A Gallup public opinion poll taken in June 1978, when there were about 300,000 people on the dole, found that 85% of Australians believed that dole recipients should be made to do some useful work. In addition, 22% of people interviewed said they knew of someone receiving the dole, but not genuinely looking for work.
Thirteen years later there are over 800,000 unemployed and politicians of all shades are at last feeling the hot breath of public opinion. Conservatives are debating “work for the dole” and the government has announced “the dole ended on 30 June”. Such is the glacial speed of political reaction to community concern.
“Job Search” and “Newstart” are just deceitful recycling of decades of failed government programs. We’ve been told that the unemployed were getting trained and were forced to look for jobs. These new programs confirm what we all suspected — government training is a failure and CES work testing is a joke.
“Work for the dole” sounds an attractive solution to the problem of long term bludging. In the short run, it may have some beneficial effects, but in the long run, like all bureaucratic solutions, it will create more problems than it solves.
There are six major problems in the creation of a compulsory dole corps.
Firstly, it removes some of the stigma from the dole, thus encouraging people to stay on it (“I’m working for my money”).
Secondly, for the chronic bludger, pretending to work at raking and spreading leaves for two days per week is still preferable to real work for five days per week. For the “work-house” solution to succeed in separating the needy from the workshy, it must be long, arduous, unattractive and looked down on. No politician of today is likely to design such a system.
Thirdly, should the government find real work for the dole corps, they will drive legitimate firms in this field out of business with the provision of “free” or subsidised services produced with their battalions of conscripted labour. Employees of such firms will then join the dole queues to do the same work at far greater cost. The CES has already produced such perverse results where their work for local authorities has destroyed private contractors.
Fourthly, there is a real danger that the dole corps will be misused to serve partisan political goals. If the past is any guide, we will see our unemployed youth surreptitiously drafted to support favourite causes and publications such as affirmative action, peace, left-wing “history” or their right-wing equivalents.
Fifthly, any protracted service with the dole corps will teach “the government stroke” now so obvious on most government day-labour gangs. Forced labour will produce cadres of sullen malingerers with reduced initiative, poor self esteem, low productivity and nil employability. This is surely not the way to train our children.
Sixthly, with 812,000 out of work, living on the dole has become the chosen career for a growing number of Australians. To put this huge army to work would undoubtedly be used to justify the creation of dozens of new government programs with hundreds of new public servants to administer, control and audit them. Four years ago, Mr Willis estimated that a compulsory work-for-the-dole would require an extra 1000 bureaucrats and would cost an additional $700 million per year. Imagine the cost today.
And imagine the chances that a committee of bureaucrats in Canberra or Brisbane can find useful work for the hundreds of dolies on the Whitsunday Coast. This is not the solution; it is the problem.
There is not and will never be a shortage of work to be done. Payroll taxes and the high legislated wages for young people have undoubtedly destroyed job opportunities for the young and the unskilled. And the high taxes, exchange rates and interest rates have destroyed many businesses and their jobs.
But all over Australia, jobs for fruit and vegetable pickers, farm labourers, factory workers and gardeners go begging while too many of our young people relax at Cairns, Broome, the Dole Coast or in Commune County in Northern NSW. Lots of them are looking for good jobs, but few are prepared to accept hard work. The dole is clearly preferable to physical labour or harsh environments. It has made work optional and too many are exercising the alternative lifestyle option at the expense of working tax-paying stiffs.
In summary, the creation of a dole corps would exacerbate the real problems of a huge public sector using too many people, too much equipment and too much capital to produce little of value to Australian families and businesses.
Those who still have faith in government to solve our dole problem have been asleep for ten years. Over the past decade we have seen a bi-partisan procession of programs such as RED, NEAT, CRAFT, FAS, SYETP, CYSS, VYCS, EPUY, VYP, RAGE, CEP, job subsidies, CES special training programs, GIVEAKIDAJOB, PRIORITY ONE and suggestions for rural kibbutz and lump sum dole payments. None of these has had any positive effect on the problem. Now we have JOB SEARCH and NEWSTART. It is surely clear that no new government program will solve unemployment because it is caused by government action. Repeal of the offending legislation, not addition to it, is the way to go.
The only solution to the dole is to abolish it, as quickly and humanely as possible. The first step must be to cut it by 50% for all able bodied persons with no dependents. This must be followed by time limitations, age limitations and tougher rules on accepting any work available. These reforms must be accompanied by abolition of all wage laws, industrial controls, work practices, union barriers and payroll taxes which make it unprofitable for most employers to give them a start.
The Queensland Government Wildlife Service has a wise policy of discouraging people from feeding wild birds and animals, even when they are starving, because “it makes them dependent on man”. No one suggests that feeding the animals is okay as long as they perform tricks before being fed.
The dole is equally destructive, even if they work or “train” for it.
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