Published: 29/07/2021
Category: On The Job
Published: 29/07/2021
Category: On The Job

In these strange and difficult times, it feels like truth has become as disposable as toilet paper for some of our politicians.

Take Scott Morrison’s attitude to JobKeeper and JobSeeker – the foundation stones of Australia’s economic stability in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic exposed Australia’s insecure work economy as a Potemkin village built on a workforce that didn’t have enough work and lived pay to pay without entitlements like sick pay, holiday pay and superannuation.

Remember the images of those enormous lines of newly unemployed workers swallowing up the streets around Centrelink offices across the country in April last year?

Up until that point, Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg had dismissed union calls for job subsidies that tied workers to their workplaces and gave them and their employers a vital sense of continuity in troubling times.

Those scenes jolted the Liberals into action, as they saw their political mortality flash before their eyes.

As Australian Unions and its allies predicted, JobKeeper and JobSeeker were a huge success because Australian workers were able to rely on it as a crucial form of income as lockdowns and restrictions hit hard.

Soon, Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg were telling anyone that would listen that this was their idea, and what geniuses they were for implementing it.

Morrison hailed JobKeeper in May last year, saying the program signalled to workers “that [Jobkeeper] says to Australians that we will be there for you and we will be there for you to get Australians back into work.”

Cut to 2021, and the pandemic is still with us. Australia’s two largest cities have been in lockdown and Sydney faces an ongoing, exhausting battle in the face of the Delta variant taking hold in the city.

The challenges workers face are just as punishing as they were when Scott Morrison was spooked into establishing JobKeeper and JobSeeker.

So, you’d think it makes sense to reinstate the programs that kept the wolf from the door for the millions of Australian workers who are barely keeping their nose above the water, right?

Think again. This is Scott Morrison, the king of magical thinking. When asked about reviving JobKeeper and JobSeeker recently, he quipped “I’m not here to solve last year’s problem.

Last year’s truth gets flushed down the S-bend by a Prime Minister who seems to care only about one job – his own.

ACTU President Michele O’Neil is incredulous that the Liberals have binned the one program that ensured workers had a wage and bedrock of security amidst the crisis which has only intensified.

“Unions won JobKeeper in 2020 when the pandemic began, and it worked by keeping many workers tied to their places of employment, while also offering businesses a lifeline,” said O’Neil.

“The premature ending of JobKeeper in March was a big mistake. We knew then that the pandemic wasn’t over, and that the failed vaccine rollout meant lockdowns weren’t either.

“If it weren’t for the Morrison Government’s vaccination rollout failure, the likelihood of ongoing lockdowns would be far lower.

The Morrison Government has a responsibility to working Australians to not cave to these demands from businesses, and instead to reinstate a revised JobKeeper 2 system that we know will work to protect jobs and support public safety.”

ACTU President Michele O’neil

Richard Denniss is the Chief Economist with the independent think tank, The Australia Institute. He told On the Job he was nonplussed about the Prime Minister’s pretzel logic.

“COVID-19 is not an annual event. It’s a thing we’re trying to fix at the moment and changing policies in the middle of it certainly hasn’t helped hundreds of thousands of Australians who were still very severely affected by this,” Denniss said.

“The Government’s Covid-19 Disaster payment is less generous than JobKeeper was. And of course, you’re not eligible for if you’re already on some form of government support.

“We keep creating this sort of two-tier welfare system, where the government goes out of its way to treat some people more nicely than others.

Richard Denniss is also focused on the lack of support for the unemployed, whose prospects of re-entering the workforce have taken another hammer blow as the pandemic drags on, and JobSeeker is nowhere to be seen.

“The most obvious consequences of [the withdrawal of JobKeeper and JobSeeker] is growing inequality in Australia.  We keep loading up pain on the most vulnerable people”  

Australia Institute Chief Economist Richard Denniss

“We should never have got rid of the JobSeeker supplement. For a while there, we were paying unemployed people almost enough to live on. We pushed hundreds of thousands of Australian kids straight back into poverty with that decision.”

Last year’s problems are this year’s problems as well, it would seem.

It’s time the Prime Minister got that message too.

Scott Morrison must urgently reinstate JobKeeper

Magical thinking is no substitute for JobKeeper and JobSeeker

Magical thinking is no substitute for JobKeeper and JobSeeker