, and 4°C seems to be where we are heading.

That would mean on average more than a million deaths from global warming each week for the next 90 years. Continue reading Weekly salon 1/9

Weekly salon 15/7

1. It is untenable for the Coalition to reject the Uluru statement twice

That’s what Paddy Manning says:

    It makes no sense whatsoever for the prime minister to appoint Ken Wyatt as the first Indigenous minister for Indigenous Australians, give him his head on a bipartisan approach to a referendum in a major speech at the National Press Club, then, within 48 hours, veto the one position about which those who devised the Uluru Statement from the Heart feel most strongly about – namely, a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous voice to parliament.

Continue reading Weekly salon 15/7

What is Wrong With Newstart?

The Newstart system for supporting the unemployed comes with a number of important problems including not providing enough support during a time of need and other problems with the system that discourage saving, accepting jobs and/or trying to start a business.

This post looks at some of these problems, the underlying reasons that contribute to these problems and incremental ways of improving the current system. Other posts in this series will look at more radical solutions including the use of approaches based on a Universal Basic Income (UBI), Universal Basic Loans (UBL), Welfare as a Loan, and/or Reverse Taxation.

This post concluded that there is currently too much emphasis on making sure people don’t get more than they need and not enough emphasis on being fair and providing adequate help during people’s unemployment crisis. The situation is not helped by governments who want to blame the unemployed for unemployment.

It also is worth noting that the shortage of work that causes unemployment also creates opportunities. It may make more sense for some Newstart funds to be used to encourage people with jobs to take a break to do things like gain qualifications, try and start a new business and/or participate in volunteer projects. The vacancies created could help people who really need a job right now.

NOTES:

  1. Except where noted:

    • Figures used applied at March 2018.

    • Details apply to a single person.

    • The minimum weekly wage is based on a 38 hr week. ($695/week)

  1. Welfare as a Loan is mentioned in a number places below. The basic idea is to replace welfare as a gift with a HECs style loan that starts being repaid when the crisis requiring help has passed. Welfare as a loan will be discussed in more detail in a later post.

DETAILS:

At the time of writing (March 2018) Newstart paid a single person $273 per week. This allowance starts to be clawed back when other income averages $52 per week for the previous fortnight and disappears when other income reaches $527 per week. (The tax free threshold is $349 per week )

The payments may start immediately for some applicants but may be delayed if the applicant has more than $5500 in fluid assets or if “the applicant or their partner have finished seasonal, contract or intermittent work within 6 months of submitting the claim.”

Two people who have been determined to be “partnered” get $27 per week less each compared to people who are “unpartnered” if their earnings are the same. However, if their earnings are different they may actually benefit because their earnings are averaged.

NOTES:

  1. The above is an overview. Actual payments may depend on assets, children, carer status etc. and will change with time. Important to check the Newstart page if Newstart could affect you or your friends. In some cases there will be exemptions and waivers that apply if you are experiencing hardship or other exemptions apply.

  2. Keep in mind that many of those who have been unemployed for over one year will still be actively seeking work but find it hard to get jobs because they have the wrong skills, wrong age, poor health, live in the wrong place etc.

Problems With Newstart

Problems found included:

  1. Payments are too low: Even John Howard agrees that Newstart allowances are too low for a person caught up in an unemployment crisis. The unindexed single persons payment of $273 per week is only 39% of the minimum weekly wage. The Newstart allowance has been frozen for over 8 years

    Suggested action:

    • Increase the weekly payment and index it to the minimum wage.

