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Viv ForbesStuck on Red & Other Essays (first published by Business Queensland and Common Sense in 1991), pp. 80-83.About the Author»

In 1977, the Myers Enquiry into Unemployment Benefit Administration described the Commonwealth Employment Agency as badly managed “even by the standards of government.” Dr Myers criticised the CES for taking on ten make-work or training schemes over three years “in a generally chaotic way.”

In the same year, the Norgard Enquiry into the CES also presented its report which concluded that the CES spent most of its time registering, interviewing and work testing and little time on its primary role of finding jobs. Even in 1977, the CES was widely seen as a huge, poorly trained, ineffective bureaucracy.

So the government threw buckets of money at the problem and now, over twenty years later, the CES is nearly twice as big, twice as expensive and there are twice as many Australians on the dole.

How far do we go before some politician is game to face the public service unions and say “the CES is not part of the solution, it is part of the problem.”

Despite their stated mission, the CES has a vested interest in a big pool of unemployed. Its budget, its workforce and the salary and status of its managers is proportional to the number of unemployed. Unlike private employment agencies, the CES does not rely on providing a service that either employers or employees are prepared to pay for — in fact it depends on the extent of unsatisfied demand in those two groups.

The costs of the CES are staggering. Administration and payroll costs for its staff of over 5000 is above $400 million dollars per year. In addition, a huge amount of capital is tied up in hundreds of offices and computers and total Commonwealth spending on “employment” (excluding the dole) exceeds one billion dollars per year. All for a service that is less efficient than putting ads in newspapers.

The CES was formed in 1946. Despite half a century of experimentation, they still can’t get it right. We still have too many jobs without workers and workers without jobs.

The CES lacks focus. It is used by politicians as an industrial police force, a statistics gatherer, a dole office, a counselling service, a training office, a public charity, a social laboratory and a delivery system for an endless stream of hair-brained make-work schemes from Canberra. How can you take seriously an organisation which is charged with “implementing a range of initiatives which will give its youth strategy a social justice focus”? No wonder front line staff are cynical and disillusioned.

Despite its role in training and counselling, the CES is overloaded with greenhorns who have never met a payroll or held a job in the competitive economy. After decades of frustration they have become militant and politicised, and are used by governments, unions and other ideologues to promote their pet political agenda.

For example, union militants have used CES offices to campaign against government work test guidelines. Insiders also claim that CES staff have doctored job statistics to suit the staffing or career goals of CES managers or the political needs of government or opposition. At some times CES offices have been directed to discourage school-leavers from getting the dole. At other times they choose to act as a conveyor belt onto the dole.

Their political bias became obvious when that CES offices were instructed to refuse service to companies with voluntary employment agreements. At times CES offices have refused to refer job seekers to piece-work or contract jobs on farms and market gardens. Some even maintain black lists of employers who don’t meet their criteria of acceptable employers. Some politically motivated officials would prefer to see young people on the dole rather than working in non-award jobs.

It is time our passionate public protectors were told that some people may prefer any job, no matter how low they pay or status, rather than no job. The best welfare is work. The unemployed, their families and the employers should be free to decide what to accept and what to reject, without secret or open coercion from the professional nannies in Welfare City.

The CES also uses taxpayers funds and unfair trading practices to force private employment agencies out of business.

Firstly, the CES charges nothing for its services — this destroys private business who must offer miraculous service to compete with a price of zero. The CES has also gone beyond its charter by placing ads to attract employed people instead of just finding jobs for the jobless.

Secondly, the CES has access to limitless funds for land, buildings, computers and staff without the bother of issuing a prospectus, paying the interest bill or declaring a dividend.

Thirdly, the CES uses its privileged access to taxpayer funded job subsidies, training allowances and other Santa Claus schemes to bribe both employers and employees to use their service.

Fourthly, the CES forces job seekers to report regularly to qualify for the dole. No other employment agency in Australia can bribe and coerce both employers and job seekers into its offices.

Finally, state and federal governments have harassed private agencies with red tape, registration fees, and prohibitions on charging fees for certain services. Not only do the private agencies have to pay the taxes which support the CES, they have to watch their business being destroyed by its unfair competition.

Despite these advantages, the CES is shunned by all except the naive and those whose real motive is to qualify for a handout or a free service from the government. Private agencies still exist and most of the unemployed have found that family, friends and newspapers are better at finding jobs than the CES. The unfortunate unemployed use it because they need the dole, or because they believe the self-congratulatory advertising of the nationalised job service.

Moreover, because of its role in work testing, too many of those referred by the CES are terrified of being offered a job — they attend interviews solely to qualify for the dole. Employers soon tire of being forced to play in this charade. The CES is thus seen by the unemployed as a dole office and by many employers as an unreliable supplier of second class labour. As Des Keegan says, “Employers generally shun the CES pool because it is polluted with layabouts.”

