March 24, 2020

A million Australians who are out of work with the emergency measures taken to contain the spread of COVID-19 are now in a bewildering place — having to deal with Centrelink.

At least, we think it’s a million. The figures keep changing, but since one million is a nice round number we’ll stick with it. For sure, it won’t be far off, with a reported two million Australians projected to become unemployed as ‘nonessential businesses’ are shut down indefinitely.

Many have never been forced onto benefits before, and others have developed a chauvinism towards the long-term unemployed, many of whom are elderly Australians, who’ve faced ageism in the job market. It’s this latter animal which anybody who’s been discarded on the system’s waste pile will be overjoyed to learn is now without a job.

Here is a comment lifted from The Australian posted under a story about the government’s stimulus payments to jobseekers and pensioners. It was written by a clod named ‘Chris’ who has definite preconceived ideas about what it means to have been out of work up to this time:

‘Reports I have heard from friends who now apply for welfare for the first time say that a rather large number in the lines outside of Centrelink are already on the Newstart allowance. Many of them high-fiving each other and skyting (sic) on how many cartons of beer they are going to buy next “payday”.

Morrison should NEVER have given this money out to the long-term unemployed or unemployable. It will end in disaster for our already overreached police force, doctors and hospitals. Cancel it NOW and pay only those recently unemployed in the hospitality related industries. Those that had no “choice” and have been paying tax.’

First up, his anecdote is horse shit. Nobody on the JobSeeker payment (no longer Newstart) would be queueing at Centrelink, they would already be on the system and dealing with a job service provider. They certainly wouldn’t be crowing about ‘payday’ as every payday for an unemployed person is simply a reminder of their destitute circumstances; since it’s gone the moment it arrives.

Chris would know if someone were to untie his brain tubes, that the benefit is not even enough to cover rent let alone ‘cartons of beer’, which are a luxury item even for those still fortunate enough to be employed.

For an average single unemployed worker, with rent assistance, they’re looking at around $700 a fortnight. Rent is not cheap in the big city, not even if you’re living in a fully furnished lavatory, which many undoubtedly are forced to do. Then comes the obligatory mobile phone bill, and monthly Internet charge, if you’re capable of being online. Out of this, there is enough for one bag of groceries assuming your rent isn’t over $600 per fortnight. Sadly, for many, that’s all there is and it becomes a matter of putting one’s mind over the matter of starving. No cartons of beer.

Each person has their own method of surviving. Either they have friends or family they can borrow from, or a source of credit to tie them through; since the money they receive, which hasn’t been adjusted for decades, keeps them well below the poverty line. Yet, Lib/Lab, it doesn’t matter, either government has usually responded to this situation by bringing more immigrants in.

The international student industry is also guilty of undermining pay and conditions and creating job insecurity since these foreigners are on a strict limit of work hours which everyone knows is flouted. The result is that casual work in hospitality and retail has in lots of cases gone to overseas students willing to work below the red line while disadvantaging Australian workers.

The sense of utter disconnection that comes from poverty alone is nothing compared to how they’re treated by the ‘system’, which has jacked up a mostly crooked ‘job service’ industry. Admittedly, this racket is as savage on the poor bastards working in it as it is towards the unemployed. An unemployed worker becomes a unit to these businesses in which the programs and courses they’re often unscrupulously signed onto amounts to revenue for the provider. Think of the unemployed as battery cells for these soulless agencies. The disincentive to find them work is strong, but let’s face it, there is usually no work.

Bigots like Chris can’t see the grim reality from the privilege of their employment. They assume if they have a job then anybody who doesn’t work is rorting. It’s a stupid rationale by foolish people who need to dehumanise others so’s they can feel better about themselves.

We’re seeing how easy and absolute an economic shutdown can be: all it takes is a pernicious little virus spread from a land teeming with exotic creatures which the locals like to pluck out of the inky ponds and eat raw.

We haven’t even touched on the plight of the unemployed worker, whose experience will be nothing the millions of newly out of work will go through. They won’t be living on the whim of a job provider who may take a dislike to you and run you through the incredibly punitive hoops set by Centrelink to force numbers down. They won’t cop a Robo-debt. They won’t have meetings set for them, cancelled, and have their benefits cut off when they don’t turn up for a cancelled meeting. They won’t experience that dreaded sinking in the guts that comes from never knowing if you’ve done something that might warrant a penalty against you leading to a suspension of your payment, which is another way they cruelly keep costs down. Or did, until now.

Chris wouldn’t understand the essentially biased nature of the job market which thinks anybody over the age of thirty is an incompetent dinosaur. Because Chris has his own concepts of what it must be like to be unemployed: the ‘dole bludgers’ spend all their free time buying up cartons of beer on his tax dollar; causing problems for the heroic police and health sector, and are just, well, less human than him. They’re unwashed, doped up to the eyeballs, always voting for the Greens, and live the life of Riley on the huge amounts the government gives away to them not to find work.

This is why the long-term unemployed will now get their revenge because trash like Chris are about to bite the fiscal bullet. He’s on a hiding to nothing along with the rest of Australia and is being called down off his mountain.

Let’s hope that Chris suddenly wakes up having to slog down to a Centrelink queue that reaches around the block. Let’s pray that his friends, who still have jobs, drive past in their Mercs and see him standing there which makes him shrink in shame. Let’s hope that he hits a brick wall while dealing with officious Centrelink officers. Let’s hope that his file gets lost, that his calls aren’t returned, that his payment is never paid into his account despite assurances it has. We wish him all the joy of calling up Centrelink and being put on hold for six hours. Let’s have him sign up to a job provider and be compelled to attend like a naughty little boy. Let’s have someone who can’t even speak English and who’s been in the country all of six months lecture him on his mutual obligations.

Let’s cross our fingers that Chris is an older worker who’s now joined a job queue that has just astronomically multiplied from that which the long-term unemployed workers were facing. Let’s hope he applies for a thousand jobs and is lucky to get one call back which amounts to nothing. Let’s hope he drops eight trouser-sizes because all he can afford to eat is instant noodles. Let’s hope that he starts to become conditioned to expect rejection because that’s all that is out there when he finds himself dealing with individuals who hold the unemployed in the most abject contempt. Let’s hope that he sinks into listless despair and thinks about necking himself because he has no friends anymore, no social life, and nowhere to go besides the job provider, his bed, and St Vinnies who’re good for a food package every couple of months.

Yes, this scumbags is the revenge of the long-term unemployed. Read ‘em and weep.

Welcome to the death of global capitalism

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