  1. Defining Partners: A couple who are defined as partners by Centerlink get lower Newstart payments than singles but, under some circumstances, may benefit from having their income averaged for clawback calculations. Part of the problem these days, is that “partners” can range from a married couple that shares all assets and income to “partners” whose emotional and financial commitment is much harder to define. (In an article “Judging politics by Centrelink’s Rules” Mike Belcombe in The Saturday Paper of April 28 to 4 May 4, 2018 had this to say on Centrelink’s partnering rules: “You don’t have to be married to be considered part of a couple. You can be in a defacto relationship or “multiple relationship” to be deemed defacto. You don’t even have to physically live with you partner….five main factors are considered. These are…..the financial aspects of your relationship; the nature of your household; social aspects of your relationship; if you have a sexual relationship; nature of your commitment to each other.” And, it goes on to says: We can decide you’re a member of a couple even if all these factors aren’t part of your relationship.”

    Comment: When it comes to welfare calculations the government wants to treat “partners” as a single economic unit. By contrast, when it comes to taxation, they want to largely tax the partners as separate individuals to increase the tax take from PAYE taxpayers and others who can’t do things to average the partners earnings.

    Suggested action:

    • The fairest outcome would be to allow couples who are married or in an equivalent “registered relationship” to have their incomes averaged for both tax and welfare purposes. Ideally, the gain/pain due to income averaging should be shared equally between the partners. In addition, for a period after a partnership beaks up Centrelink should be able to claim back from the richer partner some or all of any Newstart allowance paid to the poorer partner. Or

    • Partners could be treated as though they are independent singles when determining what Newstart allowance they should get. (Partners who don’t really need the Newstart allowance will probably get sick of having to prove they are seeking a job or being required work for the dole.) Making the allowance a loan would provide an additional incentive for a dependant partner not to seek the Newstart allowance.

  1. Clawback: Unemployment payments are reduced if a single recipient earns more than a very small amount. For Newstart, the benefit for a single person would be reduced by 50 cents for every dollar earned above $52 per week (averaged over 2 weeks) and 60cents for every dollar earned above $127 per week. The Newstart allowance drops to zero when other income reaches $527 per week. (March 2018) To put this in context, someone receiving the current minimum wage could earn $52 in less than 3 hrs. and the marginal tax rate for someone earning over $180,000p.a. is 47% including medicare. My understanding is that someone whose other income varies from fortnight to fortnight will, all else being equal, receive less on average than someone whose other income remains the same from fortnight to fortnight.

    Part of the problem here is that the minimum wage is so low that there should never be much difference between the base Newstart allowance and the minimum wage. As a result clawback is always going to be high unless the base Newstart is too low or Newstart payments are going to continue well past the minimum weekly wage. If we have to choose it is better to have a high base Newstart and put up with heavy clawback.

    Clawback also discourages people from trying to make some money from small business activities. Comments from friends on part pension suggest that the clawback system struggles to cope with expenses and income that may vary substantially from week to week. (Confusing Centerlink rules and harassment were the main reason these friends decided not to proceed with the small business.)

    Suggested actions:

    • Increase the other income that can be earned before Newstart cuts out.

    • Consider starting Newstart with a few thousand dollars limit on other income before clawback starts. (Encourages people new to Newstart to look for temporary work.)

    • Increase the Newstart allowance.

    • Adjust clawback so that Newstart payments drop to zero when other earnings reach at least the minimum wage.

    • Increase the minimum wage.

    • Adjust the system so that people whose other income varies are not disadvantaged compared with someone who gets a steady other income. (If required.)

  1. Delays before unemployment payments start include:

    • Liquid Asset Waiting period: Liquid assets are any funds readily available to you or your partner. This includes money your employer owes you.” If liquid assets exceed $5500 a single person will have to wait one extra week for every $500 increase in liquid assets until the max waiting period of 13 weeks is reached when liquid assets reach $11,500. (By contrast, a single person who doesn’t own a home and has fixed assets below $456,770 can still get Newstart. ($456,770 is enough to pay the basic Newstart allowance of $273 per week for 32 years!)

      Someone who who has just lost their job may be facing financial stress from having to move to lower cost accommodation, not knowing where to get additional help and problems with loan repayments.

      Suggested Actions:

      • Substantially increase the liquid asset levels that are required to increase waiting periods.

