July 3rd 2004


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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: NZ Labour legislates to effect 'same-sex marriage'

EDITORIAL: Free Trade Agreement's tilted playing field

ECONOMICS: Setting pay to create new jobs

NATIONAL AFFAIRS: Profile of Mark Latham's star new recruit

AGRICULTURE: Western farm subsidies rising, Australia's falling

OVERSEAS DEBT: Foreign debt grows as we live beyond our means

SAME-SEX COUPLES: Gays comprise 0.5 per cent of couples: parliamentary survey

FAMILY: Neurobiology says mothers play vital role

EDUCATION: The gender agenda

POLITICAL IDEAS: Distributism - the neglected tradition

COMMENT: The 'battlers' want jobs, not platitudes

EUROPE: New EU Constitution faces mounting opposition

STRAWS IN THE WIND : Moving the lounge chairs in the retirement village / Still picking up the pieces / Selective indignation

Flouting the law (letter)

Grameen Bank (letter)

Howard Government defended (letter)

Restoring Murray River communities' confidence (letter)

Reagan's wit (letter)

BOOKS: Target North Korea, by Gavan McCormack

BOOKS: An Imperfect God: George Washington, his slaves and the creation of America

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COMMENT:
The 'battlers' want jobs, not platitudes


by Victor Sirl

News Weekly, July 3, 2004
I have a friend who works in casual employment as a cleaner and can't find a full-time job. His days of standing outside polling booths, letter-boxing and staffing street stalls in an attempt to put "socially aware" ALP candidates into cushy jobs are over.

He found the middle-class lefties at his local branch could not stand to hear him use the "sexist" term "blue-collar worker" and his argument that full-time jobs, particularly in manufacturing, was perhaps even more important than issues surrounding aboriginal affairs, asylum-seekers and conservation was met with disdain. But now a Latham-led ALP wants him and others like him to believe it takes their fate seriously.

Modern battlers

Suddenly, Mark Latham has spoken out about our modern battlers caught in the quagmire of constant casual work. Some of them, like my mate, are salt of the earth. He has always kept working and shuns the dole.

Yet, you don't get stories about blokes like this on our current affairs shows. No, on the Seven Network's Today Tonight we have the notorious "Dale" - Dale the Dole Bludger we might call him. On Nine's A Current Affair there is Wayne - socially inept and lacking in mental or physical strength - who might be termed "Wayne The Wally".

A Current Affair has even called out a team of experts including a life coach, a personal trainer, Howard Government minister Kevin Andrews, and others to help Wayne get himself up to scratch. Of course, Wayne was reminded, just in case the viewers hadn't caught on, that in fact he had cost the taxpayers a lot of cash.

Wayne and Dale are being held to account in a sort of media-screened show trial for the outraged mob at home. But who is held to account for the growing number of Australians unable to afford a family and marriage due to a shortfall in full-time work? Where are our current affairs journalists showing us the social cost of this?

They're still chasing used-car salesmen and dole-bludgers just like in the old scripts from the Mike Willesee days of the 'seventies. Who needs investigative journalism?

Labor's policy of simply mandating full-time jobs is probably not a realistic answer, but what is just as frightening is the reaction from our Tories in government who simply deny there is a problem.

For the likes of Industrial Relations Minister, Joe Hockey, the employment figures reflect market choice on the part of employees. People work in casual or part-time work because they want to and choose to do so.

This lack of a view on how the other half lives is worthy of Marie Antoinette, and a government so callously out of touch with reality, like her, deserves to be dispatched from office - of course, in a more democratic manner than poor Marie, via a severe axing at the ballot box. If it continues to argue positions that the person in the street, or should I say "faces in the street", find idiotic, that is precisely what will happen.

But would a Latham government be more compassionate? The Financial Review's editorial of April 21 claimed that the ALP is merely motivated by a need to increase union membership. It correctly states that many of those working casually are women who do not want full-time work, and that casuals have a low rate of union membership.

However, the report Men and Women Apart: Partnering in Australia by Professor Bob Birrell and his team clearly identifies a growing underclass of males who are missing out on forming a family due to a lack of full-time work.

The Financial Review correctly asserts that Labor does not have a solution to this problem and that simply legislating for business to employ more people full-time will actually make the hiring of workers less attractive and slow jobs creation.

When Latham attacked what must be seen as a landmark budget in terms of positives for the family, his strongest criticism was that those earning less than $52,000 a year were missing out on tax concessions.

However, what would really help so many of the males identified by Dr Birrell - most of whom earn less than $26,000 a year - would be an industry policy that creates jobs for low and semi-skilled workers, particularly in the manufacturing sector. Labor has nothing to offer in this regard. So, who is it seeking to placate with complaints about the lack of full-time jobs? Union bosses, of course.

Latham has deceived no-one with the illusion that Labor is sticking up for the battlers again, for the true believers.

In the end, I just hope that after all these years my mate gets a full-time job. Plenty of mums, dads and wives probably have the same hope for someone they know.

It's a shame, a national shame, that the Howard Government doesn't even want to know about the problem and Labor is busy promoting flawed solutions which help no one.

  • Victor Sirl




























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