Enough is enough. If this organisation cannot get its act into gear after 50 years of molly-coddling and handouts it should be abolished.

There is no justification for taxpayers to be supplying this mediocre but costly service to a small segment of our industry and workforce. No matter what the ILO says, we would all be better off if CES offices, singly or in groups, were converted into independent, self-supporting job placement agencies. These could be owned and run by CES staff using premises and equipment leased from the government.

This will allow staff to organise their employment conditions and their operations free of the stifling inefficiency and uniformity of the bureaucracy.

Those who provide a good service in finding jobs will prosper. Those who cannot will find better satisfaction in another occupation.

The statistics, welfare and training functions of the CES should be transferred to the appropriate governments departments, sold or abandoned.

The taxes paid to support costly and ineffective bureaucracies such as the CES are a significant cause of unemployment in Australia. Privatisation will be a fair dinkum step on the long road back to GIVEOURKIDSAJOB.

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Lang Hancock's Five Point Plan to Cripple Australia
  2. Put Windmills in National Parks
  3. Magnifying National Disasters
  4. Please Don't Feed the Animals
  5. Buy Birdsville Made?
  6. The Economics of Flood Risk
  7. Touring Bureaucrats
  8. Our slip-shod laws to blame
  9. Why Wind Won't Work
  10. A Profusion of "Prices"
  11. R.I.P. Ron Kitching - pioneer, explorer, author, family man, entrepreneur, scholar
  12. The Carbon Pollution Lie
  13. Closing Down Australia
  14. The Anti-Industry
  15. The Pyramid Builders
  16. Carbon Tax Bribery
  17. Crown Monopolies
  18. Carbon Tax Job Losses
  19. What Next, a Tax on Water?
  20. Carbon Health Warnings Coming Soon
  21. Growth Mythology
  22. The Tax Collection Industry
  23. Propaganda Puts Paid to Proof
  24. The Milk of the Welfare Teat is Watered Down
  25. "Crops for Cars" as Bad as Everlasting Drought
  26. Poll speech sets record
  27. The Emissions Trading Casino
  28. The Contract Society
  29. A Model Ministry
  30. The Five Point Plan to kill the economy with High Cost Electricity
  31. Put a Sunset Clause in the Carbon Tax
  32. Stuck on Red
  33. Time to Butcher "Aussie Beef"
  34. Carbon Tax Lies and Bribes
  35. The Middle of the Road
  36. United against taxes
  37. Call for Govt administrator
  38. Property & Prosperity
  39. "The Science is Settled" BUT Durban Climate Summit Not Cancelled
  40. No End to Fuelish Policies?
  41. The Right to Discriminate
  42. Sell the CES
  43. Free Water Costs Too Dam Much
  44. Creating Unemployment
  45. Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
  46. 1985 news item on Tax Payers United, Centre 2000 and the Australian Adam Smith Club
  47. Having the numbers is not the same as having the truth
  48. Who's Who in the Workers Party
  49. David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
  50. Caught in a welfare whirlpool
  51. Global Warming Season
  52. Mining in Queensland, Past, Present and Future
  53. WEATHER IS USUALLY UNUSUAL
  54. Political branch formed
  55. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  56. Viv Forbes on Libertarian Strategy and the Constant Resources Myth
  57. The New Brisbane Line?
  58. Carbon Lies
  59. We Mine to Live
  60. Save the taxpayer
  61. Solving Three Canberra Problems
  62. Vested Interests in the Climate Debate
  63. Carbon Tax Retrospective?
  64. Carbon Price Propaganda Taxes the Truth
  65. Don't Burn Food for Motor Spirit - Feed People not Cars
  66. Two Big Climate Taxes
  67. Greens Rediscover Hydrogen Car
  68. Atlas of Australia
  69. Shutting Out The Sun
  70. Safety Mania
  71. Coal - Sinking in the Swamps
  72. Hobbling the Competition
  73. Cubic Currency Coming
  74. "Dear Government"
  75. Viv Forbes mocks Flannery in 1988
  76. What we have is not a drug problem but a drug law problem
  77. Smoking, Health and Freedom
  78. Privatise Now! while they are still worth something
  79. The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
  80. The New Federalism
  81. Sunset for Solar Subsidies
  82. The mouse will roar
  83. The Road to Homelessness
  84. Planning & Prosperity
  85. Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
  86. Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
  87. Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
  88. Our homeless regulation refugees
  89. Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
  90. Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air
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Forbes has long been active in politics, economic education, business and the global warming debate, and was winner of the Australian Adam Smith Award “For outstanding services to the Free Society” in 1986.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5