      • Subtract outstanding debts when calculating the liquid asset figure used to set waiting periods.

      • Don’t distinguish between fixed and fluid assets when determining eligibility for Newstart waiting period. (But, for fixed assets, consider offering Newstart loans) secured by the fixed assets as an alternative to Newstart.

    • Unemployment Non Payment Period rules say:If you choose to leave your job or lose your job because of misconduct, we may not pay you for 8 weeks, or 12 weeks if you got relocation assistance from your provider.” The problem here is that these rules can act as a disincentive to take jobs Newstart receivers don’t know much about. (Newstart receivers fear they will be stuck with a rotten jobs in rotten places with rotten bosses and not have the funds to live through 8 weeks with no income.) There have certainly been stories about some Newstart receivers who never stay in any job for very long. From an incentive to work point of view it may be smarter to tolerate some resignations before tightening the rules. (There is some discretion available in cases of resignations but Newstart receivers may not always trust the system to be fair.)

      Suggested actions:

      • Only apply a non-payment period if people resign from a job before they have worked say 2 months?

      • Tolerate a certain number of resignations before starting non-payment periods.

      • Keep a record of employers who generate a lot of resignations, look for common reasons and cancel the unemployment non payment rules for work done for these problem employers/jobs/locations.

    • Seasonal Work Exclusion Waiting Period rules say: If you or your partner have finished doing seasonal, contract or casual work in the 6 months before you claim, you may need to wait for a period of time before you can receive your payment. The seasonal work exclusion period will depend on how much you earned from your work and how long you were working for. The duration is based on how long it would take an average wage earner to earn the same amount as a person engaged in contract, seasonal or casual work.”

      This rule is trying deal with a situation where the amount of work, income and expenses can vary substantially over the year for both businesses and individual workers.

      In some cases it is not reasonable for the worker or business owner to expect Newstart during the times when they are not earning because their total income over the year is well above the minimum annual wage.

      In other cases, such as fruit picking, the pay rate or hours of work they get over a year may be much less.

      Fruits of their labour” Q WEEKEND June 9, 2018 included some data for Pacific Islander fruit pickers working in Qld. Key figures for a 6 month picking season ($22/hr with 30 hr per week guarantee, average spending $8000) . If an Australian got these conditions working for 26 weeks and was unable to get work outside the 26 weeks:

      • Income = $17,160

      • Lost Newstart=$7098 (Doesn’t include waiting period losses)

      • Amount remaining after spending and lost Newstart=$2062 before waiting period Newstart losses.

      Newstart now has a Seasonal work incentives trial that will allow some workers who have been on Newstart for at least 3 months to earn $5000 before Newstart reductions start. This could reduce the Newstart loss above by $2068 and boost the amount remaining to $4130.

      Keep in mind that it will be difficult for a fruit picker to continue chasing a permanent job while working as a fruit picker. Also keep in mind that it may take time after returning from the picking job to find low cost accommodation.

      It would be very easy for a picker to end up out of pocket or otherwise disadvantaged compared with someone who stayed in the city to chase work and short term casual jobs.

      NOTE: As far as I could see someone who loses a permanent job is not subjected to the seasonal work exclusion period. Hardly passes the fairness test.

      Suggested Actions:

      • No waiting time for those who have averaged less that minimum weekly award wage for less than 38 hr week.

      • Treat people who have lost a permanent job the same as those who have finished 6 months (or year?) of irregular work.

      • Make any waiting time dependant on earnings for last 6 months.

      • People who face financial crisis during waiting period should have access to loans.

  1. Training and further education: The current system encourages people to take short training courses. In some cases it may make more sense to provide income support for longer courses that may make real differences to people’s employability and potential contribution to society. This may include supporting people who leave a job to improve their qualifications.

    Suggested Action: Start seeing our chronic high unemployment levels as an opportunity to increase Australia’s education and skill levels without creating labour shortages or increasing Newstart costs.

