Wed. Nov 20th, 2019

In case you haven’t noticed, capitalism is collapsing. Society is crumbling along various lines and it’s interesting to study a homegrown example that gives a useful insight into why.

Take Jobactive, which has been the subject of a senate inquiry, and has come in for a blasting.

Job Providers, as they’re called, are the outsourced successors to the public service. Once upon a time, there was the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES). It was not perfect by any means, and during the 1990s, it was as hard to find a job through them than it currently is through the Jobactive ‘network’.

But during the 1990s, and Paul Keating’s “recession we had to have” it was tough anyway. A lot of people were out of work for a lot of time and it wasn’t until the Libs were voted in that things changed economically. That’s not an endorsement of them, naturally, but a historical truth; for whatever reasons the upswing came about. Remember, at the same time as the economy lifted, for those working in smaller business and companies there was ‘Work Choices’ to deal with; an egregious system that never lasted and for good reason.

But when it was able, the CES actually helped Australians to work and found them suitable training to improve their skills. It wasn’t there as a punitive box ticker for Centrelink. There was no Centrelink, there was the Department of Social Security. All in all, the DSS was a lot easier to negotiate than Centrelink, especially for the legendary suburban counter-jumper, who’d lose his cool and scramble over the counter to lay his enraged hands on whoever was unlucky enough to have pulled his file up on their computer and discovered he was not entitled to a payment.

It’s sad, but the counter-jumper is now extinct, and not enough of their sort are prepared to brave their skills where they’re most needed, in the officious offices of Job Providers, which are like a Gestapo monitoring the unemployed.

A few hotheads might help to persuade the health and safety people involved in these agencies that staff will be hard to find if they keep getting beaten bloody at their desks. This might lead to the system closing down. But the system is doomed anyway; like its wider parent, capitalism, and you only have to look at one of those to understand why.

So many horror stories have come out of the Jobactive, which is overseen by the Department of Employment, Skills, Small & Family Business.

That department’s workload description alone sounds like Jim Hacker had been confounded by one of Sir Humphrey Appleby’s rivals into absorbing unwanted ministerial baggage. It sounds as convoluted and overstretched as it evidently is, but that’s one component of this almighty bureaucracy which ends finally, for the hapless jobseeker, at a Job Provider.

Governments love ironic names for things and ‘job provider’ is the most ironic since it only provides jobs for its own staff, and then under conditions akin to manning a devastation aid centre.

To survive in their cut-throat role as a consultant at a Job Provider they must learn true contempt for the unemployed; they need to revel in wielding over them the power to take the food out of their mouths. And at around $300 a week that isn’t much food, what with rents being as they are, and the price of living in a big city (even worse in a rural area without transport etc). A consultant with a conscience is doomed if they help clients out.

Evidently, a lot of job providers are severe with their staff, and insist on quotas for incentive payments being made, and the jobseeker might become a test dummy for amoral practices. It’s as though infractions are part of the Job Provider’s Key Performance Indicator (KPI) quotient. However, they needn’t be obvious since the system is calibrated to be so dysfunctional as to ensure breaches, impossible schedules, and unmeetable objectives; all designed to make life on the never-never even more uncomfortable than it naturally is. Centrelink staff knows this, which is why they never answer phones. In fact, they’ve created a system whereby there is no phone to call and nobody to contact. It is the perfect interpretation of bureaucracy based on Joseph Heller’s Catch 22.

Right or left, it doesn’t matter, the government will always rely on the natural prejudice against society’s weakest to get away with treating the unemployed as if they’re miscreants: this is why, despite the best advice of economists, no government will raise the dole. They will pay politicians indecent and undeserved pay increases every other week but they won’t make life easier for those victims of their own economic mismanagement and the oligarchs they’re beholden to.

Where capitalism is concerned, only one policy rules, make as much money as you can and screw everyone else. Greed is good. Those who’re meant to rein in the greedy, to balance the market players so that enough capital is generated to maintain the upkeep of the state, are the most in their thrall.

The multiracial society adds another degree of separation between the governors and the people since they are not ‘their’ people, they are just people; and lots of them. And they’re not ‘people’ they’re ‘human resources’ and they’re only that until the latest industrial project is finished in which case, they join the ever-burgeoning labour slagheap until the next comes along. When that happens, they draft up more rules to bring in more foreign labour on the pretext of a skills shortage which they’re guilty of creating anyway.

Multiracialism also offers the potential to undermine and undercut the pay and working conditions of Australians on behalf of the oligarchs. Migrants work for less and will monopolise areas of work that were once positions taken by Australian students or the unskilled.

Migrant pockets will take over, say, a 7-Eleven store, or another franchise and hire exclusively from within their own race and community. The Chinese are infamous for preferring Chinese to Australians although they’re never held accountable for discriminatory hiring practises. This is aside from programs that have existed such as those to ship-in 457 visa workers on building sites, picking crops in rural areas, in IT and any area that permits the importation of foreign workers.

All of these conditions, coupled with corporate greed, which shifts manufacturing and production offshore, creates a factored-in level of unemployment. Shareholders are above the nation in the scheme of things. The government never pushes to tax companies and aid jobs growth; instead, they pull out the eyeglass on welfare and perpetuate the “dole bludger” myth as a justification to target the most vulnerable.

The Jobactive system has created a commodity out of the unemployed. They have become an asset for the Job Providers who sponge government money simply for ticking boxes. Centrelink has outsourced much of its housekeeping to the providers who are the true dole bludgers in that they are rewarded profits provided by the Australian taxpayer for doing nothing at all.

Unlike the former CES, they are not even expected to find work for the unemployed, and they do not provide training; they merely tick off mandatory visits on an online system (in which the jobseeker must maintain their own records). Yet, if a jobseeker finds work — and when they do it is usually without any help from the agency as there is none to give anyway — the Job Provider receives a payment from the government. For what? Why shouldn’t that money instead go to the jobseeker to set them on their path? Most unemployed start their first week’s work without the money to pay for lunch and scratching for transport fares.

Job Providers are a backseat driver in a stressful, demoralising, soul-destroying time of your life when only the availability of work can ameliorate your situation; not taxpayer dollars being thrown at a grasping agency out to harvest the unemployed.

Yet, that’s the very stupid thinking that typifies the capitalist mindset at the centre of this: throw money at the problem, offer incentives to the private sector (or quasi-private sector) and that’ll be enough to ensure that the agency does its damn best to find jobs that the market itself is unable to provide. It’s a matter of motivation and incentive: a carrot and stick approach where the job provider gets the carrot and the unemployed get the stick.

The fact that all they’ve done is create a gravy-train for a worthless sector that provides no service and exists purely as a hungry mouth gobbling government money is of no interest. It’s a system and as long as a system exists that is all that bothers these elected pen-pushers. The anger that it stirs, the crime levels that occur, the dissolution of community and the run-on economic damage is not even enough to convince them in their stubbornness and arrogance.

Capitalism is the parent of this disturbed child and both they and the world they’ve created are coming to a gritty end.

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