Malcolm’s empty slogan – By Kaye Lee

The Turnbull government would have us believe that they have been successful in job creation – it’s their mantra – but a closer look at the figures suggests otherwise.

Comparing August 2013 and August 2016, there are 8,600 more people unemployed now.  That’s thousands more struggling families.

Certainly the number of employed people has also risen, as has the aggregate monthly hours worked, but those figures also tell a story.

Over the past year, the labour force, which includes both employed and unemployed persons, increased by 148,800 persons which means, over three years (assuming a similar annual increase), we would have to be creating about 450,000 jobs just to keep up.

There are 316,800 more people employed now than in August 2013, far short of keeping pace with natural labour force increase.

Even more telling, those extra 316,800 employed people only added an average of 30 hours a month each to the aggregate monthly hours worked.

Overall, the almost 12 million people employed in August 2016 all worked an average of almost three hours less a month than their counterparts in 2013.  We have effectively lost 35 million work hours a month.

Needless to say, trend underemployment is at a series high of 8.6 per cent.

Full-time employment has fallen by 21,500 persons since December 2015. Part-time employment has increased by around 105,300 persons over this same period but, as we are two thirds of the way through the year, there would be an increase in the labour force of approximately 100,000 so, all up, we continue to go backwards.

Even if percentages remain stable, more individuals are un- and underemployed.  More people are living in poverty.

The government says that it is business, not them, who create jobs but the aim of business is to make a profit – loyalty to employees is a rare commodity nowadays and altruistic behaviour basically unheard of.  If businesses can do it cheaper with machines or outsourcing, they will.

Turnbull points to our defence industry as an area of job creation and then promptly, post-election of course, gives China the contract to make our military dress uniforms, because they could do it cheaper.  Of course they can.  Bangladesh could probably do it cheaper still.

The Textiles, Clothing and Footwear industry employed 36,364 people in 2014-15 but they are under great pressure from internet sales and cheap imports facilitated by free trade agreements.

Why would we spend reportedly an extra 30% on our subs so a couple of thousand people might get some work in about ten years’ time and then choose to not support our local clothing industry?

I guess it’s the same reason we couldn’t afford to subsidise our car industry, which employed tens of thousands of people, but we can afford to subsidise the fossil fuel industry who are sacking people hand over fist. Why did Abbott, at a crucial juncture, buy a fleet of government cars from BMW instead of a local manufacturer?

Hell, we even shipped in 20 million sheets of paper from overseas to use for ballots in the Federal election despite the domestic paper and packaging industry being under enormous competition due to the free trade agreements.

The AEC spokesman said “We have to follow the Commonwealth Procurement Rules. Every government agency has to follow these rules for any procurement of goods. Under these rules the agency has to assess the value for money of the goods and weigh up the services against the cost.” (It’s a pity they don’t apply the same rigour to politicians’ expense claims.)

Do they ever include the social cost of unemployment in these assessments?

Entry level and low skilled jobs are disappearing due, not only to automation, but also due to both business and government choosing to outsource.  They ask us to support local producers, but go for cheaper offshore suppliers of goods and services themselves.

Despite overly emotional speeches about “cold-blooded lies”, the government has already begun privatising Medicare with a $220 million contract to Telstra to manage the national cancer screening register.  Will it too be sent to the Philippines to administer?

The Productivity Commission has called for the private sector to be given a greater role in providing key government services in health, housing and Indigenous affairs.  They released a draft report saying that services in six priority areas — including social housing, some public hospital services, palliative care, Indigenous affairs and dental care — could be improved if they are opened to market competition.  Because that has worked so well for us in the past – just look at airport parking.

The government seems to be actively pursuing policies that contribute to unemployment with many jobs going to 457 visa workers and backpackers, and free trade agreements destroying local industries and allowing foreign companies to bring in their own workers.

The Consolidated Sponsored Occupations List is extensive and includes many occupations that Australians could readily fill.  I find it hard to believe we need to import driving instructors, flight attendants, funeral directors, youth workers, wool buyers and real estate agents.  If we really do have skill gaps then surely we should be targeting and incentivising training to fill them.

About 20,000 public servants have been sacked by the government and funding cuts have led to many more dismissals in NGOs and NFPs.

The government’s proposed internship program sounds good if you trust employers to not exploit it by replacing entry level jobs with free labour.  Considering the many cases of abuse we have already witnessed, that trust would be misplaced, as would any hope that the government would act to address cases of exploitation that are brought to their notice.

This government mouths platitudes as it pretends concern about youth unemployment at the same time as arguing to cut benefits and increase the wait time.  They abandon needs based funding for education, give vocational training over to shonky private colleges, make university education unaffordable, demonise the unemployed as bludgers, undermine unions, and import temporary foreign workers.  All of this only exacerbates the unemployment problem.

We are continually barraged with the marketing pitch that everything the government does is about “jobs, jobs jobs”.  Their actions prove it to be yet another empty slogan.

The central character in the 2008 Man Booker winning novel The White Tiger suggests “this will be the century of the yellow and brown people”.  He is not talking about political influence or military might but the fortune to be made from outsourced call centres.

He may well be right.

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