NOTE: Also an opportunity to use surplus labour to volunteer or try to start a business.

  1. Mutual Obligations: These complex obligations set out what a Newstart recipient has to do to convince the Newstart system that they are making a reasonable effort to find a new job. It is a bit hard to work out the extent to which these requirements and the associated financial punishments actually help people on Newstart get an appropriate job that uses their skills and aptitudes.

    It is worth noting that Is harassing the unemployed justified?” found that: For financial years 06/07 to 10/11 only 14 to 19% of the unemployed had been unemployed for over one year and 50 to 58% had been unemployed for less than 13 weeks. This suggests that the vast majority of the unemployed are actively seeking work and would find the government’s vilification and harassment a distraction. It is also worth asking whether all of the employers that people who are being forced to accept work from pay award wages and have adequate safety programs. The following links highlight the result of harsh punishments on some schemes targeted at Aborigines.

    Aboriginal people say CDP pushing people into further poverty

    Work for the Dole CDP scheme a costly failure that’s harming people:

Suggested Actions:

  • Delay the start of most mutual obligations for people who haven’t been a problem before. For the first 3 months encourage these people to concentrate on getting work that uses their skills and aptitudes and/or bringing qualifications up to date.

  • Reduce financial penalties or, better still, offer incentives to conforming.

  • Check that employers pay award wages and have appropriate safety programs before insisting people accept jobs.

DISCUSSION:

We have Newstart because, as a society, we have decided to deal with our chronic shortage of work by encouraging most of the workforce to work the same or longer hours than they have traditionally worked while others are forced into the pools of unemployed or under employed.

We also have Newstart because our economic and financial systems are doing a poor job of facilitating the exchange between those that have something to sell and those who want the product and are willing to work or trade to get the product.

Newstart is a not very effective band aid that has to deal with societies inability to share the available work and the failings of our economic and financial systems.

To make matters worse Newstart has to operate in a difficult environment that is getting more and more difficult. For example:

  1. Both government and opposition want to blame the unemployed for unemployment and put too much emphasis on minimising the cost of unemployment welfare and not enough on making people more employable.

  2. We have reached a point where less than half of all working Australians have a permanent full-time job with leave entitlements. This combined with the growth of jobs that may be paid less than the minimum award rate increase the number of people who will be paid less than the Newstart cut-off from time to time but not all the time.

  3. The minimum award wage for a 38 hr week is not all that far above what it costs for basic living requirements. (This means that clawback has to be savage unless the government is willing to pay some Newstart to people earning more than the basic wage.)

The focus of this post has been on the Newstart welfare system. However, while welfare helps reduce the pain of unemployment it does nothing about fixing the basic problems:

  1. Chronic high levels of unemployment driven by a chronic shortage of work.

  2. Failure to share the available work.

It is worth noting that Is harassing the unemployed justified?” found that: For financial years 06/07 to 10/11 only 14 to 19% of the unemployed had been unemployed for over one year and 50 to 58% had been unemployed for less than 13 weeks.DO A CHURN CALCULATION

Relevant Links:

ABC News 7 June 2018: Full time work hits new low as casual work takes over

Men are dropping out of workforce while women charge in

Workers’ compensation doesn’t cover gig workers – here’s a way to protect them

This is bigger than Folau

That image came from 2GB.

Whether Israel Folau should have been sacked by Rugby Union Australia will be resolved as a matter of contract law in the courts. However, elements within society are using the case to promote their agenda in terms of free speech and/or religious rights.

Until recently, I thought he should have been smacked on the wrist, given a fine or something and everyone should have gone back to playing football. That’s more or less what happened to Folau’s wife, Maria, who plays netball. Liz Ellis was upset, but everyone seems to have moved on.

Seems, though, RU did just that in April 2018, but in a matter of months Folau was back at it again. I understand because God told him to. Continue reading This is bigger